SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – Yocairi Amarante Rodríguez was on his way to a beauty salon in Santo Domingo last fall when two men on a motorcycle sped to their car and pelted a container of “ácido del diablo” of sulfuric acid for plumbing and sewer cleaning through an open window and on her face.
At first she thought Damn it, they threw coffee at meshe recalled in an interview with BuzzFeed News.
But then the liquid started to burn.
The 19-year-old jumped out of the car and yelled for help as clothes and skin melted from her body. The driver was also injured.
“You threw acid on her!” She remembers a woman nearby who screamed.
She was taken to the hospital. It was September 25th. Days earlier, the man who police said planned the attack – her ex-boyfriend – had instructed an alleged accomplice on how the attack would be carried out. This is evident from documents preserved in the Ciudad Nueva courthouse.
“En la misma cara en la frente,” he allegedly wrote in a text. “In the face the forehead.”
Their attack reflects the increasing violence against women in Latin America. It received widespread attention, including a passionate video from Cardi B on Instagram. Amarante Rodríguez first spoke in depth about the attack and the recovery process with BuzzFeed News, which may also reveal details from court records and police documents indicating the length of how long her ex-boyfriend Willy Antonio Javier Monegro was allegedly physically and verbally abused them before their looks and lives were permanently changed. She now intends to use the people’s generous donations to open her own salon.
Amarante Rodríguez was treated in one of the only incineration units in the Dominican Republic. “She almost died,” said Dr. Eddy Bruno, director of the burn department at Ney Arias Lora Hospital.
Before Bruno Amarante treated Rodríguez personally, he checked photos of her showing burns to her face, neck and right leg. Doctors were forced to let the acid sit for up to five days before being treated, he said.
She would remain in Bruno’s care for two months, during which time she would have about nine operations to remove dead tissue and apply skin grafts.
She was released in November 2020 and has a long way to go in recovery. She has lost her right eye, more than 50% of her eyesight in her left eye, and her right nipple. Hypertrophic scars caused by the acid ran down the neck, chest, breasts, arms and legs.
Amarante Rodríguez worked for days in her sister’s salon braiding hair and playing with curling irons as a girl. Now, parts of your scalp will never grow hair again.
“Look at how I was before,” she said, flipping through photos on her cell phone with long curly hair and light hazel eyes.
“Now see how I’m doing,” she said, pulling the bandages from her face and lifting her shirt to reveal her scars. “That’s how he left me.”
While she was recovering in the hospital, news of her attack spread on social media. Cardi B posted a video on Instagram in which a Barbie doll is held in scrubs and hit a table with its feet first.
“People in the Dominican Republic,” she says in Spanish in the video. “I’m going to tell my dad to put me in touch with the police or someone in the Dominican Republic, and I’ll give $ 10,000 – not pesos, to anyone who finds the people responsible for throwing devils, $ 10,000 – offer acid on the girl whose face they burned. “
She added, “There should be justice.”
Santiago Matías, a popular Dominican radio personality, posted on his Instagram that he had donated around US $ 1,700 for medical expenses and around US $ 5,000 for information about the perpetrators.
The donations meant a lot to Amarante Rodríguez, who earned around US $ 224 a month by selling lamps in a hardware store near the Avenida Duarte shopping district in the Dominican capital.
“I felt very happy because I felt a lot of support from the people in the city, a lot of prayers,” she said. “I had to understand that my life wouldn’t end there.”
By September 30, police had identified and arrested the alleged attackers Joan José Feliz, Pedro Alexander Sosa Méndez and their ex-boyfriend and father of their 2-year-old daughter Willy Antonio Javier Monegro.
Together, the three men spent 15 days planning the attack, according to court documents from BuzzFeed News.
According to the records, Javier Monegro contacted Sosa Méndez in early September and offered to pay him about $ 431 to pelt acid at Amarante Rodríguez. He reportedly agreed and received about $ 60 prior to the attack.
According to court records, Sosa Méndez then sought out Feliz as the third accomplice. Javier Monegro told both men where Amarante Rodríguez worked and lived; He showed them a photo that they could use on record to identify them.
WhatsApp messages included in the court documents reveal that the men stayed in contact in the days leading up to the attack.
“Dame bien la ora k eya sale”, Sosa Méndez wrote to Javier Monegro on September 21st.
“Mete mano ya estoy De seperao,” he replied the next day. “Hustle and bustle, I’m desperate.”
“Trakilo eso va hoy,” replied Sosa Méndez. “Don’t worry, it’s fine today.”
“En la misma cara en la frente,” wrote Javier Monegro. “In the face the forehead.”
On September 25, Sosa Méndez and Feliz were waiting for Amarante Rodríguez to leave work, according to court records. When she jumped onto the passenger side of a Toyota Corolla, they followed her on a motorcycle.
Sosa Méndez turned on the motorcycle and Feliz threw her acid through an open window, according to court records. The attack was recorded on surveillance footage and helped police identify and arrest the men allegedly involved in the attack.
Javier Monegro was reportedly charged with criminal association, torture or barbarism, and domestic violence. In court he decided to remain silent.
The charges against Sosa Méndez and Feliz are criminal association, torture or barbaric act, and voluntary beatings and wounds.
During the criminal proceedings, the three men denied their involvement in the attack.
At an October hearing to decide whether the men should be jailed for a year, Sosa Méndez said he was not the person on the video, adding that police told him “they would” [him] talk to a bat. “
In court, Feliz also alleged police tried to beat him up for cooperation and insisted that the motorcycle involved in the attack was not his.
