Miriam Báez Murillo is a rarity in Mexico. The fact that her son was forcibly ‘disappeared’ isn’t rare at all—there are more than 37,000 people on the official register of disappeared persons.
What is rare about Murillo is that she is ‘lucky’ enough to have actually found the remains of her son, José Manuel Herrera Báez, who disappeared at the age of 26 on May 27, 2017.
Criminal gangs, police, and the army, sometimes at the behest of local authorities, have been abducting people with virtual impunity in frightening numbers since the country’s drug war was militarized in 2006.
Murillo is one of the less than one per cent of families of people on the ‘disappeared’ registry who have had the remains of their loved ones found and formally identified.
That’s 340 people, or 0.91 per cent, of the 37,485 on the official list.
Báez disappeared after he was allegedly arrested by municipal police at the home of his girlfriend, in the city of Mazatlán in the northwestern Pacific state of Sinaloa.
His remains were found about six months after he disappeared, in a field outside the city by a ‘colectivo’ on one of their búsquedas, or searches.
There are dozens of such groups across Mexico comprised of kin of the disappeared. They search for their lost family members, they say, while the authorities do nothing.
“The people who find their loved ones in this way, we cannot understand the immensity of it, because we always have hope of finding them alive,” Murillo said, recalling the day she heard her son had been found.
“The sadness is enormous and that’s something we have to cope with.”