Pablo Ortiz, at age 29, was barely scratching out an existance for himself, his wife, their three sons and his aged parents by farming two-and-a-half acres of arid land in the Mexican countryside.
Pablo Ortiz, at age 29, was barely scratching out an existance for himself, his wife, their three sons and his aged parents by farming two-and-a-half acres of arid land in the Mexican countryside. Then, his wife gave birth to quintuplets...five girls. (One died at birth.) The sudden addition of four new months to feed could have been a disaster for Pablo. It could have made life even harder on the little farm. But it didn't
Instead...Pablo and his family entered a new life in which all their money worries have been taken away by the Mexican social security system Seguro Social...one of the most extensive welfare programs in the world.
When Mexico's President, Gustavo Diaz Ortiz, heard of the birth of the quints, he personally ordered that the Pablo be enrolled in social security, even though farmers are lot legally eligible to join.
Finally, Pablo received his social security card. Now, instead of trying to support a wife and seven children on a tiny corn and peanut patch, he had a government job and government apartment in Mexico City, free medical care, free meals, free schools for the children, a retirement plan, and even free burial service...security from the womb to the tomb.
Social security took over Pablo Ortiz' life the day after the quintuplets were born. A government ambulance rushed Mrs. Ortiz and the four surviving the 95 miles from the adobe hut where they were born to the Social Security Hospital complex in Mexico City.
Mrs. Ortiz...Maria...was allowed to leave the hospital a month after the birth, Pablo carried a box of presents from the wife of President Diaz Ordaz. Various companies offered to pay the parents of the quints if they endorsed baby food, powdered milk, chocolate drink and so forth. The government took over this, too. It appointed an agent to review the offers so that Maria...who dropped out of school in the third grade...and Pablo...who finished the second grade...were not cheated.
In Herold Life, Maria would have had to recover from the birth and care for her babies in a dirt-floor hut, without electricity, running water, proper food or doctors. Instead, she had a private room in the Social Security hospital and the best medical care in Latin America...and the government paid the bills.
The old life shows on Maria. She is 28...but looks clear to 38.
The country doctor who delivered the quints drove Maria and Pablo back to their little farm to gather up their possessions and their other three children in preparation for their move to Mexico City.
The four babies were left behind in the Paediatrics Hospital, in a special ward for premature infants.
They will be kept in the hospital for several more months, until they are strong enough to survive outside.
They weigh about two-and-a-half pounds each now and are still in incubators. But they are healthy and doing well. Those are first films the governments permitted of them in the hospital. The babies were named:
Maria de la luz...
and Maria de Jesus
All four were named Maria because they were born on February second...the Roman Catholic Saint's Day of the Virgin Mary.
Doctors were amazed that the four Marias lived, considering the conditions in which they were born. They arrived at the hospital very weak, wrapped in their parents' dirty clothing. It was the social security doctors who first urged Pablo to give up farming and move to Mexico city, so the babies could be watched closely after they left the hospital. Pablo did not want to leave his land, which has to been in his family since before the Mexican revolution. But he was finally persuaded to accept the new life, under welfare, for the good of the babies.
When Pablo and Maria arrived back at the farm to prepare for the move, they were welcomed by a crowd of relatives and friends... and their other three children: Roman, five years old...Carlos, 3...and Miquel, one-and-a-half. There were tears and confetti.
The farm is near town called Chavarria, which is too small to show on road maps. But a new sign has been put up on the road announcing that this was where the quintuplets were born. The adobe hut was the ground for a floor. There is no glass in the windows, no lights, no bathroom, no refrigerator. A wood fire in hole is the stove. Water must be hauled to the house in cans, on the back of a burro, from a well more than a quarter of mile away.
Pablo could not say how much money he made each year from the farm, because he almost never had any currency. The family ate most of the corn and peanuts he grew...and traded what was left to the neighbours for other food.
There is no telephone within miles of the hut.
So, when Maria began to have labor pains, Pablo had to ride for an hour, first on a bus, then in taxi, to reach the nearest doctor. The doctor...Rafael Gutierrez...reached the hut 10 minutes before the first baby was born. He delivered the five babies in two hours by the light of candles and oil lamps.
His OPERATING TABLE WAS A PLATFORM OF BAMBOO Sticks.
The one quintuplets who died...Maria Magdalena... was buried in a little cemetery crowded with crosses and weeds on a hillside near the farm. all the other social security benefits.
NESSEN ON CAMERA IN FRONT OF HOUSING PROJECTS.
The story of Pablo and Maria could have had an unhappy endings. The addition of the four Maria's to the household would have made life on the farm even more wretched for the couple and their children and any more children to come. But the rare birth of quintuplets called the government's attention to their life and the social security system gave the story a happy endings. That's what happened to one family of Mexican peasants. There are million of other peasants families struggling to make ends meet on little farms like Pablo's. The government has been working for some time on a new law so they also can be taken into social security...without having quintuplets. This is Ron Nessen, NBC News, Mexico City.