HUITZILAC, MORELOS — Jesus García pushed a long metal rod into the ground, then brought the tip to his nose, trying to detect a telltale putrid scent.
He couldn’t quite place the odor, so he passed it to his wife, Claudia San Román. It’s just “roots,” she said, grass and weeds.
“Let’s keep going,” she urged.
The group, mostly made up of women, had been searching for three hours in the Mexican state of Morelos. Amid the heat and insects, they had to use ropes to get down to the riverbed where they based their search.
Their objective? Human remains.
It was Day 1 of a two-week mission by the VII National Search Brigade for Disappeared Persons. Acting on anonymous tips, the members of the group were desperately looking for their missing relatives, many of whom had vanished years ago.
Jesus and Claudia have been looking for their daughter, Kary, for over a decade. She went missing in 2011 when she was 26.
During the search, Claudia wrote a letter about her daughter: “A cheerful young woman, very hard working and concerned about everyone. She loved me, and I love her; I hope she returns so we can never be separated again.”
Eleven years later and more than 70 miles away from where she disappeared, the couple said they remain hopeful that one day they will find their daughter’s remains.
At least 108,680 people are missing in Mexico, dating to 1964, according to a report from the interior ministry.
The number continues to grow as the undeclared war involving organized crime and Mexican security forces rages on. Those caught up in the conflict sometimes vanish, their bodies disposed of in shallow graves in out-of-the-way places.
“Here we are, and we will continue fighting and searching until we find her,” Jesus said later, his voice tired as the search reached its fifth hour.
With information from Gobierno de Mexico