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Secret Investigation After Adam Lanza Shooting in Newtown Prompts News Series in Hartford


HARTFORD — In December 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The killings reverberated across the country—and most definitely here in Hartford.

Under the supervision of Lt. Paul Vance, the message one year later to journalists was clear. There was no definitive or singular reason for the Newtown massacre, according to reports by the Connecticut State Police. State police detectives investigating the Dec. 14, 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School and 36 Yogananda St. in Newtown talked to several practitioners as they pieced together Lanza’s history of mental health treatments.

In Greater Hartford, several locals, including undercover policemen, state police, secret service and the office of the chief state attorney, claimed they were concerned about whether the mental health facilities failed Lanza; and they contacted The Hartford Guardian in January 2014. After identifying themselves as authorized officials doing an investigation in secret, they also claimed they wanted to investigate medicaid fraud and hospitals.

Additionally, they wanted to observe the state of mental health facilities in Connecticut, namely in Hartford, Farmington, Middletown and New Haven. In each case a reporter was followed by undercover agents to decipher the make up of the staff, the quality of care and details that contributed to mental health disparities in the state. This wasalso undertaken by the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) in the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney.

The Hartford Guardian, an award-winning, hyper-local publication based in Hartford, was asked to participate while other journalists, gadflies, federal, state and local officials secretly watched with special microscopic devices. The Hartford Guardian was among the few journalism organizations that got to see the inside of these  facilities and can give a cogent report. There were multiple stories that came out of this five-year investigation and many firings and retirements. (Several firings or retirements in the state and federal government reportedly came out of this secret investigation: Aug. 4, 2014 with three simultaneous departures; Feb. 4, 2015 with Dan Pfeiffer, April 22, 2019 with Dan S. Cohen; Feb. 15, 2018 with Hartford Police Chief James Rovella; the March 20 announcement of David Rosado’s retirement; the August announcement of Kevin Kane’s retirement).

Adams and other reporters are eager to tell thier stories that came out of visits to these hospitals involved in this investigation: John Dempsey Hospital, Hartford Hospital, St. Francis Hospital, Yale University Hospital and Connecticut Valley Hospital.

See other related reports:

Hartford Courant: Citing Safety Concerns, Feds Move to End Medicare Funding at Connecticut Valley Hospital

CT Mirror: Prospect of Detox, psychiatric bed cuts worries hospital officials

NBC Connecticut, Len Besthoff

WFSB, Investigative Team

The Hartford Guardian would like to follow up on its 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 coverage of this secret investigation that allegedly came out of President Barack Obama, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Mayor Pedro Segarra’s administrations.

So far, we are mulling over several concerns presented to us and would like our readers input: 

The methodology proposed? Use a seasoned journalist to go inside these hospitals to see how the staff treat her as a patient—not a young white man such as Lanza.

By using a journalist that has worked in the state for more than 30 years, these secret investigators theorized, it would be established that she was not hiding the fact that she was a trained journalist. Other measures were taken to ensure her safety from threats by health employees and lobbyists.

 Here are some of the findings in these hospitals that are worth tackling:

  1. Psychiatrists and psychotherapists in hospitals and outpatient care are overwhelmingly white females. In some cases, they are culturally incompetent and erroneous in documenting cases. In some cases, workers falsify records.
  2. Psychiatrists and social workers are sometimes forced to  give a diagnoses quickly because they must produce a diagnosis for billing.
  3. If you are a Christian, the mental health facilities can allegedly be used to seemingly persecute believers. This is one of the most astonishing findings in our research. This was an allegorical case, which involved targeting Christians and claiming he or she is akin to Icarus. According to Greek mythology, Icarus is the man who escaped imprisonment by flying too close to the sun.
  4. Mental health facilities can also be used by corrupt politicians to imprison and undermine a political opponent.
  5. Forced medications can be used to silence or kill someone over time—based on their deadly side effects, especially because of wrong dosages and frequency.

If you or anyone have experienced any of the above or have been forced into a mental health hospitals on a Physician Emergency Certificate, especially using black magic or Santeria, contact us. The PEC can sometimes be used like the draconian vagrancy laws popular in the 1700s. You can reach us at editor@thehartfordguardian.com to be a part of our investigative series about your experience in mental health facilities. To help sponsor this important series, donate today. See link here.

