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                                                "Trade"
"A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children;  she refused to be consoled, because they are no more." (Matthew 2:18)
 
            This one will break your heart.  Over and over.
Cesar Ramos is Jorge, a thug-in-training in Juarez, Mexico.  He's learned just enough English to be able to approach American tourists.  He's looking for the men who are by themselves, so he can show them pictures of naked young girls, and promises that one of them is available just around the corner.  If his "mark" falls for it, he follows Jorge into a back alley, where he is threatened, robbed, ridiculed, and, if necessary for cooperation, beaten.  The victims won't dare tell the police, because then they'd have to admit why they were in that back alley.  And besides, chances are, they couldn't identify anybody, anyway, and don't even speak the language.  Stupid gringos.
Jorge's heart is not completely black, though.  He loves his little sister, Adriana (Paulina Gaitan), and buys a bicycle for her 13th birthday.  Their (single) mother is suspicious where Jorge got the money, and forbids Adriana to ride the bike.  But the trusting girl foolishly disobeys, unaware of the predators out there, who are just waiting for a young girl on a bicycle by herself.  She's spotted, chased, captured and thrown into a car.  She is quickly transferred--the first of many times---to a remote house where other young girls are also imprisoned.  If they resist, they are beaten.  They are escorted across the border (the guards being bribed with a sample of "the goods"), where they are sold for sex slaves.  Adriana's only comfort is an older Polish girl, Veronica (Alicja Bachleda-Curus), who was brought to Mexico under false pretenses (demonstrating the worldwide nature of this horrible epidemic). They know where her young son lives with her parents back home in Poland, and they threaten to harm him if she doesn't cooperate.  Veronica is drugged and raped by her "handlers" to induce acquiescence; Adriana they are easier on, only because she will bring a higher price as an "undespoiled virgin," and besides, she's terrorized into submission, anyway. 
            Jorge, desperate to find out what happened to his little sister, reaches the end of his street smarts in Juarez, but there he runs into an American policeman, Ray (Kevin Kline), who is himself searching for a missing child.  Together they form an unlikely alliance and reluctant friendship, working against the clock to intercept Adriana before it's too late.
            The trail leads through seedy truck stops and rough-looking barrios, but finally they get a break and discover the horrific web site where the "auctions" take place.  Ray puts up his own money to "buy" Adriana (since re-named Maria, but it's undeniably her picture), but the chase doesn't end there.  There's this terrible pick-up point in New Jersey, where the "buyer" must first "sample" the purchase, to prove that he's not a copů.
            The last time this reviewer cried in a movie, it was "Music Of The Heart," eight years ago, and that one also involved the exploitation of children.  Sure, this particular story is fiction, but it's absolutely heartbreaking to think about how many untold children around the world are exploited in this way, and for what?  So rich, perverted men can have their playthings?  And then what happens to the innocents?
            The horrible sadness here is that so many girls are missing, and so little effort is being expended to find them.  It's the scandal of our generation, but we're unlikely to even want to think about it long enough to see this movie, well, because it will make us sad, and we want to be entertained.
            Yes, shame on the horrible people who perpetrate this slavery.  But shame, also, on all of us who hear about it, and do nothing to stop it.
 
Questions For Discussion:
1) The U.N. says that millions of such children are missing, not just from Mexico, but all over the world.  What is the percentage, in your estimation, of girls who make it back home before they undergo irretrievable psychic damage?
2) Should there be a special place in Hell for those who traffic in human sex slaves?
3) Should we be thinking about special places in Hell for anybody? ("Vengeance is mine, says the Lord," Romans 12:19)
 
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Terrell, Texas