Lodi News-Sentinel

As Mexico hits grim milestone, families of the ‘disappeare­d’ seek to be heard

- Leila Miller

MEXICO CITY — Families took to WhatsApp to quietly spread word about the demonstrat­ion they were planning.

They met on a recent Sunday in Mexico City, gathering at a roundabout on Paseo de la Reforma, the capital’s signature boulevard.

A tree that had stood in the traffic circle, the Glorieta de la Palma, for a century had recently been removed. Soon the soil was studded with dozens of portraits.

They were faces of some of Mexico’s “disappeare­d,” people who walked out of their houses or offices one day to go about their lives and were never seen again.

The number officially listed as missing hit 100,000 this week.

Families of the disappeare­d say the magnitude of the crisis and the lingering perception that many victims were involved in crime have made the public numb to the issue.

“It’s easy to say 100,000 and so what?” said Grace Fernández, a spokespers­on for a national umbrella group representi­ng families of the disappeare­d. “Apart from us, who are part of the 100,000, no one else cares.”

Her brother, Dan Jeremeel, went missing in 2008 in Coahuila state at age 34 after he failed to show up to pick up his daughter from a friend’s house.

The country’s national registry of the disappeare­d goes back to 1964. Among the cases during the first couple of decades were hundreds of people on the political left whose disappeara­nces were later tied to the Mexican army.

The numbers skyrockete­d after Mexican President Felipe Calderón launched a war against the drug cartels in 2006. About 75% of the missing are men.

The disappeare­d come from a variety of background­s and include migrants and victims of human and sexual traffickin­g or cartel violence. Some are thought to be women who left home to escape domestic violence.

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