Mexican mothers find mass grave near resort town close to Arizona border

Women with the Mexican group Searching Mothers of Sonora, joined by state investigators, dig up a mass grave with the remains of 13 people on Oct. 24, 2019, outside the popular beach town of Rocky Point. (Photo: Courtesy of Sonora Attorney General's Office)

TUCSON, Ariz. – A group of Mexican mothers searching for missing loved ones uncovered a mass grave with the remains of 13 people buried near the popular Mexican beach resort town of Puerto Peñasco, commonly known in Arizona as Rocky Point.

The women, part of the group Madres Buscadoras de Sonora, or Searching Mothers of Sonora, located the grave on Thursday along a state highway east of Puerto Peñasco, according to information from Sonora’s Attorney General’s Office.

Staff from the office, as well as forensic workers from the state’s criminal investigations unit, joined the mothers in their search.

Inside the mass grave, the women found a total of 13 bodies, fully clothed. It’s unclear yet who they are or how long they had been buried.

“The Attorney General’s Office, which has been joining the collective of women searching, recovered the remains for transportation and their eventual analysis that will allow for the identification of these deceased persons,” the state agency said in a statement.

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At least one of the bodies was still in a stage of decomposition, meaning it was buried recently. The remaining 12 bodies were largely skeletal remains, indicating they had been there for a longer period of time. At least two of them could be women, the state added.

The group has not responded to requests for comment on the discovery. But a post on their Facebook page from Wednesday alluded to the discovery of the mass grave in Rocky Point on that day.

A second post from Thursday showed pictures of the women and forensic workers digging up the grave in the middle of a remote desert area, surrounded by Mexican Federal Police officers and National Guard troops.

The Searching Mothers of Sonora describe themselves as “mothers searching for missing persons or human remains, to bring peace to other families that are going through the same pain,” according to their Facebook page.

“We are not looking for the perpetrators, we just want back what was taken from us one day,” their description said.

A group of women and Sonora investigators dig up a mass grave with 13 bodies near Rocky Point on Oct. 24, 2019, as federal police and National Guard soldiers look on. (Photo: Courtesy of Sonora Attorney General's Office)

The attorney general’s office encouraged the relatives of missing loved to file reports and submit their DNA to a database so they can better identify the remains found.

Puerto Peñasco, located about a three-hour drive southwest of Phoenix, has been a relatively safe haven in the past few years, in an area that is otherwise known as a busy, and very profitable drug and human smuggling route into Arizona.

But there has been an occasional cartel-related gunfight over the years. The city was the scene of especially heavy fighting among criminal groups and the Mexican military in the early 2010’s.

Recently, the Sonoran state government, with the help of Arizona officials, has invested greatly in improving safety in and around the beach resort town, as well as the main highway from Arizona leading to the city.

The city is a key source of tourism revenue for the state, but an increasing number of visitors come from Arizona, making it a priority for both states.

Follow Rafael Carranza on Twitter: @RafaelCarranza.

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