by lyle e davis
They are seven to 12 years old, some a bit older perhaps. But, regardless of their young age, there they are . . . on the streets, dressed in a manner to make them look older . . . way more makeup than a seven to 12 year old girl should be wearing.
But they are prostitutes . . . so they do what they are told. Look pretty, look young, look vivacious, and smile.
And stop crying or we will beat you again.
They are controlled by pimps. Pimps who demand that they do 20-25 tricks a day. Or night. If they don’t, they are beaten. You’ll see them there, on the streets, all dolled up, all made up, but with tears in their eyes as they know what they must do.
You and I have read about this, seen this awful story on our tv screens. Bangkok? Cambodia?
Nope. It’s right in our own back yard. A little place called Tijuana.
Yep. One of the biggest plagues to hit the world is about an hour’s drive away from North San Diego county.
If you go to La Zona Norte, Tijuana’s red light district, you’ll find young children, both boys and girls, prostituting themselves.
It’s a horrible situation. A horrible neighborhood. There are cops around but they aren’t there to protect the children. They’re on the payroll to protect the pimps and/or their related businesses that they or the Mexican mafia own in the red light district. Corrupt cops in Tijuana? Now there’s a surprise!
It’s also the perfect climate to attract pedophiles. "I've already had three boys, and I've only been downtown for five hours," one dirty-old-man type had bragged. Others introduced youngsters 40 years their junior as a "girlfriend" or "boyfriend."
Chances are good that mom is a prostitute as well; quite possibly a drug addict. It’s a way of life in this part of Tijuana. Their living quarters are often not much more than tiny, dirty shacks, with not even the basics of sanitation. Physical and sexual abuse is common and frequent. Most have already been sold for sex by pimps and in some cases, by their own parents. All have been abused in at least one form sexually, mentally, or physically.
The Purple Palace is a Christian orphanage in Tijuana, Mexico run by Connie and Tyler Youngkin. Their kids range in age 5 months to 18 years of age.
According to Jorge Bedoya, director of the San Diego-based Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition which works with exploited women and children in Tijuana, the Mexican border town is one of the six worst places for human exploitation in the world. A stroll down Avenida de la Constitucion, lined with teen prostitutes batting their eyelids and hiking up their mini-skirts at 11:30 on a weekday morning, sheds no doubt on Bedoya's claim.
"In sexual slavery, you have women and young girls who are expected to perform sexual acts often every 15 to 30 minutes. They can have as many clients or perpetrators as 20 to 30 a day," Cooper said. "And you can imagine the impact that has on a person, both physically and mentally."
Children like Javier, who was raped at 10, sold drugs and became a father at 13.
"My mother abandoned me, and I lived in a doghouse for six months. Then I lived on a sidewalk, covering myself with cardboard boxes," said Javier.
Some children for sale are kept locked up and treated like animals, according to KGTV 10News.
We learned of this terrible situation recently as a result of a presentation to our Hidden Valley Kiwanis Club in Escondido. Officials from The Purple Palace in Tijuana laid these stories on us and an audible gasp could be heard as we heard story after story of these young kids being forced into prostitution.
The Purple Palace is so named because it was a purple painted warehouse that was acquired to serve as an orphanage. Volunteers renovated this warehouse to become a pleasant place with a dormitory for boys, two living areas, a dining area, a kitchen and two bathrooms. They had five boys initially.
These boys were ones that roamed the streets all night, would be raped, some were doing drugs and selling them, some would sell little girls to pedophiles for $10 each. When they were bored, they would find drunks on the sidewalk and take their alcohol, pour it all over them and then light them on fire. They were cold, dirty, hungry (when they got money they would buy candy and not much else), and very rejected. They used dirty language, robbed, beat up others, were beaten up and would challenge any authority and they were not in school. Their mothers were in jail, died of AIDS, or were prostitutes, high on illicit drugs, and rarely cared for their sons.
The first of the boys with all these problems and in the worst situations, were found by Connie Youngkin and Jesus Guzman, the director, walking around Zona Norte and getting to know the boys and their "families.”
Eventually they were able to have the boys feel confident and comfortable with them and then they asked if they could live with them at EL POZO [The Well] ( de Agua Vida). [The Water of Life]. This is the name they gave the home initially. Later they grew to 20 boys. They had good food and a clean, healthy shelter.
Little girls were also being raped, beaten, used for prostitution, and deserted. Some lived in vacant lots, and most roamed the streets at night. They opened a dormitory in 2003 for the girls. They rented the shop next door for $500 dollars a month. They soon had 13 girls living there and it is painted in purple and pink with pink carpet!
The children can leave this program anytime they want. It is not a closed institution, but it is like a family home. To stay, they need to go to school and obey the rules. The orphanage continued to attract more and more street kids, offereing a clean, healthy place to live . . . away from the beatings, away from drugs, away from most of the corruption.
The Escobedo brothers, who are purported to have mafia ties from Columbia, are now the new owners of their building and the surrounding plaza. Purple Palace officials are hoping the rent will stay the same as they have been told, or even decrease. These men already own some of the strip and prostitute bars down the street from The Purple Palace. Now, in fact, officals are hoping to purchase the property which is about one acre in size.
This purchase will enable expansion of the children's home, have an outreach center for teens still in the streets, a drug rehab center for girls and women. These are those who are the moms of the orphanage kids, girls who are into drugs and prostitution who need help. After months of waiting they learned the owner is asking $2 million dollars. This is commercial downtown property which was assessed for double what the owner is asking. They believe they can get the current price lowered for this prime property at the entrance of the tourist area of Tijuana and red light district.
