“Maria Albertina Iraheta Guardado was 37 when she decided to leave the Dos Bocas community in Santa…”

Maria Albertina Iraheta Guardado was 37 when she decided to leave the Dos Bocas community in Santa Rosa de Aguán, Honduras, and emigrate to the Bronx to meet up with her sister, who works as a house cleaner. She wanted to send money back to her mother and help support her six children. Some of them are already adults. But two—a nine-year-old and a 14-year-old—still live with Iraheta Guardado’s mother.

According to the mother and sister, who spoke with me on the phone, Iraheta Guardado also wanted to leave because of a growing weariness with the violence that plagues Honduras, the country with the highest murder rate in the world, as of 2012. Several years ago her husband was fatally shot by stray bullets in a cross fire, says Iraheta Guardado’s mother, Maria Amelia Guardado: “Like everyone else here, he was just murdered, because that’s what happens here.”

The mother learned from the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team that her daughter crossed the border near Brownsville, Tex., on June 15, 2012, along with a group of other migrants and a human smuggler. She had walked for two days before fainting and being left behind near Falfurrias.

Identifying Iraheta Guardado took the combined efforts of forensic anthropologists, human-rights organizations, foreign consulates and law-enforcement agencies. Her mother then waited anxiously for her daughter’s remains to be returned; they had been delayed because of a bureaucratic snafu over a death certificate. Finally, in early April 2015, they arrived and were returned to the family for burial.

A story from Scientific American — alas, behind a paywall, documenting the wonderful work that my colleague Lori Baker, along with her students and co-workers, has been doing for years to identify the remains of people who have died trying to get to the U.S., and then to give them a proper burial. Serious forensic anthropology; serious Christian service.

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