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For week ended June 6, 1999 Posted 4 Jun 1999

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Train Deaths Hit Close to Home

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Train Deaths Hit Close to Home
Associated Press 2Jun99 L8
By Carlos Cisternas: Associated Press Writer

COJITAMBO, ECUADOR -- In Julia Toledo de Urgiles' home town, she is fondly remembered and her accidental death last week along with her four children strikes close to home because everyone knows someone that emmigrated to the U.S.

Possibly as many as half the 5,000 people that once lived in this town have emmigrated tot he U.S. "There is no work in Cojitambo. The people have gone because there is no future here," said Manuela Vivar, a food vendor in Cojitambo's public square. Ecuador is one of the poorest countries in South America, and its current economic crisis, the worst in 70 years according to its President, has raised unemployment to 15 percent. In addition, thousands do not earn enough to meet basic needs.

While some immigrants do find success, others find tragedy. Urgiles and her husband Carlos left Cojitambo for the U.S. 18 months ago. She got work as a cleaning lady, but things didn't go well. Carlos fought with Urgiles' sister over religion - he wanted the family to stay in the Roman Catholic faith while her sister wanted them to attend the LDS Church. When Carlos returned to Ecuador because of the problems, Julia filed for divorce and continued attending both churches. Unhappy that she spend more time with her family, Julia quit her job and moved into a YMCA family shelter. Then on May 24th at 2 a.m., she and her four children were struck from behind by an Amtrak train while they tried to cross a railroad trestle.

Friends assume that she was trying to flee her problems, following the train track to the nearest town. "Julia loved her children and put them above anything else. That is how I remember her," said Cecilia Quinteros, the godmother of Mrs. Urgiles' 6-year-old son Angel. "She must have been fleeing to safety to have died like that."

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information