Al Jazeera Close Up

Mexico’s Missing Sons | Close Up

The brave women tracking their missing loved ones.

On July 14, 2014, teacher Mirna Nereida received terrible news: Her son Roberto had gone missing – an all too common occurrence in the ultra-violent drug trafficking heartland of Sinaloa in northern Mexico where she lives.

With the police refusing to help, Mirna set off on a desperate mission to find her son, dead or alive. Gathering up family members and friends and armed with machetes and shovels, she began scouring the Sinaloan countryside for possible clandestine graves.

Finally, in August 2017, after three years of searching, she found Roberto’s body in an unmarked grave on a deserted hill-top.

This heartbreaking experience led her to establish a support group and search bloc called Las Rastreadoras del Fuerte – or The Women Trackers of El Fuerte. Since then, more than 100 women have joined the group, all hoping to find their missing loved ones, who they refer to as “treasures”. To date, the women have located more than 200 missing people.

Officially, there are approximately 60,000 desaparecidos (or missing people) in Mexico. But unofficially, this number could be double or more. For the authorities, missing people do not exist because no crime has been committed. As Mirna says: “They are neither dead or alive.” Additionally, she says, local police are in cahoots with criminal groups and are often involved in disappearances. Facing great risk in dangerous territory, Mirna, Juana and the brave women Rastreadoras are on their own as they search for their treasures. This is their story.

Director/producer/camera: John Dickie

Associate producer: Diego Ruelas

Coproducer and additional footage: Adrian Gonzalez Robles

Drone operator: Jorge Hernandez

Editor: Hasham Cheema

Translator: Eduardo Cantu

Producer: HyoJin Park

Producer: Ala Alhussan

Executive producer: Andrew Phillips

Special Thanks to all the women of Las Rastreadoras del Fuerte in Los Mochis, Sinaloa.