Cipriana Juarez Diaz, mother of Gilberto Francisco Ramos Juarez, a Guatemalan boy whose decomposed body was found in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, cries during an interview at their home in San Jose Las Flores, northern Cuchumatanes mountains, Guatemala, on Tuesday.

Luis Soto

SAN JOSE LAS FLORES, Guatemala — Gilberto Ramos wanted to leave his chilly mountain village for the United States to earn money to treat his mother’s epilepsy.

His mother begged him not to go. “The better treatment would have been if he stayed,” Cipriana Juarez Diaz said in a tearful interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday. When he wouldn’t relent, she draped him with a white rosary for safe passage.

A month later, his decaying body was found in the Texas desert. Now, the boy has become a symbol for the perils faced by a record flood of unaccompanied children from Central America who are crossing illegally into the U.S.

Authorities said Monday that Gilberto was 11, which would have

made him one of the youngest known children to die crossing the desert. But his parents said Tuesday that Gilberto was 15.

The parents explained that they had taken several years to register his birth because of the remoteness of their village in Guatemala’s northern mountains. When they did, they had forgotten Gilberto’s actual birth date, so they listed the same date as his younger brother.

The boy was shirtless, having likely suffered heat stroke, but still wearing the rosary.

“He was a good son,” Juarez said. “May God give me the strength to endure.”

Teenage boys seeking work have long been part of the stream of young men heading north from Central America to escape poverty and gang violence.

But the number of unaccompanied immigrant children picked up along the U.S. border has been rising for three years.

Migrants tell of hearing that children traveling alone and parents traveling with young kids would be released by U.S. authorities and allowed to continue to their destination. Gilberto, too, had heard in Guatemala that if he got in, he would be allowed to stay, his family said.

He was born and grew up in San Jose Las Flores in a modest wood and sheet-metal home in the Cuchumatanes mountains of Huehuetenango province along the Mexico border. At 6,600 feet above sea level, the exuberant beauty of deep-green hills and canyons, shrouded with clouds and floral bursts of purple and yellow, is a stark contrast to the extreme poverty.

There is no running or potable water and only a latrine in the family home. In the kitchen, there is food, tortillas or wheat atole, an oatmeal-like drink, but never enough.

The cluster of homes where Gilberto lived is accessible only by foot, a difficult walk of nearly a mile along a rocky and often muddy mile-long path through the canyons. Gilberto took that path each way to school, where he went as far as third grade before dropping out.

“He had to work to help the family,” said his teacher, Francisco Hernandez, who remembered that Gilberto loved to draw.

More than half of 50 schoolchildren attending now raised their hands Tuesday when asked if they had family in the U.S., shouting, “I have eight,” “seven,” “three!” While many migrating minors say they are fleeing violence, the biggest threat in San Jose Las Flores is poverty. There are both mining jobs and drug traffickers in the border state, but neither touch the remote village where Gilberto grew up.

“Here most of the people are farmers. They grow beans, rice, potatoes,” said Raul Cifuentes, president of the town’s development committee. “But they don’t have a way to import or export, so they stay poor.”

Gilberto and his father, Francisco Ramos, hired themselves out to harvest and clean corn. Things improved when the oldest son, Esbin Ramos, reached Chicago and started working in a restaurant. He sends $100 to $120 a month when he can afford it, allowing the family to build a two-room home out of cement block to replace their wooden shack and paint it bright red and green. Gilberto slept on a piece of foam on the floor.

Short, quiet and humble, he stayed close to home. But he grew despairing and bored, Esbin Ramos said. Meanwhile, their mother got sicker. The older brother suggested Gilberto come to Chicago, where he could return to school and work at night and on weekends.

Gilberto set out May 17 with a change of clothes and a backpack along the same path as his brother, walking the rugged road to the center of town and then hitching a ride to Chiantla to meet up with the smuggler, known as a coyote. He left his cowboy boots behind because he didn’t want them to get ruined, his father said.

