For the Graves of the Unknown

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryAccording to a friend of mine who lives in El Paso, there is a small Texan town named Falfurrias. Located in Brooks County not far from the Mexican border, the town has a population of 5,297 (according to the 2000 U.S. Census). Over 92 percent of the town is either of Mexican or Latino origin. Of course, since they live so close to the Mexican border, my friend tells me, many, many Mexican migrants run through the sagebrush and cacti forest near the town. Even with the surveillance cameras and barriers erected by the U.S. Border Patrol, it does not stretch into the remote sagebrush. This is where smugglers take as many people across the area as possible.

The problem is that many get left behind and eventually die of thirst, starvation or exposure to the extreme heat. The U.S. Border Patrol tries to rescue as many as possible, but there are many bodies of unknown people who are still found days and even months after they died. Ninety-nine times out of one hundred, there are no identification papers on the bodies, and in many cases wild animals have torn the bodies so much apart that the remains cannot be identified. Still, many bodies may never be found so the count of the dead may in fact be higher. Last year, the sheriff’s office for Brooks County found over 129 dead migrants near Falfurrias alone, and this year the number may be higher. While my friend never saw the bodies of the dead, I was told that the bodies are buried in the town’s graveyard.

But the only markers for the dead are simply the words “unknown” and flowers. They can never be identified, and the worst part about it all is that they may be someone’s parent, children or relatives. No one may ever know if it is a family member who is dead and buried in Falfurrias, and no one may ever know if their loved one is dead or alive. Those bodies that can be identified are returned to Mexico for a proper burial, but this is rare. Despite the risk of injury, and even of death, it seems that there are still so many people, from either Mexico or Central America, who will risk their lives to come to the United States. They will risk everything, and they will in a growing number of cases lose everything. And those who love them may never know what happened to them. Those who are unlucky may end up as another nameless marker in the Falfurrias graveyard.

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