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
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."