Mexico’s slavery survivors defy stigma on road to recovery

ZunduriThomson Reuters Foundation – When her captives tied the chains around her waist a little looser than usual, Zunduri knew it was her chance to escape.

Wriggling free, she dashed out of the dry cleaning shop in Mexico City where she had been enslaved, beaten and starved for more than half a decade.

“There is no part of my body without scars,” Zunduri told Thomson Reuters Foundation in a phone interview from her home in Mexico’s capital, recalling an ordeal that shocked Mexicans as one of the worst slavery cases to come to light in the city.

“Doctors counted more than 600 scars on my body. A hot iron was put to my head. I ironed and ironed. I didn’t see the light of day. I didn’t know when the sun set or when it rose. I had to drink steam from the iron to get water.”

Since her dramatic escape last year, Zunduri has become an icon of resilience in a country where shame and stigma make many slavery survivors reluctant to go public.

Her five alleged captors are the woman who owned the dry cleaners, plus the woman’s two daughters, husband and sister. All are in prison facing charges of human trafficking, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years.

Their trial is set to be one of Mexico’s highest-profile trafficking cases, underlining the country’s status as a source, transit and destination country for adults and children coerced into forced labour and sex work.

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