Sosa Méndez and Feliz’s lawyers added: “They interrogated them without their lawyers being present. The evidence presented by the public ministry is illegal because it was obtained illegitimately. “
A spokesman for the Dominican Republic National Police did not respond to a request for comment on the allegations made in court.
The three men were jailed for a year, where they are likely to remain until the trial is complete. On February 19, 2021, a court ruled the case would move forward, but it is unclear when exactly the process will begin.
In a phone call last month, Ronell Rosado, a lawyer for Javier Monegro, declined to comment on his client’s case.
The attorney, who represents both Sosa Méndez and Feliz, did not respond to an email asking for comment.
According to his own account, Amarante Rodríguez met Javier Monegro at the age of 14 and he at the age of 29. He worked in the factory in front of her grandmother’s house.
One day she asked him to take her on his motorcycle. The two quickly became a couple and she moved to his mother’s house that year.
They stayed together for five years. She became pregnant at the age of 16 and dropped out of school. During their relationship, he repeatedly assaulted her verbally and physically, she said, adding that she had never told anyone about the alleged abuse.
In a December interview with a forensic psychologist, the transcript of which was part of the police records, she said he held her in his mother’s house and forced her to cook and clean. He didn’t let her leave the house without him, she said.
During the fights, she said, he would push her, pull her hair, and use her derogatory names in vulgar Dominican slang, which loosely translates to “motherfucker” and “cocksucker”.
When Javier Monegro allegedly tried to choke her in front of her sister, who intervened and tried to hit him with a bottle, Amarante Rodríguez told the forensic psychologist.
He was remorseful after attacking her, she said during the interview. She accepted his apology because she was in love with him.
She said she ended the relationship in early 2020.
Rosado, Javier Monegro’s lawyer, said his client never abused her physically or verbally. In an email to BuzzFeed News, the attorney said there was no evidence to support her allegations and called them “just the words and the allegations.”
“The victim can say what they want, but there is nothing to prove,” Rosado said in an email.
Marcia Aguiluz, executive attorney for Women’s Link Worldwide, a nonprofit committed to ensuring gender equality, said the rise in domestic violence in Latin America and the Caribbean was due to historical discrimination against women in the region and machismo – the concept of an exaggerated Masculinity.
In a Zoom interview from Costa Rica, Aguiluz said domestic violence incidents in Latin America are not isolated.
“They’re a manifestation of that stereotype that women belong to men,” she said.
According to court records, Javier Monegro continued to molest her after their relationship ended, calling her up to 44 times in one day. She then blocked him on WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook.
Two months after their split, Amarante Rodríguez began a relationship with her current boyfriend, which police records said made Javier Monegro feel bad. His neighbors made negative comments about her dating another man, he told police.
Two weeks before the attack, she said she met a friend of Javier Monegro’s who told her to be careful because he was becoming increasingly aggressive.
“I never thought he would do this to me,” she said.
The first time she saw her own face, she was at home. Acid attack survivors are not allowed to look at themselves in the mirror in the hospital, their doctor said.
She said her reflection in the mirror sparked suicidal thoughts, which she overcome by thinking about her daughter.
Natalia Ponce de León, who survived an attack in Colombia in 2014, said she wanted to die after her neighbor doused her with sulfuric acid.
She founded the Natalia Ponce de León Foundation, which was instrumental in the passage of a law to ensure that women in Colombia receive free medical and psychological care after an acid attack. Juan Manuel Santos, then President of Colombia, signed the law in 2016.
A year later, Melania Trump, then First Lady, presented Ponce in Washington, DC with the International Women of Courage Award.
Ponce told BuzzFeed News that more work needs to be done around the world to support the survivors. She wants more laws like the one she created in her own country to be implemented elsewhere.
In the “Dominican Republic [and] Mexico has no regulation. There is no law protecting victims from chemical attack, ”said Ponce. “And that’s a deep pain because it should be punished really badly.”
Survivors from the Dominican Republic have reached out to their charity for help, Ponce said, adding that many of them plan to travel to Colombia for surgery.
“They have to work for their rights – each of them in their own country,” she said.
The day Amarante Rodríguez came home from the hospital, her family threw her a surprise party. She didn’t recognize her daughter Winny, who she hadn’t seen in months.
“When she saw me, the first thing she said to me was, ‘Ahh! A Cuco! “A reference to a mythical monster, recalled Amarante Rodríguez. “I broke down and started crying.”
She is preparing for more than 10 reconstructive operations. The burns are itchy all night. Your left eye is glassy and doesn’t close completely.
Despite being hopeful, she knows she will never look like the woman again in her Instagram pics.
She focuses on taking care of her child and opening a salon with money that Cardi B gave her.
After the police arrested the men accused in the attack, Cardi B donated part of the reward money to her.
Amarante Rodríguez still couldn’t thank the hip-hop star personally for her generosity. “Thank you Cardi B very much,” she said, and excitement filled her voice.
Cardi B representatives did not respond to email requests for comments.
Amarante Rodríguez recently ordered new signs for the salon that read “Yocairi Beauty Center”. She hopes to open later this year in the Villa Consuelo neighborhood of Santo Domingo.
Although unsure of her future, she wants to graduate from high school one day and own a thriving business. The rest is in God’s hands, she said.
Her daughter does not fully know her mother’s story, she said. She told Winny that she was burned in a fire. If one day she finds out what happened, she said, it won’t be her.
Amarante Rodríguez is happy to be alive. She spends her days laughing with siblings and cousins. Your sense of humor has not diminished. Your friend hasn’t left her side.
She begs younger women to stay at school and report friends at the first sign of abuse. “Don’t be still,” she said. “Because I was silent and didn’t report it – that happened to me.” • •