Chapter 4: Too Much of a Good Thing
For several years, Lucero Salazar enjoyed his situation with the Las Colitas Public School System. He had few responsibilities, considerable freedom and was able to move about the entire District with minimal supervision. His behavior toward women became increasingly aggressive and he began to exert pressure on them to get what he wanted. Young girls came to him for advice about dealing with an abusive boyfriend or male family member and he acted as though he cared and listened to their stories. Consequently, most of the girls tolerated his “hands-on” approach to counseling. With some girls that he found particularly appealing, he would pressure them by suggesting that he could influence their grades or help them find a job or get into college.
It was also not unusual for Mothers to seek him out for advice, either about their daughters or their own problems with abusive boyfriends or spouses. Salazar was able to pressure some women using their daughters as leverage or by suggesting that he could help them get a better job in the community, etc.
It did not take Lucero very long to view the entire situation as somewhat of a game. He was able to manipulate women in a variety of ways, always to his advantage. His arrogance blinded him to any potential consequences of his actions and he believed that he could continue to do as he pleased. It was probably inevitable that he would become bored. There really was no longer any challenge; he could get essentially anything he wanted at virtually any time.
Lucero approached his Father to request a larger and more prestigious role in the community. Lucero’s eldest brother, Pedro had been elected President of the Colitas City Council as Papa Salazar focused more of his attention larger issues of the County and State. His brother Emilio had completed his drug-related prison sentence, but was currently under investigation by Federal officials for a Medicare fraud scheme. Lucero believed that he should be recognized as an important member of the Salazar family and be more prominent in the community. He was not prepared for the response he received from his father.
“That would normally be the logical progression of things, Lucero. Your brother Emilio has brought too much attention on our family by his foolish ways. And, so you should take his place in the order of things. But, your own behavior has caused me to have doubts about how well you would represent the Family if you were to assume a more public role. Perhaps, with time, you will learn to think more with your Big Head and less with the Little Head that currently guides your actions. It is totally unnecessary for you to be involved with so many women and girls. I don’t understand why you could not have settled down with one woman and begun to raise your own family. For a Salazar, you are being very irresponsible.”
Lucero protested. “But, what about Emilio, Father? I think being in prison is also very irresponsible.”
“Your brother was set up by some people who have been trying to attack the Salazar family for years. The drugs were planted on him and others were coerced to provide false information in return for much less serious charges. The current investigation into his activities will amount to nothing. I’ve spoken to people in the appropriate offices and have been assured that the entire matter will soon be dropped. Emilio will then follow Pedro to extend our influence in Las Colitas.”
“I still think this is all very unfair. I’ve been patiently waiting for my turn.”
“Perhaps, but, Lucero, your carryings-on around town have come to the attention of too many people. Most do not approve of your actions, particularly with those who are still in High School. Mark my words, one day there will be trouble and there is only so much I can do to protect you. My advice is that you seriously consider your actions and how they reflect so negatively on the family.”
With that, Papa Salazar stood and walked out of his office, leaving Lucero sitting there, stunned and angry. Lucero realized that there was little he could do to change his father’s mind. His anger overwhelmed him and he wanted to do something in defiance. He looked around his father’s spacious office and his eyes settled on the glass display case in the corner which contained numerous items reflecting the Salazar Family’s history in New Mexico and in the village of Las Colitas in particular. On an upper shelf of the case was a large ornamental knife that had been given to Junipero Salazar, the founder of Las Colitas, by Black Cloud the head of the Tewa people at the time. Many in the Tewa community were vulnerable to the marauding bands of Apaches from the Plains and Junipero Salazar had granted them refuge in the new community of Las Colitas. The knife with the ornate bone handle had been given to Salazar in appreciation for his action. It was a simple act of defiance, but it helped assuage Lucero’s anger. He tucked the knife into his shirt and left his father’s office.
A few weeks later, Las Colitas’ Police Chief stopped Lucero as he was walking from his condo to his car in the morning. “I’m sorry to have to do this, Lucero, but I’m here to arrest you. A young woman and her mother came to the Station yesterday afternoon and filed a detailed complaint against you. They allege that you raped this young girl on several occasions and these rapes occurred on school property. I’m required to bring you in for questioning so that we can get to the bottom of this as quickly as possible. And, I should not tell you this, but since the girl is just fourteen, the charge may end up as statutory rape involving a minor. I’m sorry, Lucero, but I have to do this.”
Lucero was shocked! As he quickly thought back over the numerous instances where he had taken sexual advantage of young girls in the community, he was convinced that all these had been totally consensual. Besides, he was not responsible for the way they dressed like whores and flaunted their sexuality. As the Chief directed him toward the police cruiser, Lucero could not shake the feeling that his father was somehow involved. At the station, Lucero was processed, formally charged and finger-printed before he was released on his own recognizance with specific orders not to leave the City.
The old women of Las Colitas circulated these events throughout the community although nothing ever appeared in the local newspaper. And the number of young girls that Lucero had raped increased with each retelling of the story.
In fact, Papa Salazar had nothing to do with these events. The Police Chief recognized the elder Salazar’s role as Padrone and had informed him of these allegations the previous afternoon. The Chief had apologized, but Papa Salazar understood and instructed the Chief to exercise his responsibility. Salazar thought that this might be the situation to scare Lucero into getting his act together. The publicity would be an embarrassment to the family, but perhaps things would turn out better in the long run, providing Lucero stopped this irresponsible behavior. As soon as the Chief left his office, Papa Salazar called Tito Ulibarri and asked him to represent Lucero and defend him against these serious charges.
The principle church in Las Colitas was Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, referred to by most local people as The Big IC. The Church sponsored a Support Group for women in the parish who were victims of domestic abuse and violence. The Priest counseled the women that, as good Catholics, they should honor their husbands and obey his wishes. The Priest often encouraged these women to have another child as a way to bring them closer to their husbands and secure the marriage. Any discussion of divorce was severely discouraged.
After one particularly frustrating session, three women were talking in the parking lot. “What the Priest is telling us is total BS,” said Consuela Lopez. “He refuses to even acknowledge that any abuse is occurring. If he thinks I want to bring another child into an already difficult household, he’s totally crazy!”
“I agree with you, Consuela,” added Lupita. “I love my husband, but when he drinks, he gets rough with me. It’s like that Loretta Lynn song: Don’t come home a-drinkin’ with lovin’ on your mind. I just wish there was someplace I could just talk about things instead of getting another lecture from the Priest about being a Good and Faithful Wife”.
”I have an idea,” said Estelle. “Why don’t we meet at that other church, Iglesias’ Bar, and we can be our own support group?”
So, Consuela, Lupita and Estelle began meeting for several hours each Wednesday afternoon at Iglesias’ Bar to discuss their personal lives, referring to themselves as Las Desperadas, like the Desperate Housewives TV show. They agreed that they wanted to be married and have a family; they enjoyed sex with their husbands; it was the abuse that was unacceptable. Their husbands were typical of their culture with their macho attitude and belief that they were the master in their home. Whenever these men felt that their manhood had been threatened or challenged, they took out their frustration on their families.
The weekly meetings were generally helpful and the women became more open with each other, revealing details about their personal lives. One afternoon, Lupita said she wanted to share a major secret with the others. “Several months ago, I went to the High School to meet with a Counselor who had been talking to my daughter, Lucy, about the troubles she was having. Lucy told me that this man was very kind and gentle and had convinced her that it was possible to have sex without any of the rough stuff she was experiencing with her boyfriend. Juan was like most of the high school boys; he didn’t know anything about sex and often drank to get up his courage. Then, he would just emulate the abusive behavior he had witnessed at home. I realized that it was probably in Lucy’s best interest to know that things could be different. That was, until Lucy told me how this man, he’s one of the Salazars, explained things. He had sex with her, right there in his office! So, I went to the school to confront him. I hate to admit this, but Lucy was right about him and before you know it, we were doing it!”
Consuela and Estelle were initially stunned, as much by Lupita’s actions as by her admission. Then, they began to ask questions, prodding Lupita to reveal all of the details of her encounter.
“I guess it was his approach that really got to me,” began Lupita. “He spoke softly and fed me a line of romantic BS. He didn’t just jump me like my Pablo does. I knew what he was doing and I guess I was hornier than I thought. So, I just let him think he was seducing me and went along for the ride. He was really gentle and it was actually pretty good.”
Consuela and Estelle listened to Lupita’s story. Both women smiled and then began to laugh out loud. Estelle said, “Your secret is safe with me, Lupita. Do you think he would try the same thing with me?
“I’m sure. You may have to cry a bit and make up some sob story about how you are mistreated at home, but he really doesn’t need much encouragement!”
Consuela promised to keep Lupita’s secret, but was unsure about her actions. Not going to church and meeting at this bar to talk was one thing, but she was concerned that Lupita had gone too far. It was certainly not setting a good example for her daughter and there was always the risk of being discovered.
The three women continued to meet on a regular basis and the discussions about problems at home were always beneficial if not therapeutic. But, Consuela began to notice that Lupita and Estelle were spending more of their time together comparing their encounters with Lucero Salazar. She became increasingly jealous.
Consuela’s daughter was fourteen and was rather awkward and homely. Although she had gone to this same counselor on several occasions to ask for help in dealing with difficult social situations at school, he had never tried to seduce her. This perceived rejection only served to further frustrate Consuela Lopez and she decided to act. If Lucero was not interested in her daughter, she would see to it that he was unavailable to everyone.
Consuela told her daughter, Conchita , that Lucero Salazar was an evil man and that his behavior was inappropriate. She said that he was pretending to be kind, but was really just trying to seduce her. Ultimately, Consuela convinced her daughter that it was up to the two of them to put a stop to this. The two women developed and rehearsed a story for Conchita, then selected the appropriate clothes to wear to appear like a virginal fourteen year old, which she actually was. Mother and daughter then went to the Las Colitas police to file a formal complaint and a charge of rape.
When Tito Ulibarri met with Lucero Salazar, he outlined an approach for Lucero’s defense. The basic strategy was for Lucero to claim that he could not recall any of the events that were being alleged. Ulibarri wanted to avoid a situation of “he said, she said” because he realized that would probably not go in Lucero’s favor. Despite Lucero’s protests, he advised him that this approach was preferable to lying and opening himself to potential charges of perjury. Although Ulibarri did not mention it to Lucero at this point, he planned to try to settle everything out-of-court and avoid the negative publicity of a trial. He also feared that any publicity would encourage other women to come forward and the case against Lucero could take on a much more serious tone.
Significant legal and political maneuverings took place over the next few months during which time Lucero was placed on administrative leave by the Las Colitas School Board. He kept a very low profile and kept pretty much out of sight. He ceased his sexual activities, despite being approached by several women and girls from the community. Ulibarri had warned him that any one of these overtures could be a potential trap. Papa Salazar was more explicit. “Just keep it in your trousers, Lucero, and try not to embarrass the Family any more than you already have.”
Eventually, Lucero and Ulibarri appeared before a local magistrate; Consuela and Conchita Lopez were not present. Lucero had practiced his act as well. He repeatedly claimed not to recall any of the instances of misconduct, etc. Under Ulibarri’s coaching, Lucero was able to act befuddled and confused as the justification for his lack of memory. Ulibarri even hinted at some form of traumatic stress or potentially an early onset of dementia as the cause for Lucero’s loss of memory. Separately, Consuela Lopez agreed to settle out-of-court if there was some form of punishment for Salazar. Accordingly, the Magistrate placed Lucero on one year’s probation and required him to enter a counseling program and attend classes for Domestic Violence in addition to formally resigning from the school system. At the conclusion of the hearing, Ulibarri was able to have all of these proceedings, including the initial arrest report and fingerprints, sealed from the public.
Afterward, Lucero met with his Father and Tito Ulibarri. He was reminded just how fortunate he was that Papa was the Padrone and that things could have been much worse. The elder Salazar decided that it was in the Family’s best interest for Lucero to leave Las Colitas. He was able to arrange a job in Albuquerque with the Albuquerque Public School System and enrolled him in a Domestic Violence program as required by the court. “Perhaps it would be better if you were not seen in Las Colitas for several years. Maybe some of these young girls will graduate from high school, get married, have families and forget about you.”
In the meantime, I’ve asked Señor Ulibarri to continue to work with you and secure the necessary resources to help you perfect your act of memory loss and stress-induced dementia; it may come in handy in the future if you cannot learn to control your behavior.
A few days later, Lucero reported to the APS Athletic Department and was assigned to assist in programs with only males. Things were quiet for several months and Lucero stayed away from young girls. Unfortunately, Lucero soon decided that he just had to have one of the APS teachers he saw on a daily basis. Carol Winston was an attractive woman in her late 40s and Lucero was convinced that she was giving him encouraging and inviting looks. He approached her one afternoon in a secluded area of the main APS Administrative Building. When he reached out to touch her, she slapped him and said, “You creep. Stay away from me or I’ll call the APS cops! In fact, I think I just stop in their office down the hall and report you, just in case.”
Lucero realized that, if she actually did report him, he would probably end up in jail, at least for probation violation. In a panic, he called Ulibarri. “You’ve got to get me out of here immediately. I need to be someplace where no one can find me.”
The next morning, Ulibarri arranged for a local doctor who was a close friend of the Salazar Family to prepare a diagnosis claiming that Lucero Salazar was suffering from dementia and potentially an early onset of Alzheimer’s and needed to be placed in a facility with a comprehensive memory care capabilities. Within the week, Lucero Salazar became a Resident at La Vida Aureo and placed in the Memory Care Unit.