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Story Publication logo July 7, 2023

Telling the Story of 'Hasta Encontrarlos'

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A short documentary depicts mothers' tireless search for children who have gone missing in Mexico.

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The film poster for Hasta Encontrarlos, a short documentary by Jean Chapiro Uziel. Image by Orly Bross.

To watch a trailer for Hasta Encontrarlos, click here.

Since 1962, close to 295,000 people have disappeared in Mexico, and over 111,000 have not been found, according to the Comisión Nacional de Búsqueda [National Search Commission] of the Mexican government. Thousands of people across the country are still looking for their loved ones, including mothers who will not rest until they find their children.

Three years after her daughter, Rubi, went missing in Orizaba, Veracruz, Mexico, Araceli Salcedo started a collective in her own community. Today, there are over 350 members in the group, and 90% of them are mothers. Together, they have successfully found 15 people alive, returned 71 bodies, and spotted 53 clandestine graves in the past year. However, most of these women have not found their children. 

One of the coping and healing mechanisms that Salcedo created for the mothers in her collective are muñecos sanadores or “healing dolls.” The dolls represent each of their children and serve as a tool to help them navigate the void that their loved ones left behind.

I met Salcedo at a New York City Women’s Day event in March 2022. I briefly spoke with her before she stood up in front of the New York Public Library and began telling her painful story to a crowd full of strangers and onlookers who only stopped briefly to get a sense of what was going on. Salcedo spoke from a place of vulnerability and courage. 

Growing up in Mexico, I was taught that one should avoid talking about missing people. It’s a dangerous topic that everyone knows about, but does not discuss. I’d never heard anyone speak so honestly and frankly about the topic or their personal story as Salcedo did. I was so moved by her courage that I promised I would help tell her story and that of the other families in her collective.

 As a Mexican journalist and documentary filmmaker, I saw it as my duty to tell this story. Ultimately, Hasta Encontrarlos seeks to help raise awareness and increase visibility not only for the people who go missing but also for those who are left looking on their own.

Editor's note: The number of people who have disappeared in Mexico and not been found was updated on July 16, 2023.

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