Sep 12, 2012

Sifting for answers in a mass grave in Tapachula, Mexico

By Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times

September 12, 2012

TAPACHULA, Mexico — With the first light of day, a team of investigators using shovels and brushes begins picking through the red dirt of the Garden Pantheon cemetery, a ramshackle resting place where a mass grave sits cordoned off by yellow police tape.

Black and blue tarps (and one advertising Coca-Cola) shield the work from the intense sun and prying eyes. Slowly, over the next weeks, the team will exhume dozens of bodies that have been dumped, nameless, in the mass pauper's grave toward the back of the cemetery, in this city near Mexico's border with Guatemala.

Some of the bodies are skeletons; others, more complete. Some died violent deaths at the hands of very bad guys; others succumbed in more mundane ways: disease, car wrecks, exposure.

Standing at the center of the operation is Mercedes "Mimi" Doretti, a forensic specialist who has pretty much seen it all. Tall with long, dark hair, the 53-year-old Argentina-born single mom has dug up bodies for two decades, from Latin America to the killing fields of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

She is fiercely protective of her charges, taciturn with outsiders, sympathetic but reserved with survivors. More than 400 people with missing relatives have given DNA samples, mostly from strands of hair, which will eventually be used in the hope of identifying the bodies. Read more. 

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