Omar Reyes has been lost for 10 days in the Chihuahuan desert, in northern Mexico. His family, distributed in Hidalgo and Sinaloa, keeps track by the minute. In the early morning of November 2-3, the 19-year-old became disoriented and separated from a group of migrants with whom he was trying to reach the United States from Ciudad Juárez. For days they had no news of him. This Wednesday, Reyes managed to contact one of his uncles by phone and in a voice note, sent by WhatsApp, he desperately asked for help: “I’m alive, but tired.” The young man affirmed in that message that the food could last three or four more days. Two have passed. Since then, they have not been able to communicate with him again. This Friday morning, members of the Army and the Beta Group for the protection of migrants have entered the desert in a search against the clock, so far without success.
At the end of October, Omar Reyes decided to leave the ranch where he lives with his grandparents, his mother and his five brothers in Santa María Amajac, in the municipality of San Salvador, in the State of Hidalgo, to go to try his luck in the other side of the border. It is not an unusual trip, migration is the day to day in this poor region of the center of the country, confirms his aunt Sheila Arias. From the family, they had already managed to cross one of his uncles, who lives near Los Angeles, in California, and several of his cousins. He decided that now it was his turn to seek an easier life. The young man, strong and corpulent, worked helping his grandparents in the fields: he carried alpacas and supported the planting and harvesting of chili peppers and tomatoes.
He left with a cousin and several countrymen to the north. “He did not go alone, because he barely knows how to read and write,” Arias tells EL PAÍS by phone. Reyes left school very young after a severe vision problem that prevented him from continuing to study. “He is a very serious boy, a hard worker. He is the oldest of six siblings, he never knew his father and his mother has a disability ”, says his aunt,“ he has helped the family since he was little ”.
The group arrived in Ciudad Juárez, right on the border with El Paso (Texas), in early November. After resting for a couple of nights, they decided to start the walk to the United States through the desert area. In the early morning, they were surprised by the US border patrol. The group dispersed so as not to be caught. Scared, Reyes, he moved alone and finally got lost. His cousin and other colleagues tried to find him for three hours at night. Failing to do so and for fear of being caught by migration, they continued the journey, leaving him behind. “The group was of about 10, but only a few arrived in the United States, the others we don’t know where they are. We are only sure that Omar is alone, ”says Arias.
A few days later — it took her cousin several days to meet his uncle to tell what had happened — the alarm bell reached the family. Many hours of silence followed, until this Wednesday. In the voice note sent, Reyes affirms that he has managed to reach a river and has been able to cool off and fill the trays he was carrying to transport water. “The food must have been rationed very well, because his cousin points out that they hadn’t been there for so many days,” says Arias. With the help of his uncle, the young man manages to send him the coordinates where he is. They pointed to an area of the desert near the municipality of Ojinaga, also in Chihuahua. More than 400 kilometers from the starting point in Ciudad Juárez. “When they validated the coordinates, they saw that he was only one hour from a town, but they could no longer tell him, or communicate with him again,” his aunt tells disconsolate. “We wanted to tell him that he was so close.”
Since then, the family has mobilized urgently. More than two days have passed without news and they think that food and water are running out for hours. This Friday morning, the Beta group for the protection of migrants and the army have entered the desert up to the coordinates sent by Omar Reyes. “He was no longer there, in his desperation he must have moved”, considers Arias.
Until tonight there was no trace of the boy. “They tell us that they are using a helicopter, but they are going to send a helicopter just for one person,” Arias says and cries. They are also in communication with the Chihuahua Secretary of Security to get drones to help in the search. “For our part, we only ask that please do not stop the search or the efforts,” says his aunt: “The next 72 hours are essential.”
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