Yaqui for Borderland Beat
Note: I think of this as something of a "Sunday Special" rather poetically written by Jésus Peña:
Once there was a country that more than a country looked like a mass grave. People stopped "burying their dead" to go out to look for them in the bush. Because any depopulated area was an extermination camp. The drums with acid silenced and ended the lives of almost 40,000 Mexicans. Still today, forensic genetics will take a declaration to a huge pile of bones and tears.
The Scope of Horror:
The processes of torture in the period of the War on Drugs made the bones of the missing more difficult to identify than a hominid skeleton Lucy 3.5 million years old. This is how barbarism is measured.
- Where we are?
- This is where the bone will be crushed, the bone pulverized, when working with bone remains; that is according to Édgar de la Rosa Alvarado, the coordinator of the Forensic Genetics Laboratory, a pharmacobiologist chemist by profession, specializing in genetics.
These bones will be the bones that until very recently were in Patrocinio, Claudio Station, Santa Elena, San Antonio de Gurza, El Venado, San Antonio el Alto and Flores Magón, scattered, abandoned, forgotten, orphaned, the bones that no one veiled or buried, but someone cried and are still being cried for......
Those bones, which for years, were in silence and will soon arrive here, to this laboratory, then they will talk, they will shout out who they were, who they belonged to, they will demand a prayer and a burial, to rest in peace.
But before those bones, so far from anyone, will have to go through a cold test in a tissue lysing machine, where they will be frozen, at least 180 degrees, with liquid nitrogen and crushed by a large pellet. Then, in the laboratory analysis area, they will reveal their secret, the DNA, they will then say who they are, who they were, who existed, who lived, ie, until someone with hatred, viciously tried to erase them from the face of the earth.
"It's a very, very difficult job. Sometimes people observe a bone, a bone at rest, and hope that it is a missing relative. Unfortunately those skeletal remains are badly damaged and we do not get a result, we do not get a profile. "
Because removing the DNA from a bone implies a slow, laborious, meticulous, difficult task that can take between 45 days and six months. "
Édgar De La Rosa Alvarado, Coordinator of the Forensic Genetics Laboratory:
"This is due to cellular degradation. Ultimately those bones suffered burns, chemical reactions, dehydration and the time they were exposed to the environment deteriorated the cells. We no longer get a viable cell sample for a genetic study and it is difficult to explain to the families that out of 300 remains that only found two are viable for study, " says De la Rosa Alvarado.
Another morning, at the end of a graduation of Criminal Investigation Agents, José Ángel Herrera, prosecutor of Disappeared, will say that of the 103,000 fragments of skeletal remains, product of more than 300 operations carried out during the past and the current administration by the Group Life, accompanied by the Attorney General's Office, only between 3 and 5 % will be able to obtain a genetic profile.
With only between 3 and 5 % genetically profiled, the others will remain anonymous; in the orphanage, because the viciousness, hatred, acid, fire, destroyed their life, their identity, down to the last cell.
They were killed, they were silenced forever and very surely there will not be for them a grave, a place of rest, of rest, of peace, where they will be remembered, cried for and that ... is something that bothers, is unworthy.
Culture of Death:
"Societies are built through beliefs and values, sometimes religious or spiritual, that give meaning to life, but also give meaning to death. Then we have the cultures of prehistory, how they built their tombs, their rituals, through ceremonies ... ", says David Morales González, academic of the Acatlán School of Higher Studies, of the UNAM specialist in cultural heritage.
In antiquity people who died were not abandoned inside trailers without refrigeration in housing areas by any Jaliscience Institute of Forensic Sciences, but honored in caves, on pedestals, in temples, in pyramids, where they were raised so that their spirit reached a higher level .
"They were cultures that worshiped the dead or that conceived death as the transition to another state, like the Egyptians or the Mechica culture, which conceived this passage from life to death as something transitional and very important in the journey to Mictlán, this 'place of the dead', reigned by Mictlantecutli where the dead went and had to clear several obstacles on the way. And this whole conception arises that they had to be accompanied by a dog, that they had to carry water because they had to cross large valleys ... ", says Morales González.
Until 2017 at least 87 clandestine graves had been found in different municipalities of the entity / Marco Medina
Where did those more than 26,000 people go, or where will they go ? Those bodies, according to Plataforma México, remain piled up in mortuaries and mass graves throughout the country, without someone ever taking a flower or giving them a prayer.
