Families searching for missing relatives unite trying to draw attention from the Mexican government

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FILE - Families of disappeared and several peasant organizations look for clandestine graves in Iguala, Mexico, Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. Ruben Rocha Moya, the governor of the Mexican state of Sinaloa announced on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, that yet another mother searching for her disappeared son has been killed in northern Mexico, becoming the third volunteer search activist killed in Mexico since 2021. (AP Photo/Christian Palma, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Dozens of women and men searched a garbage dump outside Mexico’s capital Friday looking for signs of missing loved ones, working without the protection of authorities as part of a nationwide effort to raise the profile of those who risk their lives to find others.

Under a blazing sun and amid foul odors, they picked through the dump and other sites in the town of Tepotzotlan in Mexico State, which hugs Mexico City on three sides.

Hundreds of collectives across Mexico are participating in search operations this weekend to draw attention to the work they are left to do without official help in a country with nearly 100,000 people registered as missing.

The work is dangerous. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has documented nine cases since 2019 of women who were slain over their work hunting for missing relatives. Other organizations in Mexico have recorded even more cases.

The groups participating this weekend decided to forgo government protection as a way to protest authorities’ frequent indifference to disappearances.

“We feel abandoned by the state to respond to this situation, which is a real national emergency,” some 250 collectives making up the National Unification of Searching Families said in a statement.

Juan Carlos Trujillo Herrera has been searching for four brothers who disappeared in Guerrero and Veracruz states more than a decade ago. He said uniting search collectives across Mexico raises consciousness.

“With the state, without the state and beyond the state, no one has to stop” searching, he said.

In the work at the dump Friday, searchers used a backhoe as well as shovels and picks to dig through debris. Metal rods were pushed into the ground and then sniffed for the scent of death.

While disappearances have plagued Mexico for decades, the phenomenon exploded in 2006 when authorities declared war on the drug cartels. For years, the government looked the other way as violence increased and families of the missing were forced to remain silent or carefully search for their relatives.

The administration of current President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has invested in creating a national database of the missing and the National Search Commission for Missing Persons.

But he drew the ire of many families and advocates last year by ordering a recount of the missing. It was seen as an effort to lower Mexico’s embarrassingly high total and it did, moving from some 113,000 last year to a revised total of just short of 100,000.

Source: OEM

The Mexico City Post