Last Sunday, Celia Esquivel once again felt that something had been taken from her. On July 11, Yván, the child she had long desired, died at just eight and a half months from an acute meningitis that had hospitalized him for two months of his short life. Since then, Celia had visited him every week to pray and leave flowers. But this past Sunday, when Children’s Day was celebrated in Peru, Celia Esquivel suffered the loss of her baby for a second time.
When she arrived at the Sol de Oro cemetery, located in the San Sebastián district of Cusco, she found an open grave where Yván had been buried. His stuffed animal lay beside the loose earth. When she leaned in, she saw that the glass of the coffin was broken. Someone had taken her baby’s remains. Celia collapsed. Her father, Yván’s grandfather, hugged her.
“I just want justice for my son, for him to reappear. Whoever knows something, tell me. I want to find him, please. Leave him for me wherever you can. Return his body to me. He needs to rest,” the mother has begged in various national media outlets. The cemetery’s custodian told her that he went by her son’s grave the previous day and everything was fine, so it is thought that the tomb was robbed on Sunday night. Even so, Celia Esquivel has complained of the indifference of the administrators of Sol de Oro. “No one wants to take responsibility,” she says.
The municipality of San Sebastián has promised to review the security cameras of nearby streets to find the criminals. But the family laments the prosecutor’s slow response. “They haven’t taken fingerprints from the coffin or the broken glass. They could have closed Cusco’s borders. They need a forensic analysis. They should review the telephones of everyone who works in the cemetery. The truth needs to be made known,” Celia has said. She does not know the motive of the robbery. “I can think of a lot of things, even that they have trafficked him. God sees everything,” she adds.
Rafael Esquivel, Celia’s father and the child’s grandfather, argues that the kidnapping was done by a specialist, as the coffin was not completely unearthed. The robbers lifted only the head of the coffin to then break the glass and remove the body. “The municipality of San Sebastián is responsible. That’s why we pay for burial. How many cases like this are there? Doing this isn’t easy. It was done by people who know what they’re doing,” he says. Yván’s tomb is a few steps from a wire fence separating the cemetery from a highway. The cemetery, the family says, does not have many security personnel.
The district’s director of Social and Human Development, Julio Jaén Rodríguez, says that the mother is receiving support. He argues that the municipality of San Sebastián is also a victim: “We don’t know the motives. This is in an investigation phase. We cannot jump to conclusions or assumptions at this point. What we want to emphasize is that we are also victims, because the security in the cemetery has been compromised. Unscrupulous persons have carried out the criminal act of profaning the tomb of the minor,” he said in defense of his institution.
The news has alarmed the Cusco population. Just a month ago, the remains of another baby, an eight-month-old fetus who died before birth, were robbed. Shirley Pachas Carbajal, the mother, denounced that the act occurred in the Antonio Lorena emergency hospital. The authorities’ explanation was that the robbers forced open the morgue’s back window. They promised an exhaustive investigation, but the case has not been solved.
“I can’t find peace for my suffering. He is a little angel. I ask from the heart that you help me find my son,” Celia Esquivel implores. The police are trying to find a link between the two cases. Meanwhile, two mothers and two families suffer: one could not bury her son, and the other was left with an empty tomb.