The Geographical Breakdown of Mexico’s 26,000 Disappeared

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A report on the geographical patterns of disappearances in Mexico highlights the country’s most embattled regions, outlining the human toll of the internecine conflict between the state and warring criminal groups.  

The interactive map, published by Univision, examines the disappearances which occurred during the six-year presidency of Felipe Calderon, who left office in December.

It exposes a significant gender divide in the patterns of disappearances, with some municipalities, such as Mina in the northeastern state of Nuevo Leon and Yaxcaba in Yucatan State, only registering women as missing.

Of the 26,567 disappearances plotted, almost half occurred in the Federal District (DF) of Mexico City, the state of Mexico, and the US border state of Tamaulipas.

The Univision map also shows that a few states, such as Nayarit, have registered few disappearances even though they border other states where it remains a serious problem.

InSight Crime Analysis

Unsurprisingly, Mexico’s disappearances are concentrated in the regions most affected by violence and organized crime. Many of the disappeared are simply victims, innocent or otherwise, of the violence which has riven the country since Calderon declared war on criminal organizations upon taking office in 2006.

States such as Quintana Roo, Sinaloa, and Tamaulipas are based along key drug trafficking routes and are hotly contested by warring gangs. Quintana Roo, on the Yucatan Peninsula, registered the greatest proportion of disappearances (74.2 per 100,000 people), having in recent years witnessed a brutal conflict between the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel.

What is striking about the pattern of disappearances is the differentiation based on gender. As Univision points out, men are more likely to go missing from densely-populated urban centers, while women often disappear from rural areas.  While missing men are almost always simply undiscovered murder victims, disappeared women are often the victims of human trafficking.  

A Mexican congresswoman last year suggested that up to 800,000 adults are trafficked in Mexico annually for sexual exploitation, the majority being women. While many are migrants, often from Asia or Central America, rural Mexican women are often targeted because the poverty which persists in the countryside can make them more susceptible to the promise of a better life, or make relatives more willing to give them up for money.

What is missing from the Univision study is a breakdown based on age, which would be useful to highlight any geographical patterns related to child trafficking.  

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