The Hartford Guardian would like to thank the International Center for Journalists for hosting the Community Health Reporting workshop for helping to fund the beginning of this investigation in June 2014. This project was inspired by an October 7, 2008 death at Sands Apartment in Hartford, CT.

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Time to Solve a Cold Case and Beef Up Emergency System for Elderly Residents


Updated October 9, 2012, 9:44. a.m.

By Ann-Marie Adams — Op-Ed

On a crisp October night four years ago today, my mother dialed 911. She had a heart attack. So she picked up her small, pink phone and dialed the three digits necessary to signal for help and possibly save her life.

A Hartford police dispatcher reportedly received the call at 8: 25 p.m. But my mother’s phone showed she had to dial again at about 8:45 p.m.

At about 8:55 p.m., a dispatcher called my mother’s phone and sent an officer to the scene at Sands Apartment on Main Street. Supposedly, the officer was dispatched to the scene to ensure that the door to my mother’s apartment was closed after the Emergency Medical Service ambulance rushed her to St. Francis Hospital. EMS took over from the fire department crew that arrived four minutes after her initial call, according to reports. Between the HPD, the Fire Department, EMS and the Sands’ Management team, something precious was lost: her voice.

And what happened in room 713 on the seventh floor of the Sands Apartment building still remains a mystery. However, a bloodied T-shirt, specks of blood on the floor of a patient suffering from a supposed heart attack and was being treated by first responders cannot be ignored. But here’s what is not a mystery: my mother and best friend died that night.

My mother is not the only victim of the allegedly crude and uncaring behavior from city workers: the Hartford Police Department, the Fire Department, the EMS that serves North Hartford, or the Meriden-based Carabetta Management, now under a FBI investigation, that manages apartment building. All seemingly colluded to silence forever a fiercely independent, 69-year-old woman who relished her life.

A faithful believer in the Nutmeg Big Brothers/Big Sisters’ Foster Grandparent Program, my mother had perfect attendance at her job, which included providing personal guidance to at-risk children in the North End. She was such a dedicated and gentle volunteer, she received recognition from the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation for civic engagement because she was “demonstrating the best of the American spirit.” She hung her certificate on her wall of many achievements, next to a framed picture of me–another special accomplishment.

At 69, circumstantial evidence showed she had at least another decade ahead of her. Yet, she died while waiting for help. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances of her health and life was. The fact remains the same. City residents pay into these services with hope that when they need medical attention, there will be a quick response with care.

The city’s medical emergency system, in this case, failed. And there’s evidence of this fact all around us.

Earlier this year, Mayor Pedro Segarra, Chief Edward Casares and the Commission on Aging implemented the Hartford-Are-You-OK Program, a free computerized telephone reassurance service designed for citizens 65 years and older. The program is already in 45 states and provides a daily call to those who live alone. The program was in memory of Roberta L. Jones, a lifelong resident of Hartford and the first African American State Marshal. Jones died in August. She was 68. Unlike my mother, Jones died at 68 surrounded by her family.

My family feels robbed of that opportunity Jones and her family had. And that was always my fear of mine when my mother decided to live in the city.

In Hartford, its unclear how many of the 11,825 people 65 and older live alone like my mother. But the program is a welcome service for the the 40 million U.S. residents over 65.

My family and I hope that for the sake of those residents in Hartford, there is a stronger emergency system in place to support the ‘Are You OK’ program for the elderly. Their golden life should not end because of people who lack empathy. It’s now time to turn a slogan (Hartford Cares) into reality by solving this mystery.

My mother’s death, and that of others that go unreported in Hartford, should not be in vain. She gave to the city. Now, it’s time for the city to give her family what she deserved: answers.

Until then, I will be her voice.

Editor’s Note: The author decided to leave her mother’s name out of this article. However, details are mentioned to help authorities identify the victim.

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Seniors Grow Old Under Debt


By Hanah Cho, Contributor

Norman Harvel is growing old under a mountain of debt.

At 60, Harvel faces medical and credit card bills topping $80,000. Yet Harvel is unable to work, having been injured at a job site more a decade ago. The former building maintenance worker now lives on $904 a month in Social Security disability benefits.

“I was so sick and tired of getting the bills, so I would throw them away,” Harvel said from his tiny basement apartment in Dundalk. “I’ve had to try to tell myself that it’s something I will wake up from.”

In Maryland and across the country, boomers and other older Americans are drowning in debt, say credit counselors, elder law attorneys and economists. A growing number of older people in the Baltimore region are seeking financial assistance and help finding work, as well as filing for bankruptcy, say those who work with seniors.

