GUADALAJARA, August 9, 2013 ( – Five years have passed since Silvia Aguilar Gonzalez, a housekeeper from a small town in the Mexican state of Jalisco, passed away from brain cancer at the age of 37, abandoned by all of her immediate family, and completely destitute.  It was the price she had paid, willingly and joyfully, for saving an unborn child from abortion.


For five years, I have kept Silvia's story to myself, waiting for an opportunity for more interviews and documentation that I was never able to obtain after losing contact with witnesses.  After so long a delay,  I believe the time has come to tell her story based on the information I received from conversations with Silvia's close friend, Maria Hernandez, as well as an in-law relative who was at her side as she died in 2008. 

Silvia's suffering and joy began several years earlier, when Maria became pregnant by a boyfriend who refused to take responsibility for his child.  Maria wanted to have an abortion, a procedure that is illegal but sadly available in the city of Guadalajara, where the two were living and working. 

Silvia and Maria were immigrants to Guadalajara from the same small town, and were laboring as housekeepers to send money back to their families, sharing the same apartment.  Their resources were meager, and their families unsupportive, but Silvia was unstinting in her determination to save Maria's unborn child. 

“Your child is going to live,” Silvia insisted to her friend. “We will care for it together.” 

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Silvia's family was enraged.  The decision to have and care for the child, a little girl who was soon born to Maria, threatened the income the two were sending home, and Silvia's family was outraged that she was taking responsibility for someone else's daughter.  

According to Maria, they mocked Silvia and would have little to do with her, accusing the two of being lesbians.  “Before God,” Maria told me, “it isn't true.  She just wanted to help me care for my daughter.”

Undeterred, the two began to jointly raise the little girl, pooling their meager incomes for the purpose, while still managing to send some money home.  For several years they managed to make ends meet. Silvia and the child she had saved grew close, and Maria would later say that her daughter was more attached to Silvia than to her. “I tell Silvia that she's her real mother,” Maria told me once, laughing. 

However, one day in 2007, when Silvia tried to rouse herself from bed, she found that she was unable to walk.  A slow-growing and incurable brain tumor, which would eventually metastasize and take her life, was destroying her mobility. 

For over a year, Silvia was confined to a bed and wheelchair, while doctors sought to diagnose her problem.  Maria worked to support them both, and her young daughter, now walking and talking, remained with Silvia during the day.  When the cancer metastasized and Silvia was admitted to Guadalajara's Civil Hospital, Maria quit working and joined her there, living at a local shelter for poor visitors. 

I recall my shock when I visited Silvia in the hospital as she was dying, and found that not a single member of her immediate family had come to help her or even visit her.  Only a cousin and his wife were present along with Maria. I had come in response to a newspaper article about the case, which noted the desperate financial situation of the two — with no income, they were unable to pay for an operation for Silvia's cancer.  Fortunately, a generous and anonymous donor had already intervened to pay for the operation. 

It was in meeting and talking to her friend Maria that I learned about Silvia's heroic decision to sacrifice her relationship with her family to save and care for a child that was not her own.  Soon we learned that the operation had done little good, and her cancer was incurable.  At the age of 37, Silvia had only days to live. 

I visited Silvia and Maria once more, on the evening of Silvia's death. She lay peacefully in bed, although her breathing was increasingly labored.  Maria spoke into her ear at length, thanking her for all she done.  The next morning I called and was told that Silvia had just passed away. 

I verified with Maria that, as a believing Catholic, Silvia had received the last rites.   And I must say that although I have no authority to pronounce on such a topic, Silvia Aguilar Gonzalez seems to me to be one of the countless saints unknown to the world, but famous in heaven, where their names are written in the book of life.