Santos de Cruz Meza


For 67 years, Santos de Cruz Meza was the neighborhood pariah. Born with a cleft lip in a poor village in Nicaragua, her deformity worsened with age, twisting her nose while the top of her mouth produced a frightening jumble of rotting, unusable teeth.

“She wouldn’t dare go outside without a towel wrapped around her face,” said Guadalupe González Cruz, her 22-year-old daughter. “Everyone made fun of her.”

Moved by her suffering, IMAHelps volunteers removed Cruz’s teeth and shaved her maxilla so that she could be fitted with dentures. Then they sewed her cleft lip shut, closing the fissure that had subjected her to nearly seven decades or torment and ridicule.

“The first thing I’m going to do when I get home,” Santos de Cruz Meza said after surgery, “is take a walk down the street, just like everybody else.”


Jeff Crider

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