Buried in Health Care Debt

Norman Zimmering, 81, exhausted his savings trying to pay off medical bills for his wife, Harriet, who died in 2009. She had a heart condition as well as dementia, Zimmering said.
“Most of my money was spent on hospitals, nursing homes and whatever medication,” said Zimmering, who lives in a sparse apartment in Reservoir Hill.
Soon after his wife’s death, Zimmering said, he was laid off after 11 years as a security guard at the Sands Expo Convention Center in Las Vegas.
Unable to find work and keep up with medical bills, some of which he paid for with credit cards, Zimmering filed for bankruptcy last year, listing $42,020.87 in liabilities, mostly medical bills. A judge discharged his debts last year.
“I kept repeatedly getting big bills and big bills. I tried very hard. I couldn’t do it any more,” he said. “I had to go into bankruptcy.”
Zimmering moved to Baltimore a year ago hoping to find a job here either as a security guard or piano tuner, but so far he hasn’t had any luck. He said his age and bad credit because of the bankruptcy hurt his employment opportunities.
“I even tell people, ‘I don’t care what you pay me, as long as it brings in some revenue and keeps my dignity,'” said Zimmering, whose primary source of income is $1,027 a month in Social Security.
Hanah Cho

Double Debt Tarnishes Golden Years 

“It’s supposed to be the golden years, but it’s not, at least financially,” said Nicholas Del Pizzo III, a Dundalk attorney whose clients include many financially struggling seniors seeking bankruptcy help.

From 1992 to 2007, the percentage of households of people in their mid-50s and older with housing and consumer debt rose from 53.8 percent to 63 percent, according to the Washington-based Employee Benefit Research Institute’s (EBRI) research using government data. The problem is even more acute for those 55 to 64, with 81.7 percent carrying debt.

Over the same period, the average overall debt for these 55-and-older households more than doubled, to $70,370, according to EBRI.

In Harvel’s case, he piled up debt over years of taking care of his sick wife, Loretta, who died last year at 63. She had diabetes, was on dialysis and required two open-heart surgeries, Harvel said.

Health care bills are a leading factor contributing to the indebtedness of graying Americans.

Workers are paying more for employer-sponsored health insurance, while costs for medical care are skyrocketing. Eligibility for Medicare doesn’t begin until age 65, and it does not cover such expenses as hearing aids, dental care and long-term nursing care.

Meanwhile, more older homeowners are carrying mortgage debt into retirement. Making matters worse, declining housing values have cut into what had been a safety net for older Americans and retirees: their homes.

Some older consumers also are saddled with credit card debt. Among Americans 65 and older, for instance, the average amount of credit card debt rose to $10,235 in 2008 from $8,138 three years earlier, the largest percentage increase among all age groups, according to a survey by Demos, a New York-based public policy institute.

Moreover, other older Americans are haunted by student loans years after they, or their children, left school. Adults 50 and older owe 17 percent of the nation’s $870 billion in student-loan debt, according to a March report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Perfect Financial Storm

The financial crisis also depleted savings and retirement accounts, contributing to a “perfect storm” of precarious finances among older Americans, said Marceline White, executive director of Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition.

One illness or emergency can throw a senior into debt, White said.

“If everything goes perfectly, they could manage,” she said. “If something goes wrong, something unexpected happens, they don’t have the liquidity to move on.”

While recent government data shows declining consumer debt as families cut back on spending and saved more money, not all older Americans can follow suit. Not only are most older Americans past their prime earning years, but many must dip into their savings to stay on top of bills — while those still working may make less than they did in previous years.

Low-income seniors with excessive debt are having a hard time digging out in an environment in which “job growth is slow and salary increases are minimal,” said Craig Copeland, a senior research associate at EBRI, who wrote the study on debt among elders.

David Jones, president of the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies, said debtors age 60 and older now represent the fastest-growing segment seeking help at member offices across the country.

The trend has been especially evident in the last two years, a period in which the eldest of the boomers began retiring, Jones said.

“There were a lot of people in this population that decided to retire without the same kind of assets that previous retirees had,” he said. “In fact, we began to see people with $60,000 in nonmortgage debt.”

In general, the association said, the average client at its nonprofit local credit counseling agencies has gotten older: 44.5 in 2011 versus 41 in 2007. The average client also was middle class and seeking help for reasons such as a job loss, reflecting the aftermath of the financial crisis, Jones said.

