Drama | 4/29/2009 12:00:00 AM
The daughter of the Colombian monster
Colombia has its own Josef Fritzl, the ‘monster of Amstetten’. A peasant from Mariquita (Tolima province) did conceive at least seven children with his own daughter. She spoke to SEMANA about her tragedy.
Today, at 36, tired of the abuse and threats routine, this woman finally decided to put her life and her children’s in order and dared to report her father. He is now famous as the ‘monster of Mariquita’ for the inevitable comparison with the widely know case of Josef Fritzl, the ‘monster of Amstetten’, who kept his daughter locked in the basement of his home for 24 years and conceived several children with her.
Arcedio, age 59, is now recruited in a jail in the town of Honda, and even though he tried to defend himself arguing he’s not Alba’s birth father, last week the DNA tests proved him wrong and revealed he was indeed father to seven of the eight children. Nevertheless, the evidence was rejected because it wasn’t ordered through the proper conduct. But Alba has started the fight of her life, and she wants to carry it out till the end. “I’m no longer afraid of speaking because no one can harass me or hurt me like he did”. Fear was responsible for Alba’s resignation.
“I have not had anything good”, says Alba as she thinks in her childhood. The only pleasant memory she has from those years is her father teaching her to read and write, because Alba only went to school for six months. About her mother, Alba only remembers that “she got mad at me and beat me”. She says, as if she was apologizing, that that was the only way to “release her anger that she felt because mi father was extremely jealous and mistreated her every time there was a man around”.
When her mother died, Alba was 5 and she moved with her father and younger brother to the grandparents house, where an aunt was in charge of the care of the children. “While she was at my side and slept with me nothing happened. But things changed when she go married and left. My father started to caress me, he held me hard against him. I didn’t think that was weird, I believed he did it because he was affectionate”. Alba confesses she felt special for the affection her father was giving her, who asked Alba not to say a word.
For Gilma Jiménez, local counselor of Bogotá, who revealed Alba Nidia’s story and promotes the referendum to punish with life imprisonment the crimes against children, “the affective manipulation” is the common denominator in these cases. “Besides, it is usual that society and family know what is going on, but because of fear, because they think it is normal or because of complicity, no one reports”, she adds. That is exactly what happened in Alba’s case, everybody at home suspected, but no one said anything. Even her uncle tried to do the same as her father.
One night, when she was 10, Arcedio told her to move to his bed. From that point on, that would be part of the routine. “He wanted to sleep with me everyday. When I pretended to be asleep to avoid him, he woke up with anger and wouldn’t take his coffee. I cried because I felt guilty”, she confesses with childish innocence, as if she had just realized what has happened to her. “The only thing I wanted was to have a father that loved me”.
Before she turned 13, she got pregnant. At first she didn’t understand her discomfort, so when her grandmother asked her if she was carrying a baby she has horrified. “I don’t even have a boyfriend”, she answered. Then, the old lady implied it could be her father’s child, and Alba then started to understand that what was happening to her was terrible. According to her, Arcedio asked her to say that a childhood friend, that was visiting the family at the time, was José Leonidas’ father, her first child.
Alba admits that at that same time, she fell in love for the first time. He was a 17 year-old neighbor. “I thought that if my first child had been already born, I could have a normal life. Mi father left him visit me while we was there. But one time he caught us alone, he waited for my boyfriend to leave and he beat me up”. The couple tried to escape, but Arcedio showed up in her boyfriends house with a gun in his hand and Alba preferred to end the relationship.
“More than loving him, he was my only hope. Some days we walked by my house and left some chocolates for me and sang hoping me to hear him. But to avoid any problem, his parents took him away”. Since then, she was forced to say at home and could only go out with her father’s permission and for short periods. The threats then started: “Arcedio said he was capable of killing me and committing suicide”.
To join that pain came the death of José Leonidas and the death of the twins that followed him: “the boy only lived for 10 hours, and the girl for three months”. The same thing happened to more of her children, and the Prosecutors office is investigating how they died. Alba recalls that every time a baby was born, the midwife used to say the child looked like his grandfather. It was no secret in town that they were Arcedio’s children. “But many thought he was my stepfather”.
Alba´s face lights up when she talks about her children: the eldest one is 19, and the youngest one is just 18 months old. Just because of them she decided to start a new life, something she hadn’t dare to do even when she fell in love for the second time. “My father treated the boys as if they were his friends, and they had already noticed that he behaved differently around the girls so I feared that my daughters would repeat my story. I tried not to leave them alone with him”. Alba confesses she abandoned her home during one of her daughters birthdays because she knew her father was planning to abuse of her daughter/granddaughter that day.
That was 10 months ago, when she left the town with six of her children. “The older ones wanted to stay. My father didn’t stop me because he thought I was going to starve to death and eventually come back”. She says she worked in poor conditions for several families and in a restaurant to gain some money, but she didn’t want to report anything because she was afraid that she would be separated from her children.
Her drama became public when a former family superintendent, who had been investigating the case, told counselor Gilma Jiménez. She built a case and delivered the information to the Prosecutor’s office and Arcedio Álvarez was captured.
Today, Alba and her six children are in Bogotá, protected by the Colombian Institute of Family Welfare (ICBF) where they are getting psychological help. The children are taking classes and have medical attention because they were malnourished. One of the girls is getting eye surgery to correct cataracts. For Elvira Forero, general director of the Institute, the most important thing is that this case “serves as an example for people to report and dare to step out of a repeated abuse situation, to break their fear to de unknown”.
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