By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Editor's note: What follows is a sampling of the more than 150 letters and e-mails the Dallas Observer received from all over the world in response to Thomas Korosec's April 17 story, "1-Hour Arrest," and an April 24 follow-up in Buzz. All but one letter criticized the actions of local authorities in charging Peruvian immigrants Jacqueline Mercado and Johnny Fernandez with felony "sexual performance of a child" after they had developed a snapshot of their 1-year-old son suckling at his topless mother's breast. Child Protective Services also removed the children from Mercado and Fernandez's home. Many of those who wrote offered to help the family financially or assist in some way in their defense. When the Observer inquired about the case, the Dallas County District Attorney's Office moved quickly to drop the charges, which District Attorney Bill Hill deemed "weak." CPS has also returned the 1-year-old child to his parents. The other boy, however, has not been returned and is living with his natural father. Korosec's reports can be viewed in the archive section of www.dallasobserver.com.
Horrifying: Thank you for writing the story on Jacqueline Mercado. I am so horrified and disgusted, I can hardly type! There's a community of breast-feeding mothers who are on the case. We're checking with the lawyers to see what we can do to help this poor family. Hopefully the children will be returned right away.
As the mother of a 10-month-old who won't be weaning anytime soon, it scares the hell out of me that some jackass could take my baby from me for doing something so ordinary! I'm surprised they didn't cite "national security." It works to relieve us of so many other rights!
Careless CPS: When I read this article, it was clear to me that yes, here is a clear-cut case of child abuse--but not on the part of the hapless parents.
It is child abuse to tear young children away from their loved ones. Ample psychological studies on the nature of early bonding and attachment support this. The trauma from these months will take years to resolve, and it will leave a scar.
This kind of removal is tantamount to major and damaging surgery; justified in some cases, yes, but applied far too carelessly and cavalierly by CPS and the people who call them in. It is as if women were subjected to a radical mastectomy whenever a lump was discovered in the breast--for whatever reason, benign or not.
Perhaps if it were possible to prosecute the individuals who set this machine in motion so carelessly, we would see fewer of these horrendous cases where children are traumatized because of the short-sightedness of certain officials.
The real sickos: I honestly don't recall when I've seen such prime examples of bureaucratic stupidity. Perhaps common sense should be a requirement for employment at both CPS and the Richardson Police Department. And Dr. Robert Antonetti has no excuse--but of course, he's licensed by the state of Texas. It really looks as though the sickos in this case are all working for the state.
I really hope someone will take Ms. Mercado and Mr. Fernandez in hand and sue the state of Texas for them. They'll have a much better case than the state of Texas did.
Robert M. Tilendis
Takes the cake: Well, talk about only in America. This about takes the cake in abuse of authority. Not only of one authority but of an entire train of authorities feeding off one another's ego.
In Australia there would not be one family that doesn't have a number of photos of theirs and the next-door neighbor kids playing nude under the sprinkler in the front yard, or in the bath with Mum or Dad. Our daughter will throw the kids in with me or my wife when we are showering and think nothing of it. Neither do we. Neither would anyone else in Australia.
Breast-feeding in public is very common everywhere, even in crowded shopping centers in Australia. Most women don't bother to cover up, and I suppose it depends on the size of the areola just how much of it is seen. Some are tiny, some are quite large. So what? It's only skin that is a little redder or browner than the rest. It's not pornographic.
The comment that the woman was touching her breast? Well, it IS her breast! The older boy was touching his genital area. So what? They are at the same height as his hands and dangle. I don't know of any child of either sex who has not stood mindlessly pulling on their genitals and sucking their thumb. This doesn't mean that they are being sexual--just normal kids with no thought of anything sexual.
I have shown this article to a number of people, and they are all of the same opinion as I am--that the only ones who need to undergo psychiatric assessment are the technician, the police, the staff of CPS and the lawyers who are pushing the case. I am sure they would all be found wanting. But somehow I would even doubt that outcome in America. I watch Oprah, Ricki and Jerry Springer and watch the news from America on SBS. So I have a reasonable view of American life. Not good, I'm afraid.
I surrender: I surely hope this has been resolved in the family's favor, as otherwise I might as well submit myself to the gestapo, since I, too, have pictures of my children nude as they were growing up.
Moment of awe: I was outraged by this story. What has this country become when parents can't cuddle with their children or document their childhood? To nurture your child at your breast is an honor; to view your wife and child is a moment of awe. People engaged in child pornography are sick. People who beat their children are sick. It's time we stop letting the few dictate the needs of the greater. It's time to let parents show their children love and affection. It's time to let parents reprimand their children and provide clear-cut boundaries. It's time we stop being afraid of our children. Of touching our children. The legal system is forcing us to breed sociopaths. Look through your own photo albums, and you'll see many of the same photos of your childhood. Are you a pervert?
Las VegasRacial motive: Thank you for writing this article. I am a breast-feeding mother of a 2-year-old and am appalled at the treatment the family received. The racism underlying the police's actions is appalling.
Abuse of power: I am shocked at the idiocy of the Mercado/Fernandez case. Don't the police in Texas have anything better to do than chase breast-feeding mothers? They should spend their time going after gangsters, drug pushers, rapists, muggers, murderers and thieves.
Such cowardly behavior on the part of law enforcement, and the incompetence of a judiciary that failed to immediately correct the wrong, is so repulsive to me as an American that I can hardly express my outrage.
I certainly hope these good people can sue not only the local jurisdiction but the state and officers individually as well. This heinous abuse of power is the reason our founders insisted on the Bill of Rights, and a good example of why no security promised by the government at any level is ever worth even the smallest compromise with these rights.
As for the great state of Texas, this event has brought shame to you and tarnished your outstanding tradition as freedom-loving, courageous and brave people. I urge all true Texans, including President Bush, to demand the immediate return of these innocent children to their loving parents, and then I urge all Texans to codify the rights of parents and nullify the authority that was abused by the police officers in this trespass against the dignity of honorable people.
Leonard J. Umina
El Dorado Hills, California
Makes me ill: I am sick to my stomach after reading the article about the Peruvian family arrested because of photos of their baby breast-feeding. The American Pediatric Association recommends breast-feeding for at least one year, and then however long it is still mutually beneficial to mother and baby. There are sound reasons for that, too numerous for me to list here. But making women feel ashamed and afraid to do so is the real crime here. As a mother of two wonderful children--both of whom were breast-fed--I am shocked and pained by what has happened to this family. That people in positions of protecting society would see something as perfect as feeding a baby the way nature intended as pornographic and sexual makes me ill and ANGRY!!
Raleigh, North Carolina