Although some older Americans are able to delay retirement, not all can. Unable to find work or other sources of money, many seniors can’t manage their debt on a fixed income.

“These people don’t have the same options that others do,” Jones said. “They can’t in many cases find a job, and if they do, they have to work at a job at a lot less money than they’re used to.”

Louise Carwell, a lawyer who works with low-income seniors at the Maryland Legal Aid’s consumer law unit in Baltimore, said her clients are dealing with a wide range of debt, from credit cards to medical bills.

Many seniors in Baltimore also are behind on property taxes, which puts their homes at risk of going to a tax sale.

Carwell and other public-sector attorneys who work with elders say indebted seniors want relief, a trend that has increased in the last several years.

“The anxiety that they get or they create within themselves from debt collectors, that’s really punishing,” Carwell said. “That’s why a lot of my folks file for bankruptcy.”

Seniors Are Fastest-Growing Bankruptcy Group

Bankruptcy filings among seniors have risen markedly in recent years, according to recent studies. In general, the median age of people filing for bankruptcy has risen, to age 43 in 2007 from 36.5 in 1991, according to research by John A. E. Pottow, a law professor at the University of Michigan.

Adults 65 and over are the fastest-growing age group among people filing for bankruptcy protection, according to Pottow’s research. He found that older debtors carry 50 percent more credit card debt than younger debtors. Seniors cited credit card debt as a reason for their bankruptcy more frequently than did younger bankruptcy filers, according to his research.

Mary Aquino, a staff attorney with Legal Aid’s Baltimore County Elder Law Program, said she recalled a client of age 75, who was nine months behind on her mortgage, with $10,000 in credit card debt and an additional $36,000 in student-loan debt. The woman’s sole income was a monthly $1,100 Social Security check.

“She’s hoping to file for bankruptcy and keep her home,” said Aquino, noting that student loans are usually not discharged in bankruptcy.

Norman Harvel, too, wants relief from his mounting debt.

Besides getting dozens of late and collection notices for his and his wife’s medical bills, Harvel is being sued by a funeral home, which provided services for his mother, grandmother and brother, all of whom died in the same month last year. Harvel said he put up the money for their services, using all his savings and cashing out some savings bonds. But he still owes $986, plus interest, court and attorney fees.

Harvel expressed a mix of guilt and remorse for racking up so much debt but said he simply does not have the means to pay it off.

After being homeless for eight months, Harvel now has a place to live, thanks to the Baltimore County Department of Aging.

A bankruptcy, Harvel said, would give him a fresh start and peace of mind. After Harvel put away about $200 to pay for bankruptcy in recent months, Del Pizzo, the Dundalk lawyer, agreed recently to file the paperwork pro bono.

“Maybe I’ll start seeing a little bit of sunlight,” Harvel said.

Hanah Cho wrote this article as part of a MetLife Foundation Journalists in Aging Fellowship, a project of New America Media and the Gerontological Society of America.

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Cancun: Mexico’s Suicide Capital


ColorLines, Roberto Lovato

Reyna Martinez Osorio Orizaba stands regally on the third-floor balcony of Reyna’s Bar, the pub and brothel that she spent her adult life building, and points to the new paradise rising out of Cancun’s shrinking jungle and former ejidos (communal lands).

“That’s the Mayan Paradise housing project,” says Osorio, a 44-year-old mother of two and grandmother. “I built Reyna’s so that my son Ruben would not suffer what I did when I was a child: having to walk 2 kilometers for water to bring back so we could boil the herbs that we ate for dinner every day.”

Osorio migrated to Cancun 10 years ago from the Orizaba Valley in Veracruz. A fierce, 5-foot-2 former sex worker, she planned on giving Ruben the keys to her castle, the brothel bearing her name. She built Reyna’s near the shanty towns and new mini-cities of massive, low-income, privately-owned housing projects like the Mayan Paradise.

Local politicians and police pressured her and other sex workers to move, because authorities felt she and her colleagues were conducting business too close to Kilometro Cero—the invisible, but definitive border separating the storied hotel zone of tourist Cancun from the chaotic city of almost a million people that houses most of the tourism workers, including those that make Cancun one of the Caribbean’s hubs of sex tourism.

“We [the sex workers] organized ourselves, fought the authorities and got them to help establish this complex of sexual service businesses on the margins of the city. When he turned 26, I let Ruben start managing Reyna’s some evenings. I thought that he could handle himself and be strong as I taught him to be,” Osario explains. “I didn’t want him to live in my hell.”

