It was October 1, 1995. Lorena Ramirez and her husband took their three children, two boys and a 3-year-old girl named Juana, to Chapultepec Park in Mexico City. They met with their relatives and spent the afternoon strolling through the beautiful garden and watching animals in the zoo. Little did they know that their lives were about to change — forever.
At 4:30 pm, the group made their way to the exit, hugged one another, and said their goodbyes. While doing so, Lorena let go of Juana’s hand for a split-second and in that time, she seemingly vanished without a trace.
Whether it was a gut instinct or mother’s intuition, Lorena knew without a doubt that her daughter had been snatched. She ran to a nearby security guard and pleaded with him to close the gate hoping that Juana and her abductor were still inside but he refused and ignored her desperate cries.
Frantic, the couple immediately called the police to report Juana missing but they were told to call back in 72 hours in case the abductor decided to return her. Of course, that never happened, and Lorena felt her heart break more and more with each passing day. The grief was insurmountable.
The couple began their own search with the help of their loved ones and neighbors. They put up missing flyers and joined a foundation for missing children to spread awareness, but they were unable to find their beloved daughter. Months turned into years but the police never took Juana’s disappearance seriously and there was very little media coverage.
The couple would go on to have two more daughters but they never stopped searching for Juana. Lorena’s husband died in 2020 and when Lorena herself fell into a coma from a severe case of Covid-19 in June 2022, she told her daughter Maria to keep searching for Juana if she didn’t make it.
Little did Lorena know that her prayers would soon be answered. In July, she had life-saving surgery, and a month later, she reunited with Juana.
A woman named Rocio Martinez posted a missing photo of Juana on Facebook. She wrote that she believed she was the little girl in the photo and pleaded with the public to help her locate her biological parents.
As fate would have it, Maria saw the post and reached out to Rocio. Three days later, Maria and her siblings met with Rocio in person and they realized that she was their sister Juana because she was a splitting image of their mother. A DNA test confirmed that was the case in October 2022 and Lorena finally reunited with her daughter after 27 long years apart.
Juana gave a chilling account of the last day that she saw her family in 1995. She recalled the moment that she felt an unfamiliar hand around her waist.
Antonio Martinez and Patricia Velazquez were prowling Chapultepec Park looking for a child to take when they noticed Juana’s her parents were distracted. Antonio grabbed Juana, drugged her, and threw her into his car. They stood by and watched as her parents screamed her name in horror.
Hours later, Juana woke up in a strange house 50 miles away in Toluca, surrounded by Antonio, Patricia, and their two sons. Terrified and confused, Juana told them that she wanted to go home. Antonio told the little girl that they were her new parents and that their children were her new brothers. They changed Juana’s name to Rocio and changed her date of birth to October 1st — the day they took her away from her real family.
*For clarity's sake, I will now refer to Juana as Rocio which is the name that she goes by today. She chose to keep her name because it was all she had ever known.
In many child abduction cases, those responsible often cannot conceive but are desperate to raise children as their own. In this case, however, Antonio and Patricia already had two children. They stole Rocio away from her parents not to love and cherish her but to abuse and enslave her.
By the age of 7, Rocio already knew how to cook, and clean — because she was beaten by her abductors if she did not do so. Apart from school, she was not permitted to leave the house or play with her friends. During an argument at age 13, Patricia told Rocio that she was not her real mother, that she found her on the streets of Toluca and took her in out of pity.
At 17 years old, Rocio ran away to escape the abuse and moved in with her boyfriend, whom she later married. They had two children together.
Years later, Rocio’s husband suggested that she start searching for her biological parents. Rocio confronted Patricia, who finally confessed that her real name was Juana Bernal Ramirez and that she and Antonio had abducted her from Chapultepec Park. Patricia told Rocio that she would never find her biological parents because they were drug addicts who did not want her but that could not have been further from the truth.
Rocio found a photo of Juana on a website for missing children and couldn’t help but notice how much the little girl resembled herself and her son. “I said to myself ‘I’m that girl,’” she later told news outlets. She posted it on social media and found her real family after nearly 3 decades apart.
Lorena described the moment that she reunited with her daughter as the happiest of her life, “I couldn’t believe it. When I opened the door, I stopped and she walked in. That hug after 27 years…She saw me and said ‘You are my mother.’ I replied ‘Yes, and you are my daughter.’”
Not only did Lorena reunite with her daughter, but she also discovered that she had two grandsons; an 11-year-old and an 8-year-old.
Although Rocio, now 30, never got the chance to reunite with her father, she still remembers him from when she was 3 years old and she holds on tight to those fond memories. She has spent the last year getting to know her four older siblings and her mother Lorena, who is finally at peace.
“Now I feel happy and blessed by God. Lost time with my daughter will never be recovered, but right now you have to live and enjoy the moment. Life is so short that we don’t know what will happen tomorrow. We must live happily.” — Lorena Ramirez
Antonio Martinez and Patricia Velazquez were arrested in March 2023 and are currently in custody awaiting trial for aggravated child abduction.