Manual to unearth barbarism

This is how these women unearth barbarism using the footprints left by the violence in Michoacán.

Tracker women. Tacámbaro.- Imagine a place, but not just any place, a dark green place, a place that has a certain number of characteristics that help the crimes committed there to remain buried.

First of all, it should be a place that allows you to go in and out quickly without being seen, even better if you can get there by car, to avoid the fatigue of carrying a body.

Families always remember that most criminals are too lazy and want to work as little as possible; as soon as they come into contact with the field they need to start thinking like murderers.

There must also be tall grass around it or it has to be hidden in some way to prevent someone from tripping over the clandestine grave, the last place families would like to find their missing relatives.

Also, the ground should be soft, the trackers do not believe that any criminal will dig a grave if they have to use their pick and shovel for a long time, that is another mental note that comes to their mind as they move through the field.

And whose place is this? The most likely thing is that it does not have an owner, it may belong to the federal government, the state, to the ejidatarios or community members, a private property attracts eyes where no one wants to see, unless the ownership of the land is of the criminals themselves.

Once a place meets these characteristics, it is no longer just any other place, it becomes a clue for the trackers, a point on the map, a possible positive, the place suspected of hiding barbarism: the bodies of the disappeared people that criminals took away.

Places like this abound in the Sierra del Balcón in the Tierra Caliente region, the name by which the magical town of Tacámbaro, in the state of Michoacán, is known, the place where the new Michoacan trackers went.

They arrive there in trucks belonging to the Michoacán Police and the National Guard, first they cross fields of corn and sugar cane on dirt roads that test the capacity of vehicles with four-wheel drive.

The cars stop at the entrance to a paddock on the side of a small hill, where officials from the Tacámbaro City Council are already waiting for them, who treat the search without formality.
The cars stop at the entrance to a paddock on the side of a small hill, where officials from the Tacámbaro City Council are already waiting. They treat the search without much formality.

After a wave of accolades from the government agencies involved, they begin the work they came to do: search for the bodies of those who disappeared as a result of the violence that is going through the state of Michoacán.

The first place they searched is a slope where the water falls in times of rain, the ground is soft and full of stones that are washed away by the current of the stream, which at that time is dry but could be filled with any drizzle

In the middle of the area there is a tree with a crooked trunk that protrudes from the slope, the tree still has a piece of white cable tied, the criminals must have taken it from some electrical appliance and put it on the ankle of a man they had kidnapped.

When the police arrived, the man was kneeling scratching the soft ground and moving stones with a stick, he had barely managed to dig about 10 centimeters from the ground that was to become his own grave.

The man lived to tell the tale, his captors ordered him to dig with his bare hands until the hole was deep enough for him, but before he was done the police arrived.

Safe and in the custody of the authorities, he said that the kidnappers use this technique all the time with their victims, that is why the trackers believe that there may be more bodies in the place, where the municipalities of Turicato and Tacámbaro are adjacent.

Daughters and sons appearing more than once

Patricia has 147 children, but she only knows one of them, his name is Pablo Sánchez López, and at the age of 24 a group of ministerial police officers took him away in March 2013, since then he has not seen him again.

She never met the other 146, but she knows everything about them, they are her adopted children, the sons and daughters of other mothers who cannot look for them, Patricia took the baton of being their adoptive mother to continue looking for them whether they are alive or dead.

After participating in brigades in Sinaloa, Guerrero and Veracruz, Patricia López Rodríguez already knows the characteristics that the terrain must have to begin looking for the bodies of the disappeared who were buried in clandestine graves.

“You have to look for removed earth, the color change is immediately noticeable, the earth has different colors by layers and when you make a hole you remove different earth, you have to pay close attention to those little details that help us locate a clandestine grave”, Patricia told her fellow searches.

This search in Tacámbaro is the third to be organized in Michoacán, regardless of the searches that were carried out during the arrival of the two caravans of relatives of disappeared people.

It all began on June 19, 2020 in the municipality of Hidalgo, where the trackers searched the land near the towns of El Potrero, Janamoro and Agostitlán, as well as the local garbage dump in search of Homero Gómez González, the manager of the Sanctuary of Rosario dedicated to receiving the monarch butterfly.

The search gave no results, nor did they find anything on the banks of the “Río Chiquito” river, in the interior of the city of Morelia, where they searched for Josué Salomón and Diego Israel, who disappeared on Sunday, January 26, 2020 in the state capital.

They took the K-9 group to the river bank, which deployed two dogs to try to locate a place where the remains of the missing youths could be, however, they had no luck and now their relatives are still looking for them alive or dead .

Guided by the testimony of the man who was saved from being buried by his captors, Indalecio Pedrisco Pacheco contacted Patricia Sánchez’s group to carry out a new search in the area.

Pedrisco is not only an official of the State Executive Commission for Attention to Victims (CEEAV) but he also has a missing brother and since then he has participated with Patricia’s collective called “Family on your Search, Michoacán”.

Coordination with authorities allows the deployment of several dozen elements of the National Guard and the Michoacán Police, as well as the Search Commission and the CEEAV to try to locate clandestine graves in the neighboring region of Tacámbaro and Turicato on June 1, 2020.

That is where Patricia arrived, along with mothers who accompany her from other groups such as “Where are the disappeared?”. They are the only ones who work directly with local authorities trying to locate clandestine graves in Michoacán.

“The fact of searching renews me, it gives me the strength to keep looking, I know that we are going to find someone, even if it is not my son, because that gives me the strength to keep looking, it is as if I found my son over and over again once, ”assured Patricia.

Use all the senses

The story of the man who was saved from being buried is the first stage of the search, everything is about listening to the information and crossing it with the data about the area. The municipal police assure that it is a preferred place for criminals to dump the bodies of people shot to death and with signs of violence.

Once in the area, it is first necessary to observe, follow a trail to that place where we think and look for the signs with our eyes, the earth must be removed, the ground must not be even and it must seem that a hole was made a short time ago.

Then it is necessary to touch the ground with the hands, feel if it is soft or hard and then bring a rod made specifically to find pits; the mothers load their body weight against the T-shaped rod and hope that the ground will not provide resistance.

If the metal sinks, it is necessary to remove it again and bring the iron point to the nose in search of any rotten smell, the nose of the seekers by that time has already become used to dealing with death.

At that moment, Tomas arrives, the Belgian shepherd that the police use to find traces of missing persons, Tomas with his nose detects what is imperceptible to the trackers and checks each space indicated by his K-9 trainers.

The dog sniffs the spot, scratches the ground with his front paws and sinks his black nose into the holes made by the metal rods, then turns to his superiors and offers a playful look that contrasts with the work he came to do.

If Tomás begins to get distracted by other smells that catch his attention, that means there is nothing in the place. That’s when the taste comes in, because a bad taste in the mouth for families is something that they doesn’t get out easily, the hope of finding something goes through the same hole that they dug with the rod.

Three searched places had the characteristics that are sought when you want to unearth barbarism, but none of them fulfilled the most important requirement of all: hiding under their land one of the 32 thousand disappeared in Mexico or one of the 147 children that Patricia is still looking for.

The next time the Michoacan trackers embarked on a search, things were different. It was August 20, 2020 and the groups found a decade-old grave on the Ticuiz beach, near San Telmo in the municipality of Coahuayana.

There they located a grave with skeletal remains in what became the first positive search that Michoacan trackers did on their own; on this new occasion the work manual of the seekers worked and barbarism could be unearthed.

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