Joy, anger for family of Mexican girl wrongly sent to US
GUANAJUATO, Mexico (AP) - When a woman in Texas claimed that Alondra Luna Nunez was her long-lost daughter, the girl's real parents in Mexico say they presented more than a dozen documents from baptismal records and a copy of her birth certificate to family photographs. They were sure it was enough to demonstrate her true origins.
In the end, they say, Alondra was sent screaming to the U.S. based on a scar on the bridge of her nose resulting from a remote-control car mishap as a young girl. And they blame their traumatic weeklong separation squarely on the judge who made the final call.
"The other girl had a scar, but on the eyebrow, and I have one on my nose. I mean all this was stirred up over that," Alondra, 14, told The Associated Press on Wednesday at an emotional reunion with family after nearly a week away. "The judge said, 'No, it's her,' and that was that."
DNA testing proved Alondra was not Houston resident Dorotea Garcia's daughter.
The case drew international attention after a video of the distraught girl being forced into a police vehicle last week circulated in media and on social networks.
Judge Cinthia Elodia Mercado told the AP that she held to her obligation to make sure that international child-abduction conventions were followed.
"Our only job is to resolve whether the child needs to be returned or not," she said.
But the resulting drama touched not only Alondra's family in Mexico but also Garcia, who believed she had finally found her daughter, Alondra Diaz Garcia, taken from the U.S. illegally by her father nearly a decade ago.
That girl's whereabouts are unknown, and a felony warrant remains for the father, Reynaldo Diaz, who is suspected of abducting her from Houston in 2007.
Garcia, speaking to a Houston television station, said the first time she saw Alondra Luna, "I saw my daughter." She gave few details about how she ended up leaving Mexico with the girl, although she said she knows many won't look kindly on her actions.
"The people who know me don't need me to give an explanation for what happened," she said later to the AP. "Whatever explanation I give won't change the minds of people in Mexico or here."
Alondra said Garcia and the woman's family members apologized to her before she returned.
After Alondra flew into Guanajuato in Central Mexico around noon Wednesday, the family gathered for an afternoon and evening barbecue at her aunt's house. They celebrated with balloons, streamers and steak and chorizo sausage sizzling on the grill.
"Welcome to your real home, Alondra," read a homemade sign.
Wearing jeans, a gray T-shirt and a silver necklace with an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Alondra laughed and hugged brothers, cousins, aunts and uncles. As the sun went down in the hilly working-class neighborhood where they live, family and friends lit candles and recited the rosary on a sidewalk. Alondra wept as an elderly neighbor swept her into an embrace that lasted for minutes.
Garcia traveled to Mexico this year and said she had found her daughter in Guanajuato, prompting U.S. authorities to seek Interpol's help in retrieving her. She did not elaborate how, in her brief comments to the AP.
Many things remained unclear, including who called Interpol from the U.S.
On April 16, Mexican agents assigned to Interpol took Alondra from her middle school and transported her to a courtroom in the neighboring state of Michoacan, according to a statement from the federal Attorney General's Office.
Alondra's parents and Garcia each presented documents and gave testimony, then the judge ruled in favor of Garcia, ordering the girl into her custody. A court official, who was not authorized to speak to the press, said on condition of anonymity that Alondra's parents didn't present proper documents.
Alondra and Garcia went by bus to Houston, crossing at Laredo, Texas, with the birth certificate of Garcia's daughter and the court order, according to Mexico's Foreign Ministry.
"Anger. Rage. Powerlessness that they could tear my daughter from my arms. Sadness," said Susana Nunez, Alondra's mother. "I didn't sleep. I didn't eat. I said, 'How is my daughter, what is she doing?'"
Alondra said she was terrified at first, having never been so far from her parents, but was confident that ultimately the truth would come out and she would return. Still, her father, Gustavo Luna, said there were moments when he feared he might never see her again.
"A lot of things went through my mind ... at those moments you fear the worst," Luna said.
Alondra said she asked for a DNA test in Mexico but it was denied. The magistrate who ruled on the case said it wasn't within her authority to order one.
"We as judges are only responsible to resolve the case with respect to recovering the minor," Elodia Mercado said. "We don't do investigations or make inquiries."
Alondra asked again for a DNA test this week in the United States, and Mexico's Foreign Ministry also intervened after the video caused an uproar.