Monday, June 20, 2005

The Disappeared: Families of Missing Migrants Live in Limbo

News Feature,
Leslie Berestein,
Enlace, Jun 15, 2005

VILLA MORELOS, Mexico, The soft crunch of tires on dirt often rouses Mar燰 L鏕ez from her sleep.

Her body tenses with nervous anticipation as she props herself up in the dark, listening for a familiar footstep, a familiar voice.

Sometimes she hears people talking in the distance, or a dog barking. Then the tires continue rolling down the road, toward the center of this small country town, and there is silence. She lies in a room her son built, unable to sleep.

"I keep hoping there is going to be a knock on the door, and that it's going to be him," says Mar燰, a diminutive widow who habitually wipes away tears with the edge of her dark shawl. "That it's my son, and he's come home."But her son never knocks.

Amparo Calvillo L鏕ez was last seen lying in the southern Arizona desert in September 2003, unable to wake up after having fallen ill the day before. The chunky, 30-year-old father of three was trying to get back to Orlando, Fla., where he worked at an ice cream factory.

He had taken three weeks off to attend his father's funeral.Mexican authorities, who coordinated a search for him in the United States after his mother and wife reported him missing, presume that he is dead.But there is no proof, no body to bury, at least no body that anyone has identified. So his case remains open. And against her better judgment, Mar燰 waits.

In Mexico and other parts of Latin America, people such as Amparo are referred to as migrantes desaparecidos, migrants who have disappeared. Amid the raging debate over illegal immigration, they are but a little-known, tragic footnote.

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