Speaking of Slavery

A room in a Queens row house in 1997 where deaf Mexican peddlers were imprisoned.

If you’ve already read through the first chapter of Half the Sky then you probably know a little bit more about modern slavery now.  If you’re like me, you probably know more than you really wanted to know.

As terrible as I feel knowing the vast number of women and girls enslaved in India and China, I somehow feel even worse thinking about those enslaved right here under our noses in the US.  That’s why I was glad to read this article in today’s New York Times: Descent Into Slavery, and a Ladder to Another Life.

This article details a different type of slavery, deaf Mexican immigrants forced to peddle goods in subway stations and airports.  From the article:

Lured from Mexico on promises of prosperity, he and 56 other people lived as prisoners in two row houses in Queens. By day, they sold key chains and miniature screwdriver kits in the subways, at airports, on roadsides. At night, they turned over every penny to the bosses of the houses.

All of the peddlers were deaf. Mr. Gutierrez, the youngest, had arrived in the United States at age 15, fluent only in Mexican Sign Language.

Fortunately, Mr. Gutierrez and the others escaped thanks to help from a couple they met at the airport and the police.  However, I can’t help but think of the number of times I’ve walked past people selling trinkets in subways and airports without a thought. Am I walking past modern slaves on a daily basis?  Are they hidden in plain sight all around me?

What is the right thing to do in this situation, not just for the women and girls overseas, but also for all those enslaved here?  Please leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section.

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