Things That Matter

They Discovered Mass Graves And Now These Grieving Mothers Are Being Threatened By Drug Cartels

Latin American history is full of brutal cases of disappearances that most likely translate into the death of a loved one. From the crimes perpetuated by the military dictatorships in Chile and Argentina, to the attacks on indigenous communities in Central America, numerous citizens have been killed and then their remains disposed of illegally.

Mexico is the latest country to be hit by a wave of desaparecidos, whose desperate relatives literally get down on their knees to dig the Earth and try to find an indication, anything, that could provide a clue on the ultimate fate of their loved ones. We cannot even imagine the pain of not knowing if a family member is alive or dead. Closure is also hard to attain as the circumstances of killings are rarely, if ever, clarified. 

Since 2006, when then president Felipe Calderon Hinojosa waged a direct, and many claimed poorly planned, war against the Mexican drug cartels, the country has become a mass graveyard.

 It is now common, although never ever acceptable, to hear about rural spots in which bones, clothes and other objects indicate that people have been killed. This reminds us, sadly, of dark passages in history, such as the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia, which saw people of all ages and backgrounds murdered in what is infamously known as “the killing fields”. Well, some areas of Mexico are today’s cemeteries for those who faced death in a violent way, while possibly having been tortured. 

It is not only cartel members that are being found in clandestine burial grounds: rotting infant clothes are a common, heartbreaking sight.

In the past 13 or so years, numerous sites have been dug up by desperate relatives, and some by the authorities. In states such as Coahuila they have found the remains of numerous women and children who were caught at the crossfire of the cartel wars. Some migrants coming from Central America have allegedly also been murdered and then buried in the desert. Some corpses indicate that they were burnt or dipped in acid.

This is the true, dehumanizing face of the war on drugs that has plagued Mexico for decades, product of local corruption, weapons being sold by US arms dealers and the insatiable thirst for drugs in Global North markets including the United States, Australia and Western European countries. 

Families in states like Sonora take matters into their own hands and volunteer to form search parties: they are now being threatened.

The Northern state of Sonora, which borders with Arizona and New Mexico, is at the epicenter of the cartel wars. It has a vast border area that is prime “real estate” for traffickers trying to get their product (drugs or, increasingly, victims of human trafficking), from Mexico into the United States. A group of citizens has formed voluntary search parties looking for human remains under the blistering Sonoran sun. As if the task itself wasn’t taxing enough, they are now being threatened by armed men. 

A recent discovery in Puerto Peñasco by the “Searching Mothers of Sonora” group raised a red flag.

The Sonora state prosecutor has revealed that while the mothers were waiting for the authorities to arrive and start investigations on a recently discovered burial pit, a group of sicarios arrived and, gun in hand, threatened them and ordered them to leave. Excavations produced four skeletons, which now need to be identified through a lengthy and costly process of DNA matching. The number of disappeared in Mexico is in the thousands, so even if a body is found matching it with one of the entries in the vast databases (many of which don’t “talk to each other” in the sense that there is no reliable list of desaparecidos) is a hard task. 

These mothers have lost almost everything, so they are proud and fearless.

It is likely that these mothers won’t budge. Their work has extended for years and just last month they found another burial site containing 42 skeletons near an area known as Rocky Point. As Arizona Central reported, when these volunteers found the mass grave they clearly stated their drive behind such a consuming task that basically takes over their lives: “to bring peace to other families that are going through the same pain”.

The figures are overwhelming:  an estimated 40,000 people have gone missing and more than 3,000 graves had been found across the country, according to media reports. Just trying to grasp this figures makes our heads in. It is a geopolitical crisis that needs to be addressed by all parties involved, it is not merely a local problem. 

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El Chapo’s Wife Turns Herself In After Being Charged With Drug Smuggling and Trying to Break Him Out of Jail

Things That Matter

El Chapo’s Wife Turns Herself In After Being Charged With Drug Smuggling and Trying to Break Him Out of Jail

Photo via Getty Images

They say art imitates life, but sometimes, it’s the other way around. Once in a while, the news seems like it’s simply replaying scenes from La Reina del Sur. Especially the latest update on El Chapo’s wife.

