Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Bodies Found in the San Carlos Desert

A few weeks ago in the evening, while I walked my doggies in the desert just north of Loma del Mar's gate, my neighbor Marge popped over to warn John. 

“Tell Levonne it's best not to wonder around in the desert. Twelve bodies were found at the old airport!” Marge went on to explain to him that her neighbor had just popped over and informed her about the report on that evening's news.

View of the desert surrounding Loma del Mar community in San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
Upon my return home after the lovely outing along a dirt path among creosote bushes and Ocotillo, John's first words were about the twelve bodies discovered in the desert and Marge's warning not to go out there.

Daily over the previous two months that we'd been in San Carlos, we'd reflected on our feeling of safety in our small part of Sonora, Mexico.

“You mean right out there where I was walking?”

“That's what Marge said.”

“Who were the murdered people? What happened?”

“I don't know. She didn't have much information.”

Stunned I walked inside. My head spinning with images of bloody bodies scattered throughout the desert. I imagined a drug-gang shootout the preceding night. We had heard sounds coming from the desert but sloughed it off as kids with firecrackers.

As I sat in bewilderment, I imagined other possibilities for the deaths. Could the twelve bodies have been migrants traveling on foot toward the U.S. who had perished from thirst? Quickly I ruled that the migrants surely would not perish so near a town in their own country from thirst.

It occurred to me to check the U.S.State Department website for warnings about travel in Mexico. Surely they would know of this if it was on the news already. Nothing there. No report of a recent rash of murders in Sonora. I did however learn about “prohibited travel destinations” due to violence. 

Sonora state – Level 3: Reconsider Travel

Reconsider travel due to crime. Sonora is a key location utilized by the international drug trade and human trafficking networks. However, northern Sonora experiences much lower levels of crime than cities closer to Sinaloa and other parts of Mexico.

Okay. So roads to our destination and San Carlos were good although for other parts of the state of Sonora, the warning was Level 3: Reconsider Travel.

I went on to google current news stories on "murders in San Carlos." No reports of twelve bodies in San Carlos area. After nothing but dead ends on the internet, I decided to get on with dinner prep and to make the rest of the day as regular an evening as possible. But I must tell you that “my realilty” began to take a major turn.

What had we gotten ourselves into? I began to wonder how we could live in the middle of such violence. Had I been too cocky with talk about he violence of Mexico not being dissimilar to violence in the U.S.? I wondered if we should leave Mexico immediately. We had already invested so much time and energy and resources in getting our winter abode set up.

That same evening as we got news of the twelve bodies, we were sure that that night's "firecracker pops and bangs" were indeed bullets. Another shootout in the desert?

The next day, as soon as the Loma del Mar office opened, I went in and asked the Mexican National employees what was up. Surely they'd be concerned too.

“There's a rumor going around that twelve bodies were found out there in the desert.” I pointed toward where I had walked the previous day.

The manager replied, “Yes. Bodies were found.”

“Oh my God!”

“Don't worry yourself with all that. Cartel just kill one another. They aren't interested in you and me.”

My eyes widened. “Really?”

“Just put it out of your mind.”

“But. Aren't you concerned?”

“Not really.”

I could hardly believe my ears. And I was sure she must be lying. How could anyone ignore twelve dead bodies.

“Aren't people concerned?”

“Yes, People are concerned. They want to know whose bones they are.”


“Families want to determine if the bones belong to a missing family member.”

“You mean they found bones?”

“Yes. An investigation will happen to determine identities.”

All of a sudden my mind made yet another major shift. I cautioned myself. Always check your news sources. Always ask questions. Don't accept the first thing you hear about what someone heard on the news. After asking what the manager's source of information was and being given a web address for Sonora news, I returned home and got back on the computer.

The address took me directly to the story about the twelve sets of bones. The speculation in the news report was that the remains belonged to twelve fishermen that went missing in 2015.

In the days to follow, I learned more about the airport that had been shut down many years earlier because it had begun being used by drug cartel. I was relieved that the locals, or whomever made that decision, did so. 

Fast forward. A few weeks later, I still love San Carlos. I am amazed by all the beauty, the people, the abundance of great activities. I love the place at Loma del Mar that is now our winter home. But I am also reminded that no matter how safe a place comes to feel, one best continue to exercise common-sense caution, while simultaneously maintaining a positive attitude. For where I put my focus, is what will be my life.

Our winter home at Loma Del Mar, San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico.

Envision the future you desire. Create the life of your dreams. See it, feel it, believe it.” Jack Canfield


  1. Levonne,
    In future, one very reliable source for finding out accurate information about local things is Bayron (JJ's son) at JJ's Tacos. He is a super nice young man and very knowledgeable about what is going on in the area.
    We will likely be in San Carlos mid-Feb. Looking forward to seeing you!

    1. Thanks for that tip Sandy. Looking forward to finally meeting face to face after all the years of virtual friendship!

  2. One thing, I hope, the internet has been good at teaching us is to check on news reports for every bit of hear-say we hear.

    1. Yes Lorraine and then some more even, because even the sources can get it wrong, or promote something too subjective. All of it needs to be taken with a grain of salt and one's focus maintained, in my humble opinion.