CARTHAGE, Miss.—Nineteen people, most of them Maya Indian migrants from Guatemala, were killed in Mexico in January, their bodies dismembered and burned 14 miles from the Texas border. Some 800 miles away, this small Mississippi community was left to grieve.
Among the dead was Edgar López, a 50-year-old longtime resident of Carthage, Miss., and a lay leader of his church who was trying to return home to his children and grandchildren after he was deported to Guatemala in 2020, according to court records and interviews. Mr. López had worked for 24 years without a visa in local chicken plants.
Another victim was Osmar Miranda, a 19-year-old soccer fan who hoped to build a new life for himself in Carthage, where he planned to stay with his cousin and get a job to help pay for his mother’s diabetes medication.
At least 11 of the victims (one body was so damaged it hasn’t yet been identified) hailed from Comitancillo, a municipality in Guatemala’s highlands where endemic poverty and malnutrition have driven hundreds during the past two decades to build a new community—in Carthage.
Decades of silent migration have built an invisible geography that links distant towns like Carthage and Comitancillo. Nearly everyone in Carthage’s Guatemalan community, which makes up about 5% of the surrounding county’s residents, knew Mr. López, whose 4-year-old grandson still asks when his grandfather will be home. The cousin awaiting Mr. Miranda is left with only photos. A local high-school teacher had several students ask for more time to complete assignments because they had had relatives killed in the massacre.