Rosa Sabido mourns mother’s death in sanctuary at Mancos church

Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018 11:20 PM
Rosa Sabido’s altar for her mother, Blanca Valdivia, with flowers donated by some of her supporters.

More than a year after she sought sanctuary in an effort to stay in the U.S. and take care of her parents, Rosa Sabido has lost her mother.

The Cortez resident, an undocumented immigrant who has been living in sanctuary at Mancos United Methodist Church since June 2017, announced Wednesday that her mother, Blanca Valdivia, had died two days before after a chemotherapy treatment in Mexico.

Sabido plans to hold a public memorial service for her in Mancos, although the date has not been set.

According to Sabido, Valdivia was diagnosed with Stage 2 cancer in December 2017 and decided to seek treatment in Mexico in order to be near relatives there. She died unexpectedly of a heart attack after her first chemotherapy treatment.

When Sabido entered sanctuary in order to avoid deportation, she said one of her primary reasons for staying in the U.S. was to continue caring for her mother, a lawful permanent resident who was in poor health before the cancer diagnosis. But as the months dragged on with no prospects of legal residency for Sabido, and as the seriousness of her illness became more apparent, Valdivia made the difficult decision to seek treatment in Mexico.

Apart from her husband, Roberto Obispo, Sabido was Valdivia’s closest relative in the U.S. Several other family members have been deported, and Sabido has been unsuccessfully seeking resident status since 2001. She said her inability to care for her mother during the illness was devastating for both of them.

After hearing of her mother’s death, she said in an emotional Facebook post that one reason for her fight to stay in the U.S. was gone. But despite that loss, she said on July 26 that her resolve to “seek justice” is stronger than ever.

“It doesn’t matter if we are babies and mothers or a 54-year-old woman and a mother,” she said. “Families are family, and our family has been destroyed – separated.”

Sabido said she plans to remain in sanctuary and continue to promote immigration reform through social media and the activist group Rosa Belongs Here. Recently she’s been promoting the cause by writing a message for Durango’s Families Belong Together rally in June, and participating in interviews with filmmaker John Sheedy, who is filming a documentary for the Mancos Creative District’s “We All Belong” art project.

Sabido has said several times that she sees her position as a way to help raise awareness of the plight of immigrants everywhere in the U.S. She said that hasn’t changed.

Valdivia, who had lived in the Cortez area for more than 20 years, was buried in Mexico on July 25. Unable to attend in person, Sabido participated in her funeral via a video conference call. She said it was beautiful and “very traditional Mexican.”

The Catholic Daughters and the Knight of Columbus planned a rosary prayer for Valvidia on July 28 at the Mancos United Methodist Church. Sabido offered an open invitation to the general public. A rosary prayer is part of the ritual on the wake of a person’s funeral. “Your presence is very important,” Sabido said in the email.

Sabido said she plans to hold a public memorial service for Valdivia’s U.S. friends and family. Valdivia spent many years working at the Ute Mountain Casino, as well as several local restaurants, and Sabido said she made many friends in Montezuma County.

“I think she deserves that, and I think the people that knew her deserve that – to have a service celebrating her life,” she said.