It’s relatively easy to spot bones in the desert. Bleached by the sun and set against the brown, sandy soil that’s peppered with sagebrush and mesquite, they almost glow white. Once you start looking it seems they’re everywhere. Mostly it’ll be a rabbit’s skull or the hip bone of a small mammal. Sometimes, though, they’ll belong to a human.
On 22 April, there were ribs, a shoulder blade, a clavicle, a piece of vertebrae and a jawbone. There was also a pair of dark-coloured trousers, size 9 Adidas trainers and a yellow wallet with a Tasmanian Devil cartoon on the flap. Inside was a photocopy of an ID card which read: Republica De Honduras. Filadelfo Martinez Gomez. Date of birth: 8 August, 1992.
He died under a tree, most likely of dehydration, on the edge of a dried-out rainwater wash – one of many indents in the sand that snake down from the Growler Mountains here in southern Arizona. He was found 37 miles north east of the Mexican border town of Sonoyta, from where he’d come. There were some other bones scattered 600m to the east – and a skull, two miles west.
This is America’s secret graveyard, where families are forbidden from visiting the final resting place of their loved ones, and often don’t know they are there at all.