Donde estan? The question amid all the shoes in the picture is Where are they? This is the cry of those who search for and mourn the missing who are the casualties of Mexico’s drug war.

But calculating just how many are missing is a bureaucratic–and political–war of its own. The Emilia Cruz mystery series captures it in fiction. But it’s a fact.

missing in Mexico shoes of the lost

The numbers game

Many reports claim that as many as 80,000 people have gone missing over the last 10 years in Mexico, victims of drug cartel violence and corrupt officials. In 2012, CNN reported, in an article subtitled “Bodies for Billions” that just since 2007, 48,000 people had died dead and another 5,000 were missing, even while admitting that it was hard to be firm on the numbers as mass graves kept being found.

BBC reported in October 2012 that “According to figures released earlier this year by Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission, 16,000 bodies remain unidentified and a total of 24,000 people are missing.”

If you were missing: Posters of the missing. Picture courtesy of CBS news.

Posters of the missing. Picture courtesy of CBS news.

In early 2013, CBS news reported that shortly after President Pena Nieto moved into Los Pinos, a new list was created with data from local prosecutors across Mexico, including information about people reported missing for any reason during the previous administration. The new list proclaimed that slightly over 26,000 people were missing. The controversial list didn’t include information collected after November 2012.

Most recently, AP and ABC News reported that “Mexico has recalculated the number of people who have gone missing since the start of the country’s drug war in 2006, saying a total of 8,000 are unaccounted for.” Wow, what a big change. If the government spokesperson is to be believed, 14,700 of the missing from the previous administration have been found alive and about 750 have been confirmed dead. The big discrepancy between this year and last is that “people who had filed missing persons reports didn’t update them when their relative re-appeared.”

If you went missing: Pictures of missing outside a mortuary in Acapulco. Picture courtesy of BBC.

Pictures of missing outside a mortuary in Acapulco. Picture courtesy of BBC.

Las Perdidas

In the Emilia Cruz series, the issue of those missing in Mexico is kept alive in Emilia’s binder of women who have gone missing in the Acapulco area. It’s a small way of shedding light on the issue.

In the mystery series, Emilia’s log of the missing is a binder of information on the missing women she calls Las Perdidas. (The Lost Ones) There are more than 40 names in the binder and one name represents all of them: Lila Jimenez Lata. Lila is a teen who ran away from home. Her trail will alternate between hot and cold throughout the series as Emilia hunts for her.

If you went missing: Pictures of the missing on the side of a bus. Picture courtesy of Reuters.

Pictures of the missing on the side of a bus. Picture courtesy of Reuters.

Who else is looking

Last year I wrote about a new agency created to look for the missing  by Mexico’s Attorney General.  The weight of the issue called for some action–in 40 percent of the disappearance cases tracked by Amnesty International, Mexican law enforcement officials failed to open a criminal inquiry, according to Amnesty International

But the private sector is bringing the most attention to the plight of the missing. Rallies, posters, press attention, websites–these are the tools available to grieving families. Will websites such as http://missingfrommexico.com/ help? With enough attention and participation, anything is possible.

If you went missing: tortilla wrapper

Tortilla wrapper featuring image of missing persons. Picture courtesy of BBC News bbc.co.uk

In other news

The third Emilia Cruz mystery novel, DIABLO NIGHTS, is slated for a late June release. Subscribe to my updates and find out exactly when it will be available.

In the meantime, check out this blog post on Padre Pro, the Mexican Catholic martyr who helped inspire the DIABLO NIGHTS plot. His religious relic will lead Emilia into a labyrinth of drug smuggling and revenge killings. At the same time, a case involving a dead drug dealer on a luxury cruise ship is snatched away from Emilia and her partner Franco Silvio before they can make an arrest. Complications include a rookie detective, a series of stalkers, and a secret Emilia refuses to share with the man in her life, hotel manager Kurt Rucker. Will Emilia need a prayer to survive?

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