At least 17 bodies were found buried under the patios of abandoned houses in Sonora between Friday and Sunday.
Relatives of missing people and authorities worked together to uncover the bodies and other skeletal remains in Cajeme, 250 kilometers south of Hermosillo. The victims died between six months and a year before their bodies were recovered, the Sonora Attorney General’s Office said. It added that the remains would be forensically examined to determine the identities of the victims.
The search was conducted by the collectives Guerreras Buscadoras de Ciudad Obregón (Warrior Searchers of Ciudad Obregón) and Rastreadoras de Ciudad Obregón (Trackers of Ciudad Obregón) in Urbi Villa del Rey and Urbi Villa del Real.
Lira Muñoz, a member of the Rastreadoras, said that the group received anonymous calls pointing them to the site.
“We were told many times by people that we should search there. We went and we found all this,” she said, adding that she thought the final count would be higher than 17.
Muñoz also explained how the collectives search for bodies.
“We work with T-shaped rods. When the tip of the rod comes out [of the ground], there is a smell [when a body is present] … then when the rod is put into the ground again, it sinks because the earth has been removed,” she said.
Muñoz has already found the body of her missing daughter, Fernanda Sañudo Lira, but continues to help other members of the collective search for their loved ones.
The weekend’s find is the second highest number of missing people discovered in the area. In 2019, 38 people were found buried on a property adjacent to a place called Campo 30.
Despite the work of search collectives to uncover the remains of missing people, whether those bodies will ever be identified is an open question. The federal government acknowledged in December that Mexico is facing what the head of the United Nations (UN) Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) called a “forensic crisis,” with an estimated 52,000 unidentified bodies in common graves and the nation’s morgues.
At the time, the Deputy Interior Minister, Alejandro Encinas, conceded that the government doesn’t have the capacity to guarantee the identification of bodies and ensure they are returned to their families.
Meanwhile, UN representatives said on Monday that impunity is the biggest challenge facing the government from the missing persons crisis. At a meeting organized by the UN, Encinas said there were at least 98,885 missing people in the country, which had resulted in just 35 convictions.