Every year, local schools participate in Red Ribbon Week, a week devoted to educating students about the dangers of drugs and how to live a healthy lifestyle. The week also celebrates the memory of Enrique "Kiki" Camarena, a Drug Enforcement Administration special agent who lost his life fighting the war on drugs in 1985.
During their Red Ribbon Week last week, Rancho Santa Fe's R. Roger Rowe School played host to a very special guest — Mika Camarena, Kiki's widow. Mika Camarena stood before a sea of children in red clothes to tell the story of her beloved husband, Kiki, her hero, warrior, high school sweetheart and father of her three sons.
Mika Camarena said her husband, whom she met when they were junior high students, was a man who wanted to make a difference in life.
"He wanted to protect youth from drugs crossing the border," Mika Camarena said. "He knew he had to take risks and challenges and be in danger to accomplish his mission. Not everyone can do that."
Before Kiki Camarena became a DEA agent, he was a U.S. Marine, a firefighter and a police officer. The family settled in Mexico as Kiki worked to take down drug lords in Guadalajara.
On Feb. 7, 1985, Kiki Camarena was abducted in broad daylight while walking with Mika. He was brutally tortured and murdered at the age of 37.
"He made the ultimate sacrifice," Mika Camarena said.
After his death, Rep. Duncan Hunter and Kiki Camarena's high school friend Henry Lozano started Camarena's Kids, encouraging students to pledge not to use drugs.
The children and the Camarena family all wore red ribbons to symbolize those pledges.
Mika Camarena said they chose the color red because it is like a stop sign reminding people not to use drugs. Red is also a patriotic color and represents the blood that was shed, she said.
The Camarena's Kids pledges were delivered to then-first lady Nancy Reagan, who played a part in establishing the first nationwide Red Ribbon Week in 1988.
Twenty-one years later, Red Ribbon Week still sends the same strong message.
"When someone asks you to do drugs, think about Kiki and his family and friends and how much they still miss him, then walk away," Rowe Principal Kim Pinkerton told her students. "You're far too good to be part of something so bad."