from a translated letter sent to FFI from Marisol*

Hello friends, thank you for sending me the card. The truth is I was afraid to reply before because I didn’t know who you were, but this time the card you sent me was clearer. You already know my name, but please don’t publish it for my safety.

...I’m afraid to return to my country.

I left my country because my life was in danger. I was kidnapped for a month and they tortured me by beating me and forced me to get involved with their bar. They made me drink alcohol. They tortured me with beatings and threats. That’s the reason I’ve endured so much time in this detention center, because I’m afraid to return to my country. That’s why I’ve put up with all this mistreatment, humiliation and discrimination for being Mexican, for entering the country without documents, and for being indigenous. They’ve humiliated me a lot. They’ve made me cry day and night.

One time in 2018 a guard in this place grabbed my breast, leaving it bruised. I reported it to a captain but his response was that that day the guard wasn’t working and that I was lying. He made me look like a liar and I had a bruise on my breast.

...they’ve given us little box meals with the ham all rotten.

The food here is very bad. They’re always saying they’re going to improve it, but they haven’t. During all the time of Coronavirus, they’ve given us little box meals with the ham all rotten. The food is really bad and so is the way the guards and the therapists treat us. You can’t complain because then it gets worse. There’s a paper that says CoreCivic with requests and we turn it in but sometimes it doesn’t get to where it should. Because here they look after each other.

And you’re locked up [in a cell alone] without being able to see a doctor, having to deal with your pain, and they still take away the food you bought with your money.

Once I asked for toothpaste and a toothbrush, and a guard, who is Mexican, responded that things come on a “donkey” here and that’s why they don’t arrive. One day I spoke with him and asked him why he responded like that since I don’t behave like that with him and he knows I can make a complaint for the way he talks to me. He told me not to waste my time because the complaint wouldn’t go anywhere because they cover them up among themselves. They make it so the guard who receives a complaint is a friend and then they rip it up. Also, the medical care is really bad. If you’re sick and you go in for care the only thing they give you is ibuprofen and acetaminophen for the pain. They tell you to drink water or they send you to a punishment cell. They lock you up in a cell alone and only let you leave for twenty minutes to shower. And you’re locked up without being able to see a doctor, having to deal with your pain, and they still take away the food you bought with your money, until you can get out of this punishment cell and cook yourself a soup.

They also lock up people who are suffering from mental health problems without any food. This is no place for someone who has mental health problems. Being locked up is another ugly trauma. What they need is a doctor who can treat them, not to suffer more trauma here.

They make life impossible. And you all can’t come to see us.

There are many other things they do to us but I can’t keep writing complaints. They treat us really badly. They lock us up. There are many injustices that they commit against us. They make life impossible. And you all can’t come to see us. They are very devious when someone comes to visit. They know what to do. They begin to order the necessary things. They make us clean because we’re going to have a visit. They demand that we clean, paint, and cook. Every day they humiliate us. They scream at us in the kitchen. I used to clean the doctors’ office and once a guard mistreated me there. But I responded, because he was Mexican. I told him not to talk to me like that, because he was speaking really ugly words to me. That’s why I said to him that if he didn’t like the job I was doing, then he should do it himself. I left the job and they asked me to come back and so I did because I need to earn money so that I can buy food, because the food here is really bad.

Since I don’t have family in this country and the only people who support me are the Florence Project, my lawyer and a church that’s called Casa Mariposa. They help me out a couple times a month so that I can eat, but it’s not much. Sometimes it doesn’t get to me. Because they don’t have much. But it’s ok, I’m not asking for anything from them. The only thing I’m asking is that they don’t stop writing me because their letters and cards make me happy. And I do my art and I exchange it for food sometimes, not often because the others don’t have money either. They can’t buy much better food. Well, the majority of time that I spend in my cell I dedicate to reading the word of the Lord and I also draw and paint. I don’t know much but I make an effort.

Keep fighting for our dreams.

Well, I’ll take my leave. Thank you so much again for writing me and for fighting for all of us in this detention center. May God care for you and protect you in the streets when you are out there protesting and striking. I will be praying for all of you. I’ll be waiting your response. Have a beautiful day and I send you a big hug. Keep fighting for our dreams. Everything is possible in this life. All these little faces [in my sketch] are the faces of the Florence Project and my friends from Casa Mariposa and you. Let’s go on with the struggle! May Christ be with you.

Translated by David Golding

*name changed for privacy purposes