On Monday Emma Coronel Aispuro, the wife of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, turned herself into the United States FBI on charges of international drug trafficking.

The U.S. authorities are charging Coronel with helping Guzmán smuggle drugs across the border, break out of prison, and bribe corrupt officials. According to anonymous officials, the U.S. authorities have had their eye on her for a while now.

For years, El Chapo’s wife Emma Coronel has insisted that she had nothing to do with her husband’s illegal activities. Because she always maintained her innocence, the former teen beauty-queen was able to keep a high profile since her husband was imprisoned in 2019. She was active on social media, gave interviews to news outlets, and even appeared on a reality series.

Coronel was born in San Francisco, but grew up in Mexico near El Chapo’s “territory”.

Her father was a prominent member of El Chapo’s cartel, and according to experts, she “grew up with knowledge of the narcotics trafficking industry.” She married Guzmán when she was 18-years-old. He was 50. Her and Guzmán have 9-year-old twin daughters together. As of now, the girls’ whereabouts are unknown.

According to official documents, the FBI has evidence that Coronel was a liaison between El Chapo and his sons, “Los Chapitos” when they were planning his notorious prison escape in 2015. Coronel also stands accused of acting as a messenger and negotiator for payments to corrupt authorities.

As of now, people are speculating that Coronel turned herself in in exchange for leniency.

“Her attorney at sentencing is going to argue, ‘She took it upon herself to face charges,’ she didn’t make the government go out and arrest and extradite her,” an anonymous source told Vice. “She came out of Mexico. It would have been quite a process to get her extradited.”

According to reports, Colonel faces 10 years to life in prison, and a fine of up to $10 million USD.

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This Teacher Received A Nissan Pickup Truck Decked Out As A Mobile Classroom

Things That Matter

This Teacher Received A Nissan Pickup Truck Decked Out As A Mobile Classroom

Like students around the world, kids in Mexico have been forced to take school online or tune into programming on public TV in order to learn. But that’s just the kids who are lucky enough to have access to Internet or a TV. Many students live in rural areas and lack the adequate resources to continue their studies amid the global pandemic.

But thankfully, there are many good samaritans out there (aka compassionate teachers) who have invented their own ways to bring the classroom to kids wherever they are.

A Mexican teacher was gifted a decked out pickup truck by Nissan.

Since schools were forced to close last year in April, Aguascalientes special education teacher Nallely Esparza Flores, has been driving four hours a day to educate students one-on-one at their homes from her truck bed, outfitted with a small table and chairs.

News of her project spread across social media, eventually reaching the corporate offices of Nissan México. This week, the company surprised Esparza with the gift of a new pickup truck specially outfitted with a small open-air mobile classroom built into the truck’s bed.

“Today I feel like my labors and the help that we give each day to children and their families is unstoppable,” she said on Twitter Wednesday, sharing photos of her new vehicle. “My students no longer have to take classes in the full heat of the sun,” she said.

Nissan representatives said they decided to give Esparza the adapted NP300 model, 4-cylinder truck after hearing her story because she was “an example of perseverance and empathy.”

“When we learned about the incredible work of this teacher, we got together to discuss in what way we could contribute to this noble work,” said Armando Ávila, a vice president of manufacturing.

The mobile classroom is pretty legit and will allow Esparza to continue her good deed.

Esparza inside her new classroom.

The decked out Nissan pickup truck has three walls (the other is a retractable sheeting) and a ceiling made with translucent panels to protect teacher and student from the elements while letting in natural light.

It also has retractable steps for easy access to the classroom, electrical connections, a whiteboard and an easily disinfected acrylic table and benches that are foldable into the wall to provide space. The table also has a built-in plexiglass barrier to allow social distancing.

Access to education in Mexico is highly inequitable.

Esparza, like many teachers across the country, found that not all distance learning was equal. Many of her students in Cavillo were from poor families without internet access. So she used social media networks to keep in touch with such students via cell phones, but even that was not necessarily an available option for all — and not ideal. Finally, she decided to solve the problem by hitting the road in her pickup truck.

According to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), only 58% of students in Mexico had a home computer – the lowest percentage among all OECD countries. And only about one third (32%) of the school computers in rural schools in Mexico were connected to
the Internet, compared to more than 90% for schools located in urban areas.

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