The search for more bodies continued at an illegal mass gravesite in central Mexico in an area known as a cartel battleground where 59 bodies have already been found.
The Associated Press reported that while bigger secret gravesites have been uncovered in other parts of Mexico, this discovery is the largest illegal mass burial site in Guanajuato — the state with the largest number of homicides in the country — to date.
An empty lot almost a half-mile from the city’s main square next to the Lerma River and a park is where the site was found.
According to Quintana, a tip from families looking for missing relatives helped lead to the site. Searchers believe more bodies may be buried there. The objective is to identify any bodies found and return them to their loved ones.
The “sad and terrible discovery” included many young victims and a significant number of women, Quintana said.
Fifty-nine bodies were recovered over last week from 52 pits at the Salvatierran property. The army and National Guard provided security for the excavations after the area was deemed highly dangerous.
The most troubling aspect of the gravesite is its location: the site is in the town of Salvatierra, not an uninhabited area in the countryside.
Karla Quintana, the head of the official National Search Commission, said in an interview with W Radio that the residents of Salvatierra must have known the bodies were being buried there.
“This place is in a neighborhood,” Quintana said. “To get there you have to pass homes, you have to pass streets … the people know.”
The police eventually closed off access to the site. Leticia Valencia, the mother of a missing man, hoped from outside the police perimeter that she might be allowed to enter to find her son.
“What I want to do is to be allowed to go inside, to see if I can recognize any of the clothing they have excavated,” Valencia.
José Manuel Fabián Valencia, Valencia’s son, reportedly disappeared in 2018 with a friend.
Valencia saw photos of the site’s excavations circulating on social media, including an image of a boot that she believes could belong to her son.
“He could be here,” she said.
The Jalisco cartel and local gangs backed by the Sinaloa cartel have used Guanajuato as the scene of deadly turf battles.
The deployment of the National Guard in Guanajuato has helped authorities reach areas previously inaccessible, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said, calling the situation in the state “very difficult.”