Law enforcement officers work at the scene where migrants were found dead inside a trailer truck in San Antonio, Texas, U.S. June 28, 2022.
Law enforcement officers work at the scene where migrants were found dead inside a trailer truck in San Antonio, Texas, U.S. June 28, 2022. Reuters / KAYLEE GREENLEE BEAL

Before he began the journey that ended in disaster, Jose Luis Vasquez lived in a remote mountainous community in southern Mexico, where a single telephone connects a few indigenous families to the outside world, local residents said.

Now the 31-year-old is in a hospital in San Antonio, Texas, after becoming severