Mass Effort to Exhume, Identify Thousands of Victims of Violence in Tamaulipas
MIGUEL ALEMAN, Mex. – A lot of families here in the Rio Grande Valley may be a step closer to finding closure they seek.
Mexican authorities have launched a massive operation. They are exhuming unidentified bodies from graves and hoping to match a name to each case.
Tamaulipas is the Mexican state with the highest number of missing people. One estimate suggests 5,000 were reported missing in the last five years.
Through these mass exhumations in five cities in Tamaulipas, they're hoping to close at least some of those cases.
In a city where people are naturally suspicious of strangers, where bullet-proof windows of state police vehicles are pierced with bullets, and where people head home after work only never to get there, we find activist Graciela Perez.
She's in Cd. Miguel Aleman at a cemetery made specifically to hold the many unidentified bodies that accumulated over the years.
Gustavo Leal Gonzalez with the National Commission of Human Rights in Reynosa explains why this cemetery is so full.
"When a person is not identified or is not claimed by a family member, and after a determined amount of time, they send the body to what's called a common grave,” he said.
The effort is a state investigation. We can't show you what it looks like inside.
Leal Gonzalez described it as there being about 50 plots each holding about 10 bodies. He said so far, there's been little progress.
"Each plot has about 10 bodies. So, they're just barely on the first one," he explains.
It's a monumental task only equal to the monumental violence that's ripped families apart over the years in Mexico.
Activist Graciela Perez formed a group of over 320 members, called Milynali Red. When we asked her what the name means, she closed her eyes as if going back in time.
"My only daughter. My only daughter. She was a girl of only 13 years old, an American citizen,” she said. “She asked me to let her go with her uncle who loved, who loves her so much, on this trip."
Her daughter, older brother and three nephews went missing after a trip in 2012. Perez said though she's seen over 40 graves looking for her daughter, she hasn't really been looking for her.
"What we do is search, search, and search. Only to discard the possibility that they're there because what you want more is to find them alive," said Perez.
That search continues until it's done, if they ever get there.
The regional director of the National Commission of Human Rights in Nuevo Laredo tells CHANNEL 5 NEWS the search began in Miguel Aleman. It will then include Matamoros, Reynosa, Nuevo Laredo and Cd. Victoria.
If you have family that went missing in Mexico, you can help authorities by reporting them missing to the nearest Mexican attorney general's office.
Then, you can provide a DNA sample to add to their database. They will use that to compare recovered DNA from the exhumed bodies.