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Mercy High School ~ Farmington Hills, Michigan


Mercy High School ~ Farmington Hills, Michigan


Mercy High School ~ Farmington Hills, Michigan


Daris Bartolon Shares her Story


As a victim of oppression, violence, and imprisonment, Daris Bartolon’s challenging life is a reminder of the struggles many face in the never ending battle for human rights. At the same time, her journey serves as an inspiration and testament to the resiliency of the human spirit. On December 1, Bartalon visited Mr. Klueg’s Justice and Peace class, and Mercy students had the privilege of hearing her remarkable story.

Bartolon was born in a Guatemalan city plagued with land damaging environmental issues including heavy rains, landslides, and earthquakes which devastated the area’s agricultural economy. Similar to fellow natives, Bartolon’s family relied on the cultivation of the threatened crops for survival. At the young age of nine, she joined her siblings and began working in the fields, harvesting the damaged crops to help support the family. 

In Guatemala, women were expected to be the family caregivers and homemakers, and often did not receive any education. Therefore, Bartolon worked to pay for her studies and attend a school in another town, as her town did not have one.

Once out of school, Bartolon moved in with her boyfriend, and together they had two daughters, Eileen and Madeline. However, her daughter Madeline was born with osteomalacia, also known as rickets, a disease that causes the weakening of the bones. This damaged Madeline’s bones and kidneys, making it difficult for her to walk. 

However, Bartolon’s boyfriend developed an addiction to drugs. Under the influence of drugs, he turned violent, hurting Bartolon and her daughters. Despite seeking help, even from the police, Bartolon found no protection.

“When he came home under the influence of drugs, he was like a transformed person,” said Bartolon. “When he ran out of money for drugs, he would find money in our house, steal money from our house, or take things like our television or our stove and sell them for more drugs.”

The violence escalated until one day Bartolon awoke to her boyfriend attempting to stab her with a knife. After this attack, Bartolon knew she had to flee as her life was now in danger. On three separate occasions, Bartolon attempted to leave. However, her attempts failed due to her boyfriend’s connections to local drug gangs. With no other option, she made the difficult decision to move her and her daughters to America in hopes of a new life. 

The girls departed on their grueling journey, traveling for weeks on bus from place to place until they made it to Mexico, the most dangerous portion of their journey. Here, they fell into the clutches of a trafficking gang, the Zetas. For two agonizing weeks, they were held captive in inhumane conditions with other men, women, and children. 

“It was one of the most horrible moments that we lived, and our lives were truly dependent on them,” said Bartolon. “I was really terrified, especially for my daughters.” 

The captives were held ransom and constantly threatened as the Zetas walked around with large guns and knives. Those whose families could not pay the ransom were killed. The Zetas then filmed their torture to send back to the victim’s family and to show Bartolon and the other captives what could happen to them. These gruesome videos depicted decapitation, limbs being cut off, and sometimes, the Zetas torturing their victims by cutting off one finger at a time. 

Thankfully, Bartolon’s family managed to pay, and the Zetas released Daris and her daughters at the border near the Rio Grande river. Once dropped off, they were instructed to cross the river and run into the mountains. In the scorching desert mountains, Bartolon and Eileen walked for hours, while Bartolon carried Madeline who could not walk on her own.  

Soon, immigration cars found them, and took them to a detention center, called a “cold room” because it is just that—freezing, with no chairs and one bathroom. Men, women, and children were put in one room and only given aluminum blankets for warmth despite the soaked and hole filled clothes many wore from their long journey. The people were huddled together so closely, they could not even spread their legs to sleep. Oftentimes, Bartolon slept standing up as their detainment lapsed, unaware of when it would end as there were no clocks or windows.

At this moment, all Bartolon could do was pray and talk to her immigration agent, asking them to send her and her daughters to Michigan together. Many parents of the cold room were separated from their children, and Bartolon fought hard to keep her children with her—arguing that she had to be with Madeline due to her physical condition. When Bartolon spoke to her immigration agent the second time, she was given the good news that she would be allowed into Michigan. 

“The second time, the immigration agent told me, ‘If it had been for me, I would have deported you. You would be back in Guatemala by now. But you must have a lot of Saints and angels looking over you because they are going to let you go to Michigan,’” said Bartolon. 

Now living in America, Bartolon works with “Strangers No Longer”, a non-profit that aims to aid immigrants in their transition to America. Through this organization, Bartolon gives speeches, sharing her story and bringing light to the experiences of many others. 

“For me, it’s important because it’s not just me. Yes, a lot of us are from Central America, but it’s also people from all over the world,” Bartolon said. “There are so many of us that come as immigrants and it’s important to share our story.” 

By working with “Stranger No Longer”, Bartolon was able to share her story with Mercy students taking the Justice and Peace class. In her speech, Bartolon shed light on the dangerous journey thousands take every year, calling attention to the struggles that most Americans often ignore. 

“It’s very eye opening and I think we take a lot of things for granted,” Maizy Borris, a Justice and Peace student, said. “I’m still so proud of her, and I don’t even know her. She’s just a remarkable person.”

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