A common example of the type of girls The Purple Palace serves: The mother of one of the girls left with her new boyfriend, who did not want four year old Mercedes, three year old Erica, and five month old Baby Jennifer. The mom never looked back ... even though she is seen at times only a few blocks away, begging and high on drugs. The Purple Palace intervened and today those little girls receive lots of love and a wonderful place to live. The dirt was washed from their frail bodies and their hair was fixed; they received new pretty clothes, and got lots of hugs and kisses. Usually now, the two bigger girls are the ones that run to greet visitors and you can see the peace and joy on their faces.
Mercedes, Erica, and Jennifer
Edgar, 16, just received an honors award for being # 1 in his whole school for all three years! There will be a special government ceremony for this! Edgar, five years ago, was begging on the streets, singing on buses, being molested, and living on the street.
There are now 80 children of the worst situations that one can imagine. Brothers and sisters of one family of a drug addict came to The Purple Palace with scars over their faces.
The children the orphanage received from a family that abused them
Giovanni, 16, came to the orphanage having shuffled from agency to agency for years. It appears that no one really took the time to hug him and cry with him over the death of his mother when he was five years old. Now he has the orphanage for family and home until he finishes college if he desires.
They could use volunteers that will do whatever is needed - dentists, someone who can hook up a dental chair, and a Spanish- speaking psychologist. They always need funding: electricity, propane, transportation, medical, dental, food, and paying the workers. The cost for each child is less than $10 per day, or with 80 children, is coming close to $20,000 a month.
How did all this happen?
Tyler and Connie Youngkin had children who had all married and moved to different areas. At 50 years old, they started taking intense Spanish lessons in Costa Rica and worked in an orphanage. They were not sure where they would go after finishing Spanish school and what exactly they would be doing to help people, but their hearts were open.
A year before going to Costa Rica, Connie would work with some Tijuana locals to help moms and their children who were very needy. They always ended up in the Red Light district of Tijuana. This area remained very vivid and strong in Tyler and Connie's hearts and they felt a calling to start working with children in the Red Light district (La Zona Norte Tijuana, B.C.).
Connie Youngkin is a former nurse and a well-known pro-life activist from the San Diego, California, area who worked with Operation Rescue during the 1990’s before leaving for the mission field. She was such a strong opponent of abortion rights that she was arrested twice in 1995 for interfering with Poway Unified School District teacher training sessions. Youngkin was widely known for picketing with posters of aborted babies, before leaving San Diego to work with orphans in Costa Rica.
Youngkin and one of her colleagues, Deidre Holliday, had gained notoriety for their anti-abortion activities. The two women, dressed in nurses uniforms, allegedly stood outside a physician's office as part of a clinic blockade. When a prenatal patient who was hemorrhaging arrived for an emergency appointment, she said she was stopped at the door by Youngkin and Holliday. Posing as clinic staff, Youngkin and Holliday allegedly told the woman she could not be seen by the doctor and would have to leave. The patient said that they then urged her to "not kill her baby."
Following a 30-minute delay -- while the patient tried to explain that she had not come to the clinic for an abortion but because of a medical emergency related to her pregnancy -- the patient miscarried. This patient's testimony was critical in passing San Diego's "bubble" ordinance, creating an eight-foot buffer zone between patients and protesters.
After several stints in jail, Connie Youngkin was sued by the physicians she regularly harassed. James McElroy, the attorney who successfully sued Operation Rescue for $880,000 in damages in 1995, set his sights on Youngkin and Newman (the titular head of Operation Rescue). When her husband learned that their family home and mountain cabin were considered assets that could be seized to satisfy a judgment, he reportedly told Youngkin it was time to get a new hobby. She offered a public apology, then the Youngkins sold everything and moved to Tijuana, opening El Pozo Orphanage five years ago.
While her anti-abortion activities have all but disappeared in San Diego county, quite possibly because of potential legal threats, she still maintains an interest and active role in anti-abortion events in Tijuana. This year she and her husband announced an opportunity to place 20 minutes of pro-life programming on a popular Tijuana television station around one of Mexico’s most-watched soap operas to counter the recent liberalization of abortion in that country.
A predominately Catholic country, Mexico recently moved to allow abortions through the first three months. The Youngkin’s ads will attempt to dissuade young women from seeking abortions with graphic footage of aborted babies.
The Youngkins are currently raising money to purchase the television air-time for the pro-life ad campaign. Anyone interested in contributing to this project is encouraged to e-mail the Youngkins at email@example.com. Which raises the question: will funds earmarked to help the orphanage housed in The Purple Palace be used for the orphanage? Or for Youngkin’s anti-abortion crusade?
I’ve never cared much about going to the Mexican border cities such as Tijuana. Now, with the recent spate of robberies and abuse of Mexican tourists while visiting Baja from America, there is even more incentive to boycott Mexico. At least the border cities. I love Puerto Vallarta, La Paz . . . but those aren’t border cities.
I hate Tijuana with a passion. Particularly now that I learn about the abuse of children.
It is good that a place like The Purple Palace exists, and that they seek to serve the abused children of Tijuana. Support for that organization, whether financial or as a volunteer, however, can be handled via email. If you are so inclined, you may contact The Purple Palace at:
Children of Promise International
c/o Youngkin Mission, Tijuana, Mexico*
6844 Loop Road
Centerville, OH 45459-2159
If you decide you do want to go to Tijuana to visit The Purple Palace, be aware that as of January 1, 2008, you’ll need to have a passport.
We recommend that you begin the passport process now to avoid the rush.
For Updated information go to: http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html
Without organizations like the Purple Palace, teenage and subteenage girls wind up like this, below: