Wednesday, January 23, 2013

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The items shown above were recovered from the person of a Guatemalan man whose dead, decomposing body was found in the Sonoran Desert in July of 2010. The man had presumably traveled to Mexico and tried to cross into the United States. Like many people who attempt this border crossing, he died along the way. The few personal effects were not enough to identify him (the I.D. card is fake), and his remains have never been positively identified.

I learned all this in a fascinating article written by Robin Reineke, a cultural anthropologist who's part of a forensics team that tries to identify migrants' bodies found in the Sonoran Desert. The desert heat renders the bodies unrecognizable within a few days, so personal effects are often the only viable clues to the migrants' identities. It's a very powerful example of the Permanent Record ethos of tracking down the stories behind found objects.

The photos accompanying that article were taken by Jonathan Hollingsworth. Turns out he recently published a whole book of similar photos, all showing personal effects from deceased migrants. I haven't gotten a copy yet, but it's on my list.

(Special thanks to Kirsten Hively for letting me know about this one.)

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