It's too soon to draw any conclusions about where the 49 people found dead in northern Mexico near the city of Monterrey yesterday, their headless bodies dumped on a highway, may have come from.
But there's been some speculation that they could have been from outside the area. In an on-air interview this morning with KPCC's Madeleine Brand, Reuters reporter and author Ioan Grillo mentioned a lack of people coming forward to report loved ones missing, and how this has "raised a question if they were from this area, or outside, possibly migrants, possibly the countryside."
Spray-painted near the crime scene was a letter "Z," suggesting involvement of the Zetas drug cartel. The discovery was the third in a string of recent massacres in the area tied to a war between the Zetas and a rival drug gang.
Some of the Monterrey victims may never be positively identified, as their hands and feet were also cut off, and some of the bodies were decomposed. But speculation over whether they were from "outside" isn't unwarranted. Migrants have been killed in drug-related violence before; the Zetas also happen to be the same drug gang suspected in the mass murder of 72 migrants in 2010 in the border state of Tamaulipas. Those victims, mostly migrants from Central and South America bound for the United States, died just a stone's throw from the Texas border.
If any of the 49 victims found near Monterrey did turn out to be migrants, a violent fate wouldn't be a stretch. The growing involvement of drug cartels in human smuggling over the years has made the clandestine northbound passage to the U.S. increasingly risky (and a possible factor in dissuading some people from coming). From an NPR report last year:
While the overall number of migrants trying to cross illegally into the U.S. has dropped dramatically over the past few years, the trip has grown more dangerous, as some of Mexico's most brutal drug cartels now earn millions of dollars each year from the extortion and smuggling of migrants. Last year, hundreds of migrants went missing or were killed in Mexico, and more than 20,000 were kidnapped.
Shortly after the Tamaulipas massacre, several writers and others put together a tribute site, 72migrantes.com, with contributed essays, photos, music and a "virtual altar." Several of the essays appeared translated into English last year in the New York Review of Books. Some of the essays were about specific individuals, with photographs of them. But many of the Tamaulipas victims were never identified, and there were essays dedicated to them also.
From an essay by writer Myriam Moscona for an unidentified victim, a woman:
Te pido perdón por no reconocer tu edad, por no poderte decir María, Glenda, Yannet, Magdalena, Juana, Asunción, Gaby. Te levanto un altar de flores por si alguien llegara a identificarte en el cielo.
In English: "I ask your forgiveness for not knowing your age, for not being able to call you María, Glenda, Yannet, Magdalena, Juana, Asunción, Gaby. I will make you an altar of flowers in case someone comes to recognize you in heaven."