Fri. Jun 14th, 2024
Rita Patiño: An Indigenous Mexican Woman Wrongfully Detained in a US Psychiatric Hospital for 12 Years due to Language Barriers

In 1983, a Rarámuri indigenous woman named Rita Patiño Quintero walked from Mexican soil to Kansas, seeking refuge in the basement of a Methodist temple. Despite her efforts to communicate with the authorities in English, her indigenous language hindered understanding, leading to her unjustified detention for the next 12 years.

Rita’s life was marked by exclusion, medical violence, and loneliness as she navigated the unfamiliar culture and language barrier in Kansas. Despite being a charismatic and philanthropic woman in her community back in Mexico with a partner and son, rumors of her past haunted her as she was disowned and mistreated by many.

The documentary filmmaker Santiago Esteinou shed light on Rita’s story, revealing the systemic failures and discrimination she faced during her hospitalization in Kansas. Legal battles ensued, uncovering the negligence of medical staff and authorities in ensuring Rita’s proper care and return to her homeland.

Despite facing numerous setbacks and exploitation, Rita finally returned to Mexico in 1995 but continued to face challenges receiving her compensation for the ordeal she endured. Nevertheless, she expressed happiness at being back in her familiar surroundings in the mountains, free from the institutional constraints that had plagued her for over a decade.

Tragically, Rita’s life post-Kansas was marred by financial mismanagement, leaving her in poverty despite her substantial compensation. The trust set up for her care was mishandled by various administrators, causing her to struggle financially until her passing in 2018. Nevertheless, the Rarámuri community honored her memory with a celebration, believing in the tradition that helps the deceased transition peacefully to their eternal resting place among the stars in the Sierra Tarahumara mountains.

By Aiden Nguyen

As a content writer at, I delve into the realms of storytelling with the power of words. With a knack for research and a passion for crafting compelling narratives, I strive to bring forth engaging and informative articles for our readers. From decoding complex concepts to unraveling current events, I aim to captivate and educate through the art of writing. Join me on this journey as we explore the ever-evolving landscape of news and knowledge together.

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