PROJECTS: Waiting for Manuel: Stills- Waiting for Manuel
In 2010, Silvia Cruz abruptly left her home, job and the life she loved in Apartadó, Colombia, to move to Auburn, N.Y. so that she could be closer to Manuel Cruz, a convicted murderer and inmate at the Auburn Correctional Facility. The couple married in a civil service union inside the prison within a year of her move to the tiny rural New York town.
At the age of 19, Manuel Cruz was sentenced to 25 years in prison for 1st degree murder during an armed robbery. While in prison, 7 years was added to his sentence for the involuntary manslaughter of a fellow inmate. He has served 25 years of the sentence.
A chance encounter brought the couple together while Silvia was in the United States visiting her sister. Manuel is the brother of Silvia's brother-in-law. She was invited to join her extended family on a trip upstate to the prison where Manuel was incarcerated. They say the connection was immediate. After a series of letters and visits, Sylvia decided to leave behind her farm in Colombia, job as a paralegal, and move with her two teenage children, Daniela, 15, and Camilo, 12, to the United States to begin a life with Manuel.
To ease the transition to the USA, Cruz, then Valesquez, and the children, took up residence in a shared apartment with her sisters family in Long Island, N.Y., making trips to visit Manuel whenever possible. However, things turned sour with the extended family and they were soon evicted from the home.
The family was then faced with the decision of leaving the country and returning to their native Colombia or finding a new life in Auburn. A hasty decision was made to stay and local restaurant owners Connie Buschman, a native of Mexico, and her husband Doug intervened. They invited the destitute family into their home, provided employment and helped enroll the children in school.
Silvia and her children soon moved into a apartment across the street from the correctional facility so that she could make daily visits to visit Manuel. While imprisoned, Manuel and Silvia hope to expand their family as he finishes out the remainder of his sentence.