The trip cost $5,400, and the family had borrowed $2,600 of that, paying $2,000 the first week of the journey and another $600 the week before he died. They still owe the debt.

“I’m OK, just deposit the money,” Gilberto told his father as he was about to cross into Texas.

Then Gilberto and the coyote disappeared. His parents tried to call the coyote. Four days passed, then five, then six. By the eighth day, Esbin Ramos was worried. He called the Guatemalan consulate in Houston and officials in Guatemala seeking help, he said.

Then he got a call from a woman in McAllen, from what agency he doesn’t know, telling him his brother was dead. They had found the body June 15, authorities said, and Esbin’s phone number on the inside of Gilberto’s belt buckle, a tactic many migrants use to hide information from drug traffickers who are looking to extort money from their families.

The Guatemalan consulate in the United States notified the family on Tuesday that Gilberto’s body would be returned soon, whenever there is an available flight. His father is already preparing his grave site in the local cemetery.

His bedridden mother stumbled to her feet Tuesday to pray at the altar adorned with wildflowers, arranged where he slept. There are no photos placed there because the family sent most of them to the U.S. to identify the body.

“The coyote told me that he was going to take him to a safe place and I believed him,” Francisco Ramos said. “But that was the fate of my son.”

(3) comments


Really? These so called "Parents" are responsible for what happend to their son.
No matter what, no matter how bad things get ..... my children will never leave my side.
Now they are sitting there, crying crocodile tears ......
I don't care how you slice and dice it ... what happend to this kid was the parents fault. Who turns over their child to a stranger ??????????
I am sorry for the death of this young child but have no sympathy for the parents


@ Authorities said Monday that Gilberto was 11, which would have
made him one of the youngest known children to die crossing the desert. But his parents said Tuesday that Gilberto was 15.
The parents explained that they had taken several years to register his birth because of the remoteness of their village in Guatemala’s northern mountains. When they did,- they had forgotten Gilberto’s actual birth date,- so they listed the same date as his younger brother.

I'm sorry that the young man died and I'm sure he's in Heaven,
and Its beside the point--- but the above is one of the most unusual statements I've ever heard a set of parents make about one of their children.

The authorities mis led the American people on the rightful age of this person who was found on U.S. territory.

I am certain the boy was also enticed by the brother to come to the U.S. since he evidently had made it himself-If he was able to send $100+ to the family per month.
The admins.made the enticement even more favorable.By promising Card Blanche when you got across the border, at the expense of the American Tax Payer.

Now the American people will have to pay out some expense to have this persons body stored, buried or returned to his people ,where he should have remained.

In some manner the Mexican Gov. have played a part in this incident by allowing thousands of 'foreigners' (a group of foreigners ,who inside Mexico are considered by their Gov., as 'a lower class' and not shown a favorite status when found there as illegals) to pass through Mexico .How could this have happened without the Mexican Gov. being part of the 'game plan'. It couldn't.

We have been forced to allow to have our families and friends made accessible to any diseases that have been brought in by any of these people, a group made up of ,children, men and women.

This has all been a con game which any politician involved in the approval, have thought the American people would be willing to go along with if they used the words 'kids' and the words '11 year old boy' enough.
they thought we would never find out about all the women, men ,fathers ,mothers that came in too

Some have even suggested that many of these kids are 'Rent a Kids' ,rented and used to get an adult across the border.
I also believe many of the kids in the groups could be from orphanages who the government of their country has allowed to be taken to get rid of them.


The people responsible for this boys death are Eric Holder and Barrack Obama. They're complete and utter failure to enforce the law has allowed this invasion of the United States to escalate to the current level.
The only thing wrong with our immigration system is the fact that every federal agency involved with immigration has been ordered, by this administration, to curtail their application of federal law.
Now the citizens of the United States are being exposed to disease and parasites on an epidemical level because of the resolve of this administration to destroy this country.

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