MEXICO CITY ( Associated Press) — Two cousins return to the small, harsh stronghold they grew up in southern Mexico about two weeks ago, which has become a rite of passage for generations of migrants from their remote, impoverished mountainous region Is. Oaxaca State.
After parting, Javier Flores López and Jose Luis Vasquez Guzmán began their trek north of the US-Mexico border and toward their final destination in Ohio, where construction and other work awaited.
Flores López is now missing, his family said, while Vásquez Guzmán is hospitalized in San Antonio, after escaping a scorching heat in a truck-trailer near the Texas city that has turned the US into the deadliest smuggling episode ever. At least 53 people took their lives.
It wasn’t the first trip to the US-Mexico border for Flores López, now in her mid-30s, who left Cerro Verde years ago to move to Ohio, where her father and a brother live.
A cousin, Francisco López Hernández, said he was back home to see his wife and three young children briefly. Vasquez Guzmán, 32, decided to accompany his cousin for his first trip across the border and hopes to reach his oldest brother who is also in Ohio.
While everyone knew the risks, countless people from Cerro Verde had made it safely across the US-Mexico border with the help of smugglers, so it came as a shock, López Hernández said, to learn that Vásquez Guzmán was among 67 people packed into the truck. Found unclaimed on Monday near Auto Salvage Yard. The family believes Flores López was there too, but they are still waiting for confirmation.
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The driver, along with two other Mexicans, remained in custody while the investigation continued.
According to the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s office, officials had probable identities on 37 of the victims as of Wednesday morning, pending verification with officials in other countries.
Francisco Garduno, head of Mexico’s National Immigration Institute, said the dead included 27 people from Mexico, 14 from Honduras, seven from Guatemala and two from El Salvador.
Identifying them has been challenging as some were found without identity documents and in one case a stolen ID. Remote villages like Cerro Verde have little or no phone service to reach family members and fingerprint data has to be shared and matched by the governments involved.
Cerro Verde is a community of about 60 people largely abandoned by youth. Those who earn a meager livelihood by weaving sun hats, mats, brooms and other items from palm leaves. Many live on as little as 30 pesos (less than $2) a day.
“The truth is that people move out here out of necessity,” said Felicitos García, who owns a small grocery store in nearby San Miguel Huatla, who said he saw the two men about two weeks ago. “Life is hard here. People make a living by growing their own crops like corn, beans and wheat. Sometimes the land gives and sometimes not, when the rains come late. People don’t have room for other resources. People live from day to day.”
Garcia said Vasquez Guzmán’s mother, who is trying to get a visa to see her son in Texas, raised him and his three siblings single-handedly after their father’s death. She is now the only one in the family left in Cerro Verde. Vasquez Guzmán left at the age of 18 and joined the Mexican Army.
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His eldest brother, Eloy, moved to the United States a year earlier and settled in Ohio, said López Hernandez, who grew up on a neighboring farm.
Lopez Hernandez said, “I think he commented on her about how the work conditions were and everything and how to make more money.” “I think he called her so that she could come to live a better life too. That’s why he was leaving.”
López Hernández said that Vasquez Guzmán, who had been living in Mexico City for the past six years, returned to Cerro Verde only to say goodbye to his mother.
He knew it was an expensive and risky journey. López Hernández said most people rely on people who have made them America to send money for travel, which usually costs around $9,000.
“There are a lot of risks but for those who are lucky, there is luck, to be able to work, to earn a living,” he said.
López Hernández said that with so many people going and visiting the United States, it is easy to find a smuggler and by now people have passed through safely.
“I don’t know in this case whether they changed or what happened, why they were released,” he said.
Lopez Hernandez, who also has a brother who lives in Ohio, has considered joining her. But he said family, work, school and other responsibilities have kept him in Mexico.
On Sunday night, he asked his uncle if he had heard from Vasquez Guzmán. He told her that he was in Texas.
“I told him, ‘How cool, he’s working hard and we’ll see him on his return,'” López Hernández replied before losing his phone signal.
He later learned about this tragedy from the internet.