Unfortunately for Osorio and, especially, for her son, the line separating paradise and hell in Cancun is blurred. The city is the suicide capital of Mexico. That’s a subject that’s not likely to come up as thousands of people from almost 200 countries gather here over the next two weeks for the U.N. Conference on Climate Change (known as COP 16). This, despite the fact that the climate injustices that they’re supposed to be confronting lead to the poverty, droughts, floods and other disasters that drive people like Osorio to migrate here, including those who take their lives when they arrive.

Ruben had promised to never hit his wife, and to kill himself if he did. After breaking that promise, the 28 year old got drunk, tied an electrical chord to his stucco ceiling, wrapped it around his neck and fell to his knees, killing himself in front of his then 4-year-old daughter. He was among more than 100 people in Cancun who have taken their lives each year since 2007.

“How could this happen?” his mother pondered, staring down as if searching for answers in the empty white table where we were sitting in her empty bar (she says the economic crisis has brought business down by at least 60 percent). “I thought he could handle himself. I was wrong. It got to him—all the women, the drugs, the alcohol.”

Explanations as to why so many Cancun residents can’t “handle it” vary. Tabloids like El Peso regularly run scintillating stories with front page headlines like “Tragedia Amorosa” (Love Tragedy) and “Alambre al Cuello” (Wire to the Neck). Many of the articles also run color pictures, like the one of Ruben lying dead on his knees in his apartment. Neighbors’ explanations add local color (e.g.”He was cursed”) to the tragedies.

Reports in television news and in more the serious journals quote “experts” linking the high suicide rate to the ancient cult of Ixtab, the Mayan goddess of suicide. Ixtab is often depicted in murals and on ancient vases suspended in the sky with a noose around her neck. She symbolizes the high calling that was suicide among the Maya of a previous era; the noose reaches up to the heavens.

But the families of victims, and the psychologists, social workers and activists who work with them, look to something decidedly more terrestrial than the tragic heroism of goddesses. They describe a complex, contemporary variation on an equally ancient theme of the rich exploiting the poor. Ruben and others committing suicide on the non-tourist side of Kilometro Cero are doing so, those interviewed say, for a number of reasons centered around the new nature of poverty in Mexico and in the world.

Life on the Mayan Rivieria

“There are people who live and vacation on that side of paradise,” says Evelyn Parra, one of Mexico’s leading suicidologas and the director of psychological services for the city’s family development agency. “And then there are those who work on that side of paradise—and live on this side,” she adds, pointing outside her office to the small, sweltering room crowded with people waiting for appointments.

Asked about popular explanations for the city’s high suicide rate, Parra looks up at the fast-growing lists of recent suicides and attempted suicides pinned on a wall next to her desk. She smiles and responds, “Oh yes, the Mayan goddess stories. Yes, we hear this story a lot. In history there may have been a goddess of suicide and Mayans did consider suicide an honor, but there is no cult now. The reasons for suicide are not just cultural but economic, personal and very complex. And it’s not the Mayans killing themselves. It’s migrants, poor people who came here for their dreams.”

Osorio is among hundreds of thousands of Mexicans who have pursued prosperity—and survival—among the faux pyramids, artificial white beaches and turquoise-blue waters of what tourism boosters have termed the “Mayan Riviera.” But their migrant dreams are haunted by the more black and white, rich and poor world of global economics, and by the effects of the environmental disaster world leaders have gathered here to debate.

Today’s Cancun was built in early 1970’s under the leadership of then Mexican President Luis Echeverria, with the idea of creating the country’s premiere tourist destination—a new model for tourism development. It succeeded as a high-end tourism hub, and it did provide a model for Mexico and other parts of the world. But Cancun also succeeded in establishing what urbanists and geologists like Peter Weise called the “self destruction model of tourism development.”

The self-destructive model, according to Weise and others, begins when a remote, ecologically attractive area with low population density is identified as a potential hub for elite tourists—those willing to pay handsomely for privacy, isolation and unspoilt and beautiful environments. Rapid population growth and urbanization follows when, as in Cancun, large numbers of middle class tourists follow the more wealthy trend-setters. The need for more hotels, more entertainment venues, more development pushes the region into ecological imbalances that lead to the kind urban and environmental collapse found here today.

