By Nicolle Schorchit
Author Jennifer Clement presented February 24 at Montgomery College Germantown’s Globe Hall her book Prayers for the Stolen, a story about a young Mexican woman, who was stolen and trafficked by drug lords, yet was able to come back and tell what she saw.
What makes Clement’s book stand out is her unusual achievement. Prayers for the Stolen creates literature that reads with the beauty of poetry, yet, reveals a story that mirrors a horrifying truth in today’s world: young women are being stolen and trafficked by drug dealers, and they are not coming back.
Clement also shared her experience in writing this book: a long, arduous, and dangerous journey. She was one of the few who are courageous and strong enough to investigate human trafficking and the drug war in Mexico.
Jennifer Clement was born in the United States, but was raised in Mexico City up until her late high school years. She went back to the United States, although her love for Mexico never abated. Later on she became President of PEN Mexico, the Mexican base for the world’s leading association of writers, working to promote literature and defend freedom of expression around the world. Her presidency was from 2009 to 2012.
She emphasized the fact that the drug war in Mexico has indeed escalated, and this is no small drug trafficking community that works underground. This Mexican drug trafficking community is global; its underground economy spreads internationally. Sexual traffic for young girls has immunity because of the lack of the justice system. It seems drug cartels have infiltrated the government, preventing the Mexican justice system to work as it should.
After her presidency, Clements interviewed a Mexican mother who told her about the fear that mothers in Mexico have whenever they see a stranger in a SUV. She told Clements how black SUVs would pull up into the street and the mothers’ would quickly hide their little girls in holes out in the cornfields to hopefully prevent them from being kidnapped. Clements said it was this image that gave birth to her book.
There is little literature about the drug war or human trafficking, even less so of the effects on the women. So, Clements set out and she talked with the women of drug traffickers and immigrants in US that came from Central America. She found out that there is an underground railroad for hidden women. They would be hidden in some places like K Marts, hotels, and convents. She also spent a lot of time visiting women in a Mexican prison.
At this prison, she noticed that there would be long lines of visitors for the men, but no lines, not a single person visiting the women. She realized, in Mexico, women have no value, no status. It is a graver crime to steal a car then a girl.
Clements explained how women could be sold more than once, unlike drugs, which are sold and used. That is why human trafficking of girls brings in more money and is more appealing for the drug cartels.
The young protagonist in her book is called Lady Dai. In one part, she and her mother observe a few scorpions crawling out from a hole in a tree (Lady Dai had just barely escaped capture from the drug dealers). In that moment Lady Dai’s mother reflects and says, “Those scorpions will show you more mercy than any human being.” And that is so very true in today’s world.
At this time it got too dangerous for Clements to openly investigate. Drug cartels were killing off journalists. There were already 98 killed, 8 missing, and nobody in jail.
Some students asked about her fear and her protection during her interview of the women. She had slashed tires, cut internet lines, and during her interviews she had two phones and would call people before and after her interviews. Of course she was scared, but another one of Lady Dai’s mother’s sayings accurately depicts the situation in Mexico: “Mercy is not a two way street.”
Unfortunately, in her research she never met a girl, who was stolen and came back, but Clement made that her main character does come back and she tells what she saw, hopefully to encourage all who read her story to help against human trafficking and be the mercy and justice that is lacking.