Only a mother desperate to find her children would scratch the gray, dusty wasteland with her own fingernails to bring them back; Even if it’s just a piece little fist of bones. Only a mother like Cecilia Flores, with empty arms, understands what the anguish and unbearable pain of absence is.
She is one of the thousands of people searching for the almost 90,000 disappeared in Mexico. Every day she gets up with the hope that her work will serve to subtract a name from that long list that increases without brake. Mothers like her have spent decades scrutinizing the mountains and the desert. Searching in clandestine graves, combing the ravines and rummaging through garbage dumps; recognizing the smell of decomposing meat and dismembered bodies. All this with the only hope of stopping that suffering. To find something to be able to bury again. To find some peace. And why not? perhaps to find her relatives still alive.
Without rest, Flores, born in Sonora 48 years ago, has been looking for her children since 2015. Both kidnapped by organized crime in Sinaloa and Sonora. Not even that time when a hit man pointed his gun at her head and ordered her to kneel before her, did she give up her efforts to find Alejandro and Marco Antonio. “I thought they were going to kill me, so I looked the one who was pointing at me in the eye and told him: If you are going to kill me, shoot me in the front and think of your mother because she, the day you disappear, will be looking for you like me. I’m looking for my children.” Cecilia says that she is angry with God for allowing the ordeal that she goes through, although she admits that that day, when she saw her death so close to her, something or someone supernatural took care of her.
They are calling her Sonora’s big mom and three years ago, together with other women, she created the collective ‘Searching Mothers of Sonora’. It was May 10, the day Mexicans celebrate Mother’s Day. At first they were very few and had almost no tools. They relayed all their searches through Facebook to document everything as best as possible. After a few years, 2,000 people are part of this search engine network. They want to find the nearly 5,000 missing people in the state alone since she began counting in 2015. “Sonora is a huge clandestine grave,” she says by way of introduction. It is also a border state with the United States, which is key to drug, arms and human trafficking, in dispute between various cartels. Threatened with death, Flores receives EL PAÍS far from her house, protected by the mechanism for the protection of human rights defenders.
Last January, this small woman with blonde hair and small eyes released a video that set social networks on fire. In it, she asked the heads of the drug trafficking groups Rafael Caro Quintero and Crispín Salazar to let her and other mothers search for the bodies of her children. “We’re not looking for justice, we just want to bring them back home,” she says. Her plea addressed to criminals gives a very clear signal of the inefficiency of the authorities and of the state of things in Sonora and throughout the country. For these women justice does not exist nor do they expect it. “We already know who’s in charge here because we live it every day,” she says. “We have helped the mothers of those who took our children to find them, because the only justice that I know that one day can come is that of God,” says Flores.
They use picks and shovels to dig up their dead. In many cases not even that. Often the only thing left is a carcass of bloody clothing, a shoe, a purse… According to the woman’s testimony, in these years Seeking Mothers It has found 672 people in clandestine graves and another 300 alive, whom they have connected with their families throughout the country.
Less than a month ago, the group found a clandestine crematorium in the municipality of Santa Ana, in the north of the state. The Prosecutor’s Office identified at least eight bodies, although the women claim that there are remains of more than 20 people. An anonymous call alerted Flores to the location of the death camp. The person who spoke to her also gave her some hope. It is possible that Marco Antonio is also in that grave, but the woman complains about the inaction of the authorities. “I want to see my children again, even if it is in a handful of bones”, she repeats several times during the interview. She has come to knock on the door of President López Obrador at the National Palace; She has spoken with the new governor of the state, the morenista Alfonso Durazo, and has had several interviews with the national commissioner for Human Rights, Alejandro Encinas. Without result. “Nothing”. The mother feels that after the good words, the only one who really moves to find her son is her.
“The authorities with their technology can help me, but they have not wanted to. In the Sonora Public Prosecutor’s Office they always make the same promises to me, but they never give me answers”, denounces the woman and complains that for many millions destined in the federal budget for the disappeared, the resources do not reach the mothers, who Every day they work in the fields. “We are already private investigators, anthropologists, those who take bodies… Before we didn’t know anything, but now we have learned and we are more efficient than the authorities themselves because we have more answers. We, a bunch of women who have nothing to do and who are just warming up the ground and interrupting their investigations, as they say, ”she reproaches.
Last year, Flores had to flee Sonora with what he was wearing. On July 15, a commando arrived at the house of her partner Aranza Ramos, in Sinaloa. The 27-year-old woman had been looking for her missing husband for six months. She was murdered that same night. A call alerted Cecilia: Ramos’s death was a warning, she was next. That’s what they told him. Two weeks ago, the Prosecutor’s Office reported that she had arrested the perpetrator of the femicide of her friend. She hopes to be able to return to Sonora again to continue searching with her companions.
– Are you still afraid of being killed, Mrs. Cecilia?
– Yes, although I am more afraid of the authorities than of the cartels. Actually, my biggest fear is not seeing my children again. I’ve been dead in life since they were taken, for me there is no longer Christmas, or birthdays, or New Year…
This week, 2,000 kilometers from Sonora, Flores and the National Search Brigade found six bags with human remains in Jalisco. buried in a playground. In that same area, the authorities had already done a previous search and had ruled out the place. “Good, bad, guilty or innocent are our children and I will go to hell to find them,” he adds.
The day Alejandro disappeared in Sinaloa, a few hours ago he had just said goodbye to his mother with a hug at the bus station. He had a new job and was starting a new life with his girlfriend. Many nights, Flores dreams of that moment. In the dream, Alejandro asks if anyone is looking for him. “No one but your mother,” Cecilia replies.
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