Category Archives: Community

Interaction with the community of Falfurrias

A New Perspective

At last our journey has come to an end. I must admit that I felt a bit odd when I first woke up this morning. I’ve grown accustomed to the fast-paced routine we had in Texas. It was an intense work week where it sometimes seemed that we didn’t have a moment to take a breath. The physical and mental toll it took on my body was draining and unlike anything I have experienced before. That being said, I can’t wait to go again.

I must admit that I was a bit unsure about how our team dynamic was going to play out. The other more experienced members of my team have known each other for a whole year before I joined the Human Biology program. I can now say that I am glad to have shared this experience with them. Izzy, Jordan, and Olivia are incredible scientists and professionals who I’ve seen persevere and grow throughout this trip. I believe we have grown closer as colleagues and friends. There were many laughs and lighthearted times as well as times spent looking out for each others’ well being. Being the new guy on board, I learned a lot from them and look forward to working with each of them in the future, in whatever form that may take.



This trip was also very enlightening for me. My entire perspective about the humanitarian crisis at the border has changed. With every step through the treacherous terrain and every heavy sigh I grew more and more appreciative of the life I live. I could not imagine being in a predicament where one is essentially forced to make this journey. To say that someone has merely “crossed the border” is such an understatement of the sacrifices these migrants make. I understand that the topic of immigration is such a complicated issue oftentimes far beyond my political understanding. However, I can’t deny that these people deserve better. My heart breaks for the families of the deceased and missing. I hope they find peace. Although our team did not find what we were searching for at each coordinate location associated with a missing person, I can rest easy knowing that we did everything we possibly could to best serve the families and the migrants themselves.


I can’t end the last of my blog posts without mentioning Don and Ray of the Remote Wildlands Search and Recovery team. They made the journey with us to not only search for missing persons, but to keep us safe and healthy. Their efforts are the reason why we could participate in this trip in the first place. They are admirable men who aim to serve humanity out of the kindness of their hearts.



I also want to thank Dr. Latham for choosing me to be a part of this trip and for teaching me more about how to perform and execute my skills in the field. I am honored by her confidence in my abilities to serve the team.


During this trip I learned what the core principle of forensic anthropology is all about: community service. Solving cases and identifying individuals is about serving humanity and honoring the deceased. This trip showed me just how important it is to provide closure to families of loved ones whom they may never be reunited with. My family means everything to me and thanks to this experience, I now know just how important our work is.

Austin

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Bittersweet

Izzy and her new Whataburger bag

The day started even earlier than normal. We wanted to get on the road early, so we had some time to explore San Antonio and get used to city living again before our flights. We had one last breakfast at Whataburger before the last leg of our journey began.

Everyone slept in some interesting and painful positions in the minivan. Like any true friend, I made sure to take lots of embarrassing pictures for future blackmail. Unfortunately, I was threatened with revenge if I posted any here, but just know exhaustion and minivans are not conducive to comfortable nap positions.

Dr. Latham showing off her selfie skills at the Alamo

Once we got to San Antonio, we explored the Alamo for a couple of minutes. There were many more people and activities compared to our visit in January. I really enjoyed seeing all of the plants, and I’ve decided I need to grow a palm tree in Indiana. Wish me luck!

Once we were finished with the Alamo, we walked along the Riverwalk to do some shopping and exploring. We spent way too much money on souvenirs, but how could we resist so many cool things? We watched some baby ducklings for a minute and realized that we are Dr. Latham’s ducklings. We follow her just like the ducklings follow their mother duck.

Finally, we had to get to the airport. We got through security relatively unscathed, and no snacks had to be investigated this time! After a final Tex-Mex meal at Rosario’s, we got on our first flight to Dallas, where we had to speedwalk through the airport to make our connecting flight. I’m sure we were a sight to see with Izzy, Jordan, and I wearing huge matching crewnecks and Austin wearing a bright red, white, and blue hoodie. But, we made it just in time!

Three super cool girls in their matching crewnecks

Our last flight was a little bumpy (Jordan was not a fan), but it was nothing compared to the jostling we experienced when offroading in Sandy. Luckily, everything smoothed out for the landing, and after a long wait for our bags, we were finally done.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to end; it’s bittersweet. On one hand, I’m glad to be home, but, on the other, I’m sad the trip is over, and I want to go back. After one final team hug, another Beyond Borders trip has come to a close.

One last selfie with Don

~ Olivia

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Due Diligence

Day 6!

Today, waking up and getting around was bittersweet. Sure, we’re all tired but this has been such a great experience it’s hard for it to come to an end. We started our day at breakfast with Ray and Don. Ray couldn’t come out with us today so unfortunately, we had to say goodbye before heading out. We were very happy he was able to accompany us while here and appreciate his assistance!

Izzy, Olivia, Austin, Don, and Dr. Latham on one of our breaks

We started where we left off yesterday, searching a portion of the ranch aiming to recover remains and material evidence important to the family members of a migrant who had gone missing. In this case, a cell phone. The cell phone may seem trivial to some, but could mean everything to his wife as it may contain photos that are important memories of her loved one. It is our job when conducting a recovery to work in the best interest of the decedent and their loved ones. This not only includes doing our due diligence to recover as many skeletal elements as possible but also extends to material objects like a cell phone.

Austin searching an area of the brush

After a line search of the area of interest, we each took a small portion where we combed the ground more thoroughly. During this search, we flagged skeletal elements until the area was fully searched. We then set up a baseline in order to obtain measurements and map any evidentiary items. Simultaneously, photos were taken to further document any findings. Once all documentation is finished each item is able to be collected by the proper authorities. In this case, we were very fortunate to find the cell phone that the family members were hoping to get back (good eye Austin!).

Olivia and I measuring an element of interest for mapping

Once we felt comfortable that we searched this area thoroughly, Don drove us to another location on the same ranch. This was based on a description of an area where an individual went missing and had yet to be searched. We continued with our typical process of a line search moving west up the south side of a dirt road and then pivoting across to the north side to move east. The brush here was slightly less dense but the foliage was, in the words of Olivia “angrier”, as the plants had more thorns than we had experienced previously. On this search there was some evidence of migrant activity in the form of water bottles, food packaging, and a sweatshirt but less than we had seen at other locations. Finding this material evidence is important information for Don to know as he proceeds with searches of the area in the future.

Line Searching

When our time in the field came to a close we all piled into the truck and headed back to town. Don gave us a bit of a tour. We got to go to the Brooks County Sheriff’s office where we got to meet Sherrif Benny Martinez. He has been very supportive of the work the Beyond Borders team does since the very beginning. We then wanted to end our week the way we started – with snow cones.

Brooks County Sherrif’s Office

After a quick break with showers and pool time, we headed to Jalisco for dinner with Don. It was just as good as before, and it was nice to be able to spend some more time with Don. From there we said our goodbyes and headed back to the hotel to pack. This trip has been extremely rewarding and I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity to experience it. I have learned many things that will stick with me for a very long time. As much as the Texas heat has tested us all, it is quite difficult to leave it behind.

One last selfie

~ Jordan

Happy Place

Austin in a tree

Izzy Sandwich

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