At the heart of it all is an economy and way of life dependent on cheap labor (the average Cancun worker makes less than $200 per month). That labor most often takes the form of migrant workers from other, poorer Mexican states like Tabasco. Local experts say that climate change-induced floods in Tabasco last September are pushing new waves of migrants to Cancun. Like Ruben, many of these migrant workers will experience crushing loneliness and isolation shortly after arriving.

Behind the ready smiles and friendly broken-English voices of maids, busboys and prostitutes on both sides of Kilometro Cero is the siren’s song of alienation and loneliness. The climate change experts, leaders and protesters packing Cancun’s hotels over the next two weeks will likely not visit the other side of Kilometro Cero as they discuss and debate the fact that climate change is projected to force a billion of the world’s people to migrate out of their homelands and into cities like Cancun by 2050.

If they listen closely to music in the restaurants and hotels, visitors may hear a very popular song, Ruben’s favorite. They may hear the tragedy in the plaintive pianos and wailing violins and angry guitars and tragic lyrics (e.g. “their souls united in eternity to give life to this sad song of love”) in the “Triste Cancion de Amor” (Sad Song of Love) played by workers.

“Most of those who are killing themselves are migrants,” says Parra. “They leave because their ways of life, their social networks are destroyed by economic change and natural disasters. They often kill themselves because they come to a place where there are no social networks, no networks of support or services.”

Parra told me that in Mexico City the typical person has an average of 12 friends and relations; in Cancun, the ratio is three or four friends per person. She calls Cancun “one of the loneliest cities in Mexico.”


When the Building Stops

The highest concentration of this migrant loneliness—and suicide—is centered in the city’s many new 13-foot by 26-foot cinder condominios—block rooms sold for about $25,000 by people like Janeth Paola.

Paola migrated here with her husband, Antonio de Los Angeles Chi, from Campeche. She has sold many people their first homes in the gigantic, privately-run Villas Otoch Paraiso, a low-income housing complex that’s as big as a small Mexican town. Like the hotels on the other side of Kilometro Cero, the Paraiso (paradise) has Mayan street names and Mayan themed architecture. “I’ve helped many people who would otherwise be unable to afford these homes, people who come from the countryside and even nearby shantytowns and have moved up,” Paola says from her own stucco-walled apartment.

Paola says her family’s fortunes rose with the high-occupancy rates of the housing complexes that now carpet former coconut fields and ejidos. “Even though we missed our family in Campeche, things were going well. Rooms were filling up. Before the crisis, Antonio had a steady job as a driver for Maya Caribe buses. “

But as Mexico’s swine flu scare and the global economic crisis combined to bring hotel vacancy to its highest rate ever (a remarkable 78 percent), Paolo began noticing how many apartments were being vacated too. Entire blocks of the Paraiso were emptying out. The ghost town feel is worsened by the piles of rock and sand, the fencing and the cement bags that developers left fallow as new construction stopped.

“Antonio started a transportation business with a friend in order to make more money,” Paola explains. “The business didn’t go well, his partner didn’t live up to promises and we ended up going into deep debt. That’s when something went wrong.”

On his birthday last July, Antonio started drinking at 10 a.m. and didn’t stop until that evening. “He was very drunk and decided to go in our bedroom. I thought he was sleeping when I heard that awful noise. I rushed in and found him with a hammock strung around his neck.”

Now, in addition to her primary mission of supporting and raising her daughter alone, Paola has had to deal with the watchful and often wrongful eyes of the larger public.

“My main image of Antonio is of him listening to Pedro Infante, Los Tigres del Norte and Cornelio Reyna [classic Mexican norteno and ranchera singers], dancing on the bed with our daughter,” says Paola. “But the newspapers said horrible things and then people repeated them and made up their own stories.”

She recalls reports both in tabloids and in more serious papers filled with lies and gossip. “They said that we would hit each other physically or that I was sleeping with other men. They even said I was sleeping with my compadre [godfather of her daughter]. It hurts me deeply to hear and read this.”

Suicidologist Parra has criticized the local media both for spreading these sorts of rumors and for “planting seeds” of suicide in people’s minds, with big frontpage pictures of people hanging themselves with hammocks.

Suicides in Cancun are altering the image of the once storied home of the Mayas. And for those living in Mexico’s suicide capital, the view of life is being altered as well. “Paradise is different things for different people,” says Paola. “I used to think it was reaching a level of comfort from work, having money. Now I realize paradise can only come from God.”

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