In the oldest towns in Mexico, as a result of the fusion between paganism and Christianity, families used to prepare their deceased with oils, dress them in white and put special shoes, on them, "to say that the spirit will not go barefoot and that they will wear white because it means purity, "says David Morales.
Remember ME ...
The dead of today, those who left the War on Drugs declared by Calderón at the end of 2006, go naked, vulnerable, in black plastic bags or, at best, put in nylon covers with a paper that says "particular signs".
At home their families await them, they want them back to honor them, to mourn them, to watch over them, to pray to them, to bury them, and then to rest, to stay in peace and know that their dead are not suffering.
"They want to have that corporeal presence, to see the dead, because it is their only material reference to know, to have the certainty that they have died. If not, it is the uncertainty, the hope that goes in that slogan of 'they were taken away alive, we want them alive'. They want that reference, they want to do that ritual because that ritual fills them with tranquility, peace, saying 'I gave him a dignified funeral and I gave him a Christian burial, I organized a Mass for him'.
That's why they hope to one day find the body , yes the corpse, to say ''I am going to make a ceremony, a ritual to ask forgiveness for him, so that he may have an eternal life'', say the Christians, to ask for his salvation ... A ritual where I reach a resignation, that I saw it, I am convinced that he died and say: 'I have someone to take flowers to, I have someone to give him his offering, I know where his body is'. That is your hope. We are ritualistic societies, we have a great tradition and a culture of rites, especially funerary rites, "says David Morales.
Bones: The Moving Witnesses
Ignacio Vallejo González is a paleoescultor and explorer who has dedicated 30 decades of his life to the search for dinosaur remains in Coahuila, and says, with the experience that the years give him, that bones are silent witnesses.
"You can determine if a bone is recent or if it is a fossil residue. Bones are witnesses as they were in prehistory and our work is to infer, try to reconstruct what happened to that animal, if it went alone, in herds, if it was buried in the place at the time of death, if it was eaten by animals , because we have found dinosaurs with traces of bites, with the bones bitten; whether they were hunted by hunters. "
Throughout his career, Ignacio, who also has knowledge of human anatomy, has learned to read sex and causes of death in bone remains.
Discovering the secrets. In the case of missing persons, we will make a genetic profile of the relatives and corroborate and identify the relationship between the profile obtained from the family members, against a bone remnant.
"It can be inferred if it is female or male or a juvenile. When it is a child the bones are tender, they have more collagen. That's why I tell you they are witnesses, because you can know if those remains belonged to an adult or very adult or very old person. You can infer age and sex as well. The skulls of women are more subtle, softer, the bones of man are rougher, more solid, " he says.
And he says that years ago, while exploring the course of the Barrancas, a site located north of Saltillo and is now a settlement of residential subdivisions, he found an Indian skeleton and it was not a disappeared person.
"He was an Indian. Previously those places were settlements of primitives Then with my knowledge of anatomy I saw that the bones had disease, pathology, such as osteoporosis, because the bones were very damaged, very fused some vertebrae, as if it were arthritis, scoliosis, (curvature of the spine) ). You can infer, at first glance, some disease. "
Death in prehistory:
Funerary rituals are part of the life of man on Earth, there are indications of these before the discovery of writing. Our ancestors knew how to say goodbye.
Instructions to Cry:
But in the Forensic Genetics Laboratory, dealing with someone's bones is more complex than it seems.
"In the case of missing persons we will make a genetic profile of the relatives and corroborate or match, a comparison, identify the relationship between the profile obtained from the relatives, against some indication, a bone at rest that has been found somewhere and try to identify, in this way, people, " explains Édgar de la Rosa, the laboratory's coordinator.
Outside Edgar's office, desk, filing cabinet and a shelf that holds family memories: the photo of his children, the portrait of his brother who died in a motorcycle accident, there is a room with a laboratory chair, his armrest, a small table with drawers, the chair for which, within a very short time, the families of the disappeared would parade to leave a few drops of hope, as if they had not already gone through all the dependencies looking for their loved ones.
Lucy, Mother of a Disappeared:
It has been eight times that María de la Luz López Castruita, the representative of the International Association for the Search of Missing Persons in Mexico, Coahuila chapter, goes to the authorities to leave her blood sample for DNA, but she does not give up.
She is the mother of Irma Claribel Lamas López, 17 years old, who disappeared from Torreón in August 2008, after she left home, without permission, with a friend to a discotheque in Saltillo and did not return.
Before leaving her blood sample, Lucy will enter that square building with guard house, parking lot and glass door: the building of the General Directorate of Expert Services of the State Prosecutor's Office, planted in Alameda Zaragoza Street, 166, Colonia Saltillo 2000, where the Forensic Genetics Laboratory works.
She will arrive at a reception desk, computer and secretary, the secretary will ask her to register in a booklet, someone will come for her, because it is dictated by the protocol of the laboratory, and will go up with that someone a labyrinthine staircase to a second level, where another computer desk and record book will await her, Lucy will register.
Lucy will then walk down a wide and long corridor of facing offices, another desk and in the background a glass door: the door of the laboratory where Lucy will never enter because it is a restricted area.
Instead, they will take her to a room where there is a laboratory chair, sit her down, prick her finger with a lancet, two or three drops of blood will suffice. While pricking her, Lucy will think that she is afraid of the needles, that she does not like injections, that she suffers a lot, but when she remembers her missing daughter, that panic will be removed and she will say "for her , anything and everything".
Dying in Life:
María Hortensia Rivas Rodríguez, was a working mother and housewife from Piedras Negras who led a life without fright, until a summer night in 2013 that the Gate group (Group of Weapons and Special Tactics), took Víctor Manuel Guajardo Rivas, her son, and she never hear from him again.
Since that night Hortensia toured police stations, military bases, Navy detachments, Public Ministries, vacant lots and prisons across the country, looking for her son. And nothing.
The Missing Persons Prosecutor's Office has more than 1,300 reference DNA samples in its possession.
We are proposing (to AMLO) that an extraordinary mechanism of human identification be installed for people whose bodies are in any part of the country, without identification. That the government decree an extraordinary mechanism for forensic identification, with the participation of the international community. That the agreements be made with laboratories "
Blanca Martinez, Director of the "Fray Juan de Larios "Center:
In those five years of untiring, uninterrupted search, her health has diminished, but she says that she will not throw in the towel.
"The health of one deteriorates, but that does not stop me or many mothers who are sick and we are searching, we have the need to find our children. I am here, because here God has me, because the truth should not be here, I can pretend that I am dead in life, but God has me here for a mission that is this; help find our missing ... ", says the woman and mother one Saturday afternoon at the end of a meeting of leaders of groups of families of disappeared with the State Commission of Attention to Victims, (CEAV).
Blanca Martínez, the director of the Diocesan Center for Human Rights "Fray Juan de Larios", says that this is why, since yesterday, President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, is calling for an emergency national by forensic identification.
A Titanic Task:
Back to his laboratory office, Edgar de la Rosa tells us that the project of the Forensic Genetics Laboratory, whose cost was between 30 and 33 million pesos, was born three years ago, when the government was overwhelmed by the large number of missing persons and bone fragments found by Grupo Vida, this after the wave of violence that left the so-called War on Drugs at the end of 2006.
But he recognizes that the job of making those bones talk, of giving them back a name, will be arduous:
"Because removing DNA from a bone involves a slow, laborious, meticulous, difficult task that can take between 45 days and six months."
Silvia Ortiz, the president of Grupo Vida, asks herself, how is the laboratory going to process the more than 103,000 bone remains that this organization has recovered in recent years from the Zeta extermination camps in the Coahuila Lagoon?
"Because of the big problem we have in the state. There is still much to be done to be able to solve the great problem of remains, of fragments to be identified. It is very difficult, very complicated, It requires a laboratory that meets all the requirements for the identification of all this. It requires more technology and more science and more time. "
Otherwise those bones, that were people, that are people, that have rights: the human right to identification, not to be disappeared, according to international treaties and conventions, will remain there, abandoned, forgotten in some osteoteca, ( bone storage facility were the bones are cataloged, ie similar to a library or biblioteca) without any one recognizing them, without worship or veneration of them.
The laboratory, which began work on October 24, has received only about 85 blood samples from relatives of the disappeared.
"The lab is just unpacked, we just opened. First, we are obtaining the profiles of the families and then starting to work on the samples, the skeletal remains", says Édgar de la Rosa Alvarado, the coordinator.
And he says that the laboratory, whose geneticist experts, six, are certified by the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistence Program (ICITAP), is in the process of being accredited before the ANSI - ASQ National Accreditation Board, which will provide security to families of the disappeared that things are going to get along.
"The laboratory is in the final phase of accreditation, the implementation phase. This is that in the next three months we have to be working with our procedures and protocols, verifying that everything we said and wrote is working as it should work. There is an internal audit to review everything we are doing, an external audit and if there is no correction to the procedures, accreditation is given at an international level. We are thinking that by February or March of the year that enters the laboratory may be accredited.
