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¡No Se Deje!
Immigrants to any country should immediately learn what the law in that county permits and prohibits. Immigrants are too often surprised to learn that the laws in the country they move to differ greatly from the ones in their native country. Sometimes the differences are minor and sometimes they are major. A case in Northern California illustrates the problem.
The case of Marcelino de Jesús Martinez made news headlines all over the world some time ago. I found over 200 articles about this case before I tired of further searching. Unfortunately, the news reporters were more interested in printing inaccurate and provocative information than presenting the less interesting and less scandalous truth.
This case involved members of a small community of indigenous native Mexicans from Oaxaca called the “Triqui”. Mr. Martinez was arrested for attempting to arrange for the marriage of his 14 year old daughter to an 18 year old man. Hundreds of news reports all over the world immediately ran stories with headlines like “Man sells daughter for beer, cash, and meat”.
The Police Chief of Greenfield, California initially issued a press release, which he later admitted inaccurately stated that Mr. Martinez had attempted to sell his daughter into marriage. Since then he corrected the error by publicly stating that the case involved a conflict and difference in cultures. He understood after speaking to members of the Triqui community and experts familiar with their culture, that it is common and legal for them to arrange for young girls to marry adult men. The agreement to provide beverages and food is to ensure that the guests at the wedding will be properly served. In this case, the proposed groom had agreed to give Mr. Martinez $16,000 as a dowry to provide for the bride should he fail to provide for her as a husband.
The Sheriff went on to explain that no force, fear or coercion was used and that the girl went willingly with the proposed groom. He also stated that the action would have been perfectly legal in their native community and that they did not know that they were violating the law here. That seems obvious since Mr. Martinez himself called the police to complain that the proposed groom had not delivered the promised payment.
The honorable Sheriff quickly investigated and learned about the true nature of the incident. He quickly determined that the case involved an innocent ignorance about our laws. He promptly issued a corrected press release that clarified the facts. Nonetheless, hundreds of news reports, including CNN, MSNBC, FOX NEWS and many other National and International reporting agencies continued to publish the story as “Man sells 14 year old daughter for cash, beer, and food”.
Latinos should know that the laws of the United States are often very different from the laws of Mexico and other Latin American countries. This is because the culture and values which determine American laws are much different. Not knowing that it is illegal is no defense to having broken the law. And, the fact that it is legal in one’s native country is no defense. Know and obey the law where you live and stay out of trouble. ¡NO SE DEJE! ®
Jess J. Araujo. Esq.