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The Hernández sisters were initially devastated. But they had filmed their interaction with regulators and sent it to one of their daughters. The young girl decided she could share the family’s experience with some friends.

The video quickly spread online and soon outraged supporters began visiting the restaurant as if they were making a pilgrimage. Donations appeared at the door: spices to flavor the filling of empanadas, a 33-pound bag of cornmeal. Then funds started arriving from Colombia, Brazil, Mexico and even Germany.

Many people sent in orders of empanadas, along with instructions for the family to distribute them among locals in need.

In her restaurant recently, Corina Hernández thought Ms. Machado might have been sent by God himself. The government’s retaliation had become, paradoxically, a blessing.

“Our lives changed after María Corina came to buy our empanadas,” she said. “Everything got better.”

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