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Blonde beggar girl belatedly returned to mother

July 18, 2013

After nine months in a Guadalajara orphanage, six-year-old Lezly Ornelas Sanchez, better known as “Alondra,” was finally reunited with her mother this week.

The blonde-haired, green-eyed girl made headlines last October when she was photographed selling chewing gum at the crossing of Avenida Vallarta and Niño Obrero. All too accustomed to seeing darker-skinned kids begging for change, the Tapatio public was shocked by the sight of a “güera” doing the same and the image was shared over 68,000 times on Facebook alone, with suspicion that she had been kidnapped soon prompting a police investigation.

The girl’s 23-year-old mother, Jiola Ornelas Sanchez – who has more traditional Mexican features – was detained while Lezly and her brother Tony, 4, were taken into care at the Hogar Cabañas. Jiola was only released when Lezly’s grandmother – who also has green eyes – came forward with her birth certificate, and unauthorized DNA tests taken by the local authorities proved positive, but even then she was not allowed custody of her kids.

Jiola was charged with child exploitation but the charges were never proven and there were a number of irregularities in the case against her.

In November, Jiola and her sister Laura – whose daughter had also been taken away from her – filed a complaint with the State Human Rights Commission (CEDHJ) over the way they had been treated by the Attorney General’s Office. With help from the local non-governmental FIND Foundation, they won an injunction allowing them to visit their children at the orphanage, but only for two hours a week.

Jiola told Spanish-language daily Mural that during this time, staff from the Hogar Cabañas offered to return her son to her, but not her daughter. “They would tell me that if I wanted my son he could live with me, but not Lezly because she was very pretty and she had to live with a nice family,” Jiola said.

The children were finally returned to their mothers this week after experts from the Institute of Forensic Sciences determined that they showed no signs of mistreatment or abuse; their weight and height were consistent with their ages; and they stated that they had never been forced to work. Lezly and Tony will return to a much improved family environment as Jiola now has a steady job, a home and the means to send her children to school.

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