Mexico: The Country that is also a Cemetary:
But it is that in addition to the large amount of skeletal remains recovered in different places of Coahuila that add to the number of missing persons in Mexico and Coahuila.
The extermination. It was here, some years ago the Life Group, discovered one of the largest extermination camps of the Zetas in Coahuila and some said that of the world.
Zeta Horror: Extermination Camps:
It is an autumn afternoon in the ejido Patrocinio, municipality of San Pedro, Coahuila, and a howl that is not known if it is of the wind, of a coyote or perhaps of a dead person, tears the silence.
Here, in this lonely skin of the earth, which was once a fertile cotton field until the water ran out, nothing remains, only burnt bushes, some dry canal and bones, many bones.
We walk, photographer and cameraman Omar Saucedo and me.
From time to time we run into lots of clothes; a pair of trousers, a shirt, some tennis shoes, a baby sock and I tell myself that if those clothes talked about what stories would not count.
Beyond it looks something like a camp, cans of tuna, containers of coca cola, potato wrappers, under a skinny tree that barely gives shade.
The people of the town say that they were the camps of the Zetas that every night passed in their trucks with their load of victims heading to the mountain, without anyone telling them anything.
In the bowels of the plain of Patrocinio, a chivero ( goat herder) says that he saw the tambos (barrels) but he thought it would be people who came out to roast meat, to spend the day in the countryside, but no.
And then the sponsors of Patrocinio who spent the night in the mountains with their flocks began to hear the screams. They were screams of pain, of anguish. The victims of the Zetas, they thought and they were banished forever from the plain.
Afterwards, it became known about the bones. People watched it on television.
Back in town, dusk, people are afraid to talk, they say they do not know anything, they go to bed early, they do not get involved in that they do not care about, they were not involved, they're afraid ...
The most recent report of the State Attorney General's Office speaks of 2014 people disappeared from the entity. According to the National Registry of Data of Missing or Disappeared Persons (RNPED), in the country there are more than 37,400 people reported as missing. That is, the same number of inhabitants that Monaco has.
The Plataforma México system has an inventory of 36,000 disappeared and 26,000 necrodacthilar fingerprints of people who are unidentified in mass graves and morgues throughout the national territory. According to Data Cívica, Coahuila is the eighth entity in the country with the most missing and missing persons.
Hortensia Rivas, Mother of a Missing:
"We are proposing that, as institutions are strengthened and a new national expert system is created, an extraordinary human identification mechanism is installed for people whose bodies are in any part of the country, without identifying. That it decree an extraordinary mechanism for forensic identification, with the participation of the international community. That agreements be made with laboratories everywhere. When the Twin Towers fell in new York where there were approximately 3,000 victims, the United States hired about 200 laboratories around the world to do the identification. "
Hope Fits in a Laboratory:
At 10:00 a.m. in a fresh morning Édgar de la Rosa, the coordinator, presumes the facilities of the Forensic Genetics Laboratory, which, to tell the truth, do not look anything like the trailers without refrigeration where, In mid-September, the Jaliscience Institute of Forensic Sciences abandoned 157 corpses of unidentified people in the La Duraznera colony of Tlaquepaque.
"Here we have the Selection Area", says Édgar and points from a glass wall to a room where there are several tables with lamps, a drying chamber, a drying oven, refrigerators, freezers. Futuristic machines, like science fiction.
It is the area where the selection of bone fragments will be made to check which are the most viable samples of study.
"On this side, - Édgar continues and heads to another room where an island of eight modules stands out with work instruments for the experts - we begin with the extraction and purification of the sample". And here - says De la Rosa and indicates a piece at the back of the laboratory where a kind of cabinet is seen - the fragments that are in process are going to be protected ".
Lucy's mother, Claribel, says that although so far the identification by the authorities was null, the new lab is a hope of finding many of they can be back home with his family and give them a dignified burial,
"Obviously, nobody wants to find them dead, but since we find them dead it is better than nothing, then ... it fills us with hope ... in some way ...". The dead that have no tomb ; 824 bodies known as "N" and "N" in Coahuila; 6 months the estimated time of analysis of skeletal remains, 85 blood samples from relatives of missing persons. 40,000 missing people are approximately in Mexico.
"In the field , In the field , In the house , In the hunt , There are corpses"