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Traces of Identity 

Like the little milagros found in churches, discarded objects often give clues to a migrant's identity and character.

Image credit: Michaela von Schatzberg

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Uploaded: Jul 29, 2004 | Post Comments

Image Archives: Stories: Michaela von Schatzberg

  • Like the little <i>milagros</i> found in churches, discarded objects often give clues to a migrant's identity and character.
  • Traces of Identity
  • Like the little milagros found in churches, discarded...
  • Michaela von Schatzberg
  • Jul 29, 2004
  • One of the volunteers returned with an armload of pillowcases, embroidered with sentimental messages such as, "Recuerdo," "Besame Amor Mio," and "Pienso en Ti." They had been ironed and carefully folded. Were they a gift, or something that someone intended to sell for a quick buck?
  • Traces of Identity
  • One of the volunteers returned with an armload...
  • Michaela von Schatzberg
  • Jul 29, 2004
  • This Styrofoam cup was engraved with passages from the Bible. The literal translations: <i>He who dwells in the shelter of the most high will die in the shadow of the Almighty. </i>--Psalms 91:1. <i>The Lord is my shepherd. I need nothing. --</i>Psalms 23:1
  • Traces of Identity
  • This Styrofoam cup was engraved with passages from...
  • Michaela von Schatzberg
  • Jul 29, 2004
  • For those who are daring enough, the Sasabe general store stocks bottled water and survival goods. Like the nearby adobe dwelling, it poses a major risk for undocumented crossers if they use it. The store is only yards from the manned border crossing.
  • Traces of Identity
  • For those who are daring enough, the Sasabe...
  • Michaela von Schatzberg
  • Jul 29, 2004
  • Journalist Richard Callaghan is overcome with emotion as he discovers a site indicating that infants were traveling with the crossers. He later filed a story with a Stockholm newspaper on his experiences as a member of the cleanup party.
  • Traces of Identity
  • Journalist Richard Callaghan is overcome with emotion as...
  • Michaela von Schatzberg
  • Jul 29, 2004
  • A large number of cosmetics and personal hygiene products were found at the campsites, indicating that appearance was a high priority.
  • Traces of Identity
  • A large number of cosmetics and personal hygiene...
  • Michaela von Schatzberg
  • Jul 29, 2004
  • The staging area for the migrants' last dash to the United States was strung out for several miles along a dry wash near State Highway 286, north of Sasabe.
  • Traces of Identity
  • The staging area for the migrants' last dash...
  • Michaela von Schatzberg
  • Jul 29, 2004
  • Most migrant deaths occur when ground temperatures begin to reach 140 degrees. "Deaths are directly correlated to the deployment strategy of the Border Patrol and the unavailability of water," says Robin Hoover, of Humane Borders. Hoover points out that ground temperatures in the western Sonoran Desert may reach 140 degrees well before the air temperature reaches 100. People require one quart of water per hour to survive in the heat of the desert--more than most migrants can carry. The volunteers found long sticks that were used as shoulder yokes to carry several bottles at a time.
  • Traces of Identity
  • Most migrant deaths occur when ground temperatures begin...
  • Michaela von Schatzberg
  • Jul 29, 2004
  • Examining the contents of a new Nike sports bag, a volunteer found a Mexican airline ticket stub. The owner was from Michoacn. There were also a miniature set of baseball cards and a bottle of inexpensive men's cologne. A pair of men's combat boots was found placed beneath a mesquite tree. They may have been left for use by the next crosser.
  • Traces of Identity
  • Examining the contents of a new Nike sports...
  • Michaela von Schatzberg
  • Jul 29, 2004
  • Not far away, someone found a little booklet containing <i>The Migrant's Prayer</i>. The translation reads: "I recognize that I have defied human laws. They arrest me for crossing a line that men have drawn as a frontier. I ask that you give me serenity to accept these conflicts of life and the necessary strength to overcome them."
  • Traces of Identity
  • Not far away, someone found a little booklet...
  • Michaela von Schatzberg
  • Jul 29, 2004
  • All clues to identity were placed in envelopes to be returned to the Mexican Consulate in Tucson. Each year, scores of unidentified bodies are found in the desert. These documents picked up by volunteers may help to identify the missing.  These baby bottles, along with lip balm and a book of matches, were found next to a man's suit jacket--hardly the type of clothing a prospective day laborer would wear.
  • Traces of Identity
  • All clues to identity were placed in envelopes...
  • Michaela von Schatzberg
  • Jul 29, 2004
  • Migrants pass through the same campsites in successive waves, and there may be no connection between the traces left behind. Samaritan Patrol picks up usable clothing, backpacks and shoes and takes them to a shelter in Altar, Sonora, the jumping-off point for many of the migrants making the trip north. Not far from the crossing, this abandoned adobe house might offer tempting refuge, but it is checked daily by the Border Patrol.
  • Traces of Identity
  • Migrants pass through the same campsites in successive...
  • Michaela von Schatzberg
  • Jul 29, 2004

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