Tears for the Desaparecidos

Some reporters take pride in being able to get their interview subjects to cry on camera. It’s the dramatic moment in the story that hooks the viewer with raw emotion.
I’m always torn when someone cries in an interview. It makes the storytelling easier for me. And it means this person trusts me with their grief or anger or confusion, enough to show their tears. But all I can give them in return is my sincere interest in their story, my commitment to be true to their story, and my compassion.
But with the families of desaparecidos in Jalisco, it’s just too easy. They all cry for me, and I’m not even asking hard questions. They have plenty to cry about and it’s just too raw. Their family members have been “disappeared,” and their bodies are missing, maybe lying frozen in the morgue for months, or in an unmarked grave.
For sharing their pain so that I can better understand and report, I’m forever grateful to these people:
  • The disillusioned young man whose railed against forensic authorities and prosecutors who he believes don’t want to know the truth about unidentified bodies in the morgue, including his nephew, who was more like his brother. He cried thinking about his elderly mother who’s in total denial, and prefers to pretend that the young man she raised just migrated to the States without saying goodbye.
  • The organizer with Por Amor a Ellxs, a group of family members of desaparecidos. She says her brother was kidnapped and collects drawings and sketches in a notebook which gets passed around the group so family members might be able to identify a piece of clothing or a tattoo. Forensic authorities have failed to identify hundreds of human remains, leaving these groups to do the work in an ad hoc fashion.
  • A middle-aged mother who doesn’t know how to read or write, but visited the morgue a couple times a week looking for her son’s body. She says she doesn’t care if he got mixed up with a bad crowd. He came from her womb, and only God can judge. But she’s angry that it took so long to find him, and is grateful that he’s finally come to rest in a humble crypt in the Panteon de Guadalajara.
Raquel Maria Dillon, Fall 2018 Guadalajara Reporting Fellow

Maria del Transito Zamora sits next to photos of her son and grandson who disappeared in May 2018, while reporter Raquel Maria Dillon takes her photo.