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News > Latin America

Escaped Mexican Slave Speaks out on Gross Trafficking Abuses

  • Zunduri escaped from slavery in Mexico City in 2015.

    Zunduri escaped from slavery in Mexico City in 2015. | Photo: Youtube / La Polilla Tlaxcala

Published 5 September 2016

Zunduri, a survivor of slavery in Mexico City, says the psychological and emotional healing is the most difficult part of rebuilding her life.

"There is no part of my body without scars," Zunduri, an escaped Mexican slave told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview published Monday.

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Zunduri escaped from her captors at a laundry service in Mexico City in 2015 after enduring more than five years of beatings, torture, humiliation, starvation, and forced labor in chains. Her case shot into the international spotlight and become a hallmark of the ongoing problems of modern-day slavery and human trafficking in Mexico.  

She says health professionals have counted more than 600 scars covering the breadth and width of her body, the accumulation of beatings, abysmal living conditions, and torture, such as being burned with a hot iron. Zunduri was forced to work for up to 20 hours a day ironing clothes at the dry cleaner while her five captors kept her chained.

Her alleged captors now face trial, an important step toward justice and transitional healing for Zunduri. Human trafficking charges could land them in prison for up to 30 years.

“I was an animal to them,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "I want them to pay for everything I have had to suffer."

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An estimated 376,800 people live in a state of modern slavery in Mexico, more than any other country in the Americas, according to the 2016 Global Slavery Index. The statistic represents nearly 0.3 percent of the country’s population of 127 million people, up from an estimated 0.22 percent of 266,900 people in slavery in the nation in 2014.

According to the U.S. State Department 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report, Mexico is a source, destination, and transit country in human trafficking, and victims are forced into sex work or labor in agricultural, domestic, manufacturing, and other sectors, as well as informal economy jobs like begging. Children, women, Indigenous people, migrants, people with disabilities, and LGBTI individuals are most vulnerable as potential victims of human trafficking. Prosecution of captors is often uneven, with just 2 percent of cases convicted last year.

Fear among survivors to identify themselves as victims of trafficking and slavery is one of the reasons that Zunduri has decided to speak up and raise awareness about the problem and the challenges of reintegrating into society after suffering physical, emotional, and psychological, trauma in captivity.

“It's a long process for the physical scars to heal and disappear,” she said. “But the main scar is the one I have in my soul, in my heart, and in my mind.”

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