Detention Uncategorized

Migrant Mass Grave at Holtville in Words and Pictures

The following email from Jay Johnson-Castro was received shortly before midnight Feb. 11, 2007. We have posted a photo album of the grave site that is described below–gm

Hola folks…

On the first day of Marcha Migrante II’s Border Caravan with the Enrique Morones entourage…we set out to demonstrate the amount of death that is a result of an immigration policy that is designed to do exactly what it is doing. It is not a “failed” policy. It is a successful policy. It is a policy to retain the Latin American and poor people from around the world in their poverty so that their poverty can be exploited. It is a policy to foment hysteria, prejudice and fear. If a desperate person tries to leave their poverty they will either be treated as criminals or dye trying to become Americans. If they are caught, they become a vehicle for private corporations to make obscene profits off of them…while they are treated like cockroaches.
Just two days ago…on Feb. 9th…three immigrants near Tucson , AZ were killed by gunman…and others kidnapped. One of those killed was a 15-y-o girl. In the Southwest (CA, AZ and NM) the Minutemen roam as vigilantes with impunity. Just yesterday the Minutemen announced that they would hunt down “illegals” in stores, apartments and wherever they could…right here on the Texas border in McAllen . While city, county and state police would not enter the jurisdiction of the Federal Government…the Minutemen seem to have a secret blessing.

With all of that being said…our Border Caravan’s first stop the day we started was in a rural town in southern California just 12 miles east of El Centro . Holtville, CA is in Imperial County . What we visited was merely being referred to as a cemetery of unidentified immigrants who supposedly died crossing the desert in the quest of their American dream.

All the time that I was there…I felt uncomfortable with the visual evidence. I grew up in Alaska where my father and I took 40 acres of woods and by working the earth for several years, we turned them into productive oat fields. We used every kind of equipment that one would use…from bulldozers to tractors, plows, disks and root rakes. While I was trying to understand the existence of this cemetery…I looked at the characteristics of the soil. You can read the soil. And what I read in this cemetery is far more morbid than what we’re dealing with at Hutto…or even the border wall.

Before discussing the soil characteristics…let me share a few features of the cemetery itself. First of all…the Holtville cemetery is a rather nice rural cemetery. Nicely mowed lawns, neatly maintained grave sites surrounded by old trees with stately character. There were flowers on many of the tombs or near the headstones. Not knowing what I was about to discover, I had a picture taken with Javier Aparisi, a BBC Mundo journalist who I’d come to know over the past four months because of my other activities. That picture is the first in the series that I’m sending you. I didn’t realize at the time that it would be the only one that showed the “Holtville” Cemetery…the community’s “public” cemetery. What lay behind the public cemetery is the subject of this e-mail.

The other cemetery….the one we were about to discover is hidden from the public view. It’s really a secret cemetery with no identification naming it. Here’s a few basic details that we learned. According to local folks, there are no public burials. The victims are buried around 2am or 3am…by women “slaves”. There is no evidence of a dignified burial with some kind of ceremony.

No one knows how many are really buried there. No one seems to know if they are…or how many are…men, women or children. Although one knowledgeable Latina says that there is a cemetery in San Diego with nothing but unidentified children in it.

No one knows if the buried persons are in caskets or body bags…or. No one knows whether autopsies were performed. No one knows exactly where the actual graves are. No one knows who pays for the burial…or how much.

I suspect that it’s similar to Hutto…in that the Federal government has cut a deal with the county to place their victims in a relatively unknown rural city. As we investigate this…we’ll let you know.

You have a series of pictures of this secret cemetery. In this cemetery you will see Mass graves…fresh ones…on American soil…!!! Graves of desperate immigrants who died…one way or the other…on their quest for the American dream.

I’d like to discuss the earth’s evidence with you. You’ll see that heavy equipment was there just before our arrival…perhaps within a day or two. There are two parts to this cemetery…which is divided by what would be a road. On the west side are swaths as if the entire cemetery was tilled and hundreds of bricks were laid systematically on top of the little furrows or rows. You can see the tractor tire tracks running over what are presumed to be corresponding graves.

Some bricks simply say “John Doe” and give a row number. Other bricks have names. Hey! I thought they were “unidentified”. Local concerned citizens had place white crosses with different thought on them…like “No olvidado”…”Not forgotten”. The Marcha Migrante entourage placed little cheap crosses made out of lattice like strips of wood. The soil in that part of the cemetery was freshly tilled and fluffy…and ours seemed to be the first foot prints. I couldn’t figure out how anyone would know exactly where a body was buried if heavy equipment had bladed the entire field.

As I was trying to relate to our purpose for being there…other than to recognize that fellow humans died a horrible death trying to become Americans…I keep being distracted by the other part of the cemetery. I found myself taking pictures from different angles. The entourage held a service while I was looking at earth work on the other side of the road…the east side. It looked like it was in excess of 150 feet long.

At the south end of this long…whatever it was…a long grave…it became evident that the grave was really just one grave. The entire length was done at the same time. It had about 4 dozen bricks laid on the western edge of it. The Border Caravan group had placed crosses at each brick. But this thing…this long grave…was fresh. This had just been done within a day or two. Why was it so fresh? Why were our foot prints the first ones? How do we really know how many were buried there? What could this be…other than a mass grave? See for yourselves.

In the background to the east of this mass grave you can see in one of the pictures that there are many acres with soil that is also recently worked … disked … perhaps at the same time. What is that extended field for? Is it part of this plot?

If you use your power of reason and find yourself asking questions … basic questions … about what your mind sees in these pictures … I hope you’ll help me crack this case wide open. I want to know about everyone that is supposed buried in this trench. How many men, women, children? Who pays to do this, who gets paid … and how much? Who did the autopsies … and how did these people die? Were there investigations at the site of the discovery of their bodies?

You might want to use you photo program and zoom in on these pictures. Let you mind go beyond the superficial. And … why were so many buried at the same time … like the day before we were there. Again … as you can readily see … ours were the first foot prints on this soil!

I will be going back to Holtville after we finish the Marcha Migrante II on the 17th … and the Border Wall-K against the wall in San Diego on the 18t

h. If anyone in the media, any photo-journalist of documentarian would like to join us … please let me know.

I beg that you share this information as we exposed the travesty of the border wall and the plight of the children in Hutto, the Ibrahims and the Suleimans. One way or the other this evidence must and will be shared with to the American public about these mass graves. Just as we have been successful at getting to the truth about Hutto and the Palestinian families out to the media … we will do it again … and again … and again! Until … we break the back of this tyranny.

In solidarity…


P.S. This work that we are doing is not being funded by an organization … and we do not have a 501. Maybe some day it will be the logical thing to do. Meanwhile, we are accomplishing this and covering our basic expenses our of personal expenses and…gratefully now … with the help that some of you have been kind enough to share. The meals and lodging are a blessing. If you know of an organization that funds this kind of effort … we’d appreciate knowing. With that help … we’ve been able to push forward and accomplish things to the benefit of many … and for that help … I deeply thank you. jjj

P.S.S. is already covering the Mass Graves story. jjj


The Border Ambassador



Jay J. Johnson-Castro, Sr.

Del Rio , Texas , USA
Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila , Mexico

By mopress

Writer, Editor, Educator, Lifelong Student

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