In September of 2002, Thalia’s two sisters Ernestina and Laura were kidnapped while leaving a theater in Mexico City. Laura Zapata, a popular Mexican soap actress, was held for 16 days. Ernestina Sodi, a writer and former Miss Mexico, would endure a total of 36 days of mental and physical abuse—losing 70 percent of her vision as a result of being blindfolded for hours at a time. Thalia rounded up the hefty ransom and her sisters were eventually set free. But for Sodi, the author of Deliver Us From Evil, a detailed and moving account of this horrible high-profile sequester, life will never be the same. Even after her rescue, Sodi would have to endure trauma, a media firestorm and face the band of kidnappers after they were caught. The ringleader “The Midget” would eventually take his own life in jail. Sodi’s gift of observation helped catapult this engaging memoir into best seller status in Spanish. Here’s what she had to tell Latina about the kidnapping and the book’s English debut.
Why did you write this book?
First, I’m a writer and I needed to tell my story. Second, I wanted people to know exactly what a kidnapping was like, because you always hear about this horrible act but you don’t know what it’s really like. That’s also why the book is written in a didactic manner.
Does the kidnapping continue to stick with you in your daily life?
Deep within yourself, even after you’ve pursued all the therapies, there remains a fear that one time can happen again another time. You can never trust again and when you’re on the streets you’re always in a state of alert.
Do you still fear Mexico City a bit after what happened?
Mexico is a beautiful country of course, but the city is very dangerous. You have to take all precautions.
Tell us a bit about your senses in terms of how you were able to identify your kidnappers when you were blindfolded.
Where you’re locked in somewhere, all your senses change. Your need for survival causes your body to react in different ways. My sense of hearing was the first to sharpen, then came my olfactory.
How did you feel the day you heard that “The Midget” (your name for the lead kidnapper) killed himself in jail?
I saw that man behind bars when they brought him to justice. I had to be there to single him out of the lineup. He asked for my forgiveness. And I gave it to him. My feelings about his suicide; it seems that man didn't understand anything about life, not God, not love, nothing.
What do you hope Americans will walk away with after reading your story?
A lesson about life. Even though the bad exists, the good appears. And when you have the strength inside of you, anything is possible. They’ll also know what a kidnapping is like.
Do you think the situation in Mexico, in terms of kidnappings, is getting better or worse?
The new government is working hard against combating narcotraffickers, which is affecting the bands of kidnappers involved with narcotrafficking. But kidnapping in Mexico still hasn’t disappeared.
What is your opinion regarding the mistrust Mexicans have of the police regarding reporting kidnapping crimes? Do you think more people are reporting them than they did in the past?
Mexicans have learned how to press charges and the culture of denouncements has evolved in our country. That’s when we can see justice, because without a charge there isn’t a crime.
After having living such a tragedy, what is a perfect day for you and what are your plans for the future?
A perfect day for me is seeing my daughters’ light eyes enjoying the utmost health and happiness. My plans are to continue writing and start up a school of dance. May God bless you all.
To read an excerpt of Ernestina's book Deliver Us From Evil be sure to pick up the June/July issue of Latina Magazine.
-Adriana V. Lopez