Entries tagged with “Ana Carolina Monterroso”.

When I was a lad in the 1940s, the fictional character who fascinated me was not Superman, Roy Rogers, or the Lone Ranger. It was Mowgli. Of course it’s easy to romanticize living naked with a pack of wolves, but one of Mowgli’s adventures in particular remains part of my life.

Mind you I’m not talking about the Mowgli of Walt Disney’s animated movie The Jungle Book. That trivialized portrayal of the youth would not come along for another 20 years. I’m talking about Mowgli, the hero of nine Rudyard Kipling short stories. My mother read me at least three of the stories from Kipling’s 1893 collection, The Jungle Book, and I was more intrigued by what Mowgli got to see than by what he actually did.

Kipling (1865-1936), a British short-story writer who won a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907, made a name for himself in two disparate genres: 1) children’s stories; and 2) stories and poems about British imperialism in India. The Jungle Book, naturally, is set in an Indian jungle.

Mowgli growing up with wolves. (Illustrations by Fritz Eichenberg)

Mowgli is the boy who grows up in the jungle with a pack of wolves after his parents lose him during a tiger attack. A mother wolf with cubs decides to raise the child as a man cub, and because he is hairless, she names him “Mowgli,” which apparently is wolfspeak for “Frog.”

Mowgli’s greatest accomplishment is to kill a malicious tiger, Shere Khan. With help from two wolves, he causes water buffalo at two ends of a ravine to stampede down it. Shere Khan gets caught in the middle and is trampled.

Monkeys in the abandoned city of Cold Lairs sit around its crumbling palace.

For me, the highpoint of the stories occurred when a pack of monkeys kidnapped Mowgli and took him to the Cold Lairs, an abandoned city complete with a palace half overgrown with jungle. Mowgli escaped when Kaa, the python, hypnotized the monkeys with a writhing “hunger dance,” but that wasn’t what intrigued me.

What I, as a young boy, found hardest to imagine was a jungle so aggressively overgrowing grand buildings from past cultures that the buildings ultimately disappear. When my mother assured me that large structures really can get lost in tropical forests, I began to fantasize about finding one.

A Burmese family’s home faces the railroad tracks while out in back tropical foliage has begun to swallow a deteriorating British-colonial building. (Seen from a train approaching Rangoon, 1986.)

It was only when I finally made it to such places as Guatemala, Thailand, and Burma in the 1980s that I saw for myself how readily jungle vines, bushes, and even trees can take root on abandoned edifices such as temples, palaces, and government buildings.

Vines and other foliage taking over an abandoned commercial building in downtown Rangoon create a romantic sadness. It may be exotic, but it’s hard not to feel sentimental when seeing former grandeur being consumed by opportunistic plants.

I’ve carried my fascination with intrusive jungle life with me for many years. The area around my desk in the old Point Reyes Light newsroom in the Creamery Building was filled with laurentii and dieffenbachia while pots of philodendrons and spider plants hung from the rafters.

As it happened, the California Newspaper Publishers Association (CNPA) in 2004 named The Light first in Public Service statewide for a series of stories about a Guatemalan immigrant who was attacked in Bolinas and nearly died. His personal tragedy was a catastrophe for his family. His wife was very ill, and he had been supporting her and the rest of his family, who were living in rural poverty in a remote area of Guatemala.

Light reporter Ana Carolina Monterroso and photographer Anika Zappa covered the story from Guatemala while Victoria Schlesinger was the key reporter in West Marin. Victoria represented the newspaper at the awards ceremony aboard the Queen Mary, and CNPA wanted a photo of Light staff to project on a screen while she received the Public Service plaque. The newsroom’s jungle was the perfect backdrop to symbolize the back country of Guatemala, so Victoria and I (above) posed amid the foliage. ________________________________________________________________

My love of the jungle is most evident these days inside Mitchell cabin. Here and there spider plants cascade down from the loft into the living room and dining room below.

Screened from the dining room by a floor-to-ceiling tower of spider-plants, Lynn prepares dinner in our kitchen.





If you don’t look where you’re going in the dining room, it’s easy to find greenery in your face.

Lynn and I have pretty much learned to avoid becoming entangled, but guests are forever brushing spider plants out of their hair.





Having spider plants hanging into the living room from the floor above often results in our peering through a bit of jungle while carrying on a conversation.

What’s more, it only takes a little jungle to make everything seem more exotic. I may have moved into the village, but deep inside me the romanticism of Mowgli in the Cold Lairs palace lives on.




A Guatemalan wife and mother of two, Cristina Siekavizza, went missing July 7. Authorities believe her husband murdered her, and Guatemalan news media have reported the English-speaking husband, Roberto Barreda de León, has probably fled to the United States.

The husband, is believed to have taken the couple’s two children, Roberto Jose, 7, and Maria Mercedes, 4, with him. An international warrant for his arrest has been issued.

I’ve been following the case because my former wife Ana Carolina Monterroso is a friend of Cristina’s relatives. Social media are trying to spread the word internationally about the case. A YouTube site called Voces por Cristina, to which Ana Carolina belongs, now has more than 4,000 followers. A Facebook site called VocesXCristina has 20,000 followers. Here’s Cristina’s uncle Carlos Siekavizza making a plea in Spanish on the YouTube site.

The case was first thought to be a kidnapping, and private investigators were hired by the Barreda de León family, but they may have mainly hidden evidence. After weeks passed without a call from any kidnappers, the Attorney General’s Office took over the investigation.

Police found incriminating evidence against Cristina’s husband, and on Aug. 3, he disappeared, along with the children.

Prosecutor Rony López tells journalists that police have found evidence that an attack occurred in the family’s home. Blood has been found while items one would have expected to find are missing, he said.

Authorities have also reported that after Siekavizza disappeared, Barreda threatened the house helper (above) not to talk to police.

The case took a bizarre turn when police jailed Barreda’s mother, Beatriz Ofelia de León, a former president of the Guatemalan Supreme Court, for corruption of justice by also threatening the house worker and obstructing justice.

Because Cristina’s case has come to epitomize violence against women in Guatemala, it has received heavy coverage for months in the Guatemalan press and has sparked protests, such as this march.

Before the disappearances, the family had appeared to be happy.

Cristina’s sister, however, has told the press that Barreda was domineering. Cristina had remained close to her relatives and liked to visit them, the sister said, but Roberto objected that it was a waste of gasoline.

Guatemala is a long way from Point Reyes Station, but this blog has readers around the world. And because the murder suspect and his children may well be in the US by now, this posting is a shot in the dark aimed at catching him.

If you do spot him, please report the sighting to local law enforcement or the FBI office in your area. There is also an email address in Guatemala for reporting Barreda’s whereabouts: busquedacristina@gmail.com.