Bodies Arrive Home in Mexico

From Associated Press

Raymundo Barreda took his son north for adventure and a better life. They were back home Thursday, their coffins sitting side by side under a tin roof.

Entire communities turned out before dawn to meet the 12 coffins holding sons, brothers and friends who died in the furnace-like Arizona desert last week while trying to evade the U.S. Border Patrol.

The men allegedly were abandoned by smugglers.

Twelve of the 14 who died came from the southern state of Veracruz. Seven of those were from villages in the coffee country around Atzalan, a county seat about 40 miles west of Veracruz port.

The two Barredas were from El Equimite, a mountain village made up of a dozen tin-roofed wood and concrete houses shaded by banana trees.

"It was something so difficult that we still cannot believe it," said Judith Barreda Herrera, Raymundo Sr.'s 68-year-old aunt.

Thursday was a day for grieving. Friends and relatives brought flowers into the dirt-floor room and scattered them over the simple coffins, which were covered with gray cloth. The funerals were scheduled for today.

El Equimite is surrounded by breathtaking beauty--hills of lush tropical forests, citrus groves and pastures strewn with flowers.

But it is poor in dollars. Former Mayor Filadelfo Landa, a brother-in-law of Raymundo Sr., said the average wage is about $4.20 to $5.50 a day.

Raymundo Barreda, 54, had once made the trip to the United States, picking vegetables in Mississippi and working at a cannery in Ohio.

"He was going to go again because his son had the dream of making that adventure," Landa said.

The younger Raymundo, who would have turned 16 on Wednesday, had been attending a high school about an hour's drive by dirt road from El Equimite. He dropped out to go to the U.S.

The group crossed the border into the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Arizona on May 19, drove for about 1 1/2 hours, then set out on foot. They were told it was a short walk to the highway.

Instead, they faced a 70-mile route known as "The Devil's Path" and temperatures that topped 110 degrees. Four days later, U.S. Border Patrol officers began finding the survivors and the dead.

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