Home / U.S. / Landslides cause a high price to immigrants who serve Posh Town | The California report

Landslides cause a high price to immigrants who serve Posh Town | The California report

Oprah Winfrey and Rob Lowe give Montecito their star power, but it's people like Antonio and Victor Benitez who keep the affluent community in Southern California running.

The Mexican brothers are gardeners and part of the working class immigrant population of the city. It suffered huge losses due to recent landslides that killed at least 21 people, injured dozens and damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes.

Antonio and Víctor Benítez suffered broken bones and each lost a child. Antonio's wife was murdered. Victor's wife was murdered, his body was found on Saturday and his young son was injured.

SB Sheriff's Office on Twitter

Search equipment Locate the missing mother's body of Montecito https://t.co/C0Hz2RYxdK

Nearly one third of those killed in the mudslides on 9 January came from immigrant families who worked in service jobs in the city of 9,000, mostly white and retired from the Pacific coast. Many of these families come from developing countries taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the wealth of the area to make a better life for their children.

Among them was Pinit Sutthithepa, 30, from Thailand, who worked at a Toyota dealership in Santa Barbara and sent money to his wife and two children for years before being able to bring them to the United States in 2016. The landslides he was killed, his 6-year-old son and his 79-year-old stepfather were killed. The teams are still looking for the 2-year-old daughter of Sutthithepa.

SB Sheriff's Office on Twitter

The number of flood victims increases to 20 https://t.co/OTOBijHjXp

His wife and mother worked in a grocery store when the rocks and the water they ran wiped their house, Mike Caldwell, head of Sutthithepa, wrote on a page of GoFundMe looking for help for the family.

Martin Cabrera Muñoz, 48, worked long hours as a landscaper to send money to his children in Guanajuato, Mexico. He was sleeping in the room he had in his boss's house when an avalanche of mud broke through the property.

"I wanted to give your children a better life," her younger sister, Diana Montero, told the Los Angeles Times.

His funeral was held on Wednesday at the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Santa Barbara, where people also mourn the deaths in the Benitez family

The Reverend Pedro Lopez has tried to offer words of comfort to his tight Spanish-speaking parish, but he knows that the healing will be slow and painful.

"We need everyone to know the importance of being available to each other to share their pain," said Lopez.

Many members of the modest church do not have a job now that the million-dollar homes they cared for have been destroyed by the storm. landslides, which also closed US Highway 101, an important route for travelers between the two main cities of the coastal region, Santa Barbara and Ventura.

Many families "can not go to work due to the closure of the highway, or do not know where to work now, and do not know how they will pay rent or buy food," López said

Víctor and Antonio Benítez built a flourishing gardening business after coming to the United States as teenagers from Mexico, joining her father and another brother.

The two brothers, their wives and children shared a home to be able to pay rent in Montecito, where the average price of a house is over $ 4 million.

They were asleep when mud and rocks thundered down the slopes. When he entered, collapsing the walls, some of the family members tried to escape through the kitchen door but were swept away.

The body of Victor's son, 10-year-old Jonathan Benitez, was found almost 2 miles (3 kilometers).

"He was a very popular young man, he took everyone under his protection," Lopez said, adding that a little girl cried as she remembered how Jonathan had received her in the first communion class.

The body of Jonathan's mother, Faviola Benítez Calderón, 28, housekeeper, located on Saturday, another victim of landslides.

Antonio and Victor Benitez, and Victor's young son, Ian, remain in the hospital with broken bones and bruises. Antonio Benítez underwent surgery for abdominal injuries from being dragged by the landslide. He is recovering, but overwhelmed by grief over the loss of his 27-year-old wife, Marilyn Ramos, and their 3-year-old daughter, Kailly, their only child.

"Antonio wakes up, cries and cries, and then he is given a sedative to go back to sleep, only to wake up later and cry again," said his sister-in-law, Jennifer Ramos.

Marilyn Ramos was living the American dream that had driven her to come to the United States at age 20, said her sister, who remained in Marquelia, a small Mexican fishing community south of Acapulco. Ramos met her husband in California.

"All I wanted was to be a mother and have a good family life, what I had," said Jennifer Ramos.

Almost a third of the exclusive neighborhood of Pamela Viale in nearby Goleta hired Antonio and Victor Benitez. The brothers worked for her for five years.

"Once people saw the wonderful work they do and the strong work ethic they have, the word spread," he said. "He grew 18 families here from a family, and everyone feels strongly about them, they are always willing to go the extra mile, always smiling: very nice people, just amazing."

"We are really devastated by his loss. "

Viale and others organized GoFundMe pages to help the family, which also lost their tools and their truck and faced rising medical bills and funeral expenses before they could rebuild their lives.

Lori Lieberman, an artist of recording that lives part-time in Montecito, said the outpouring of support has been incredible.

"We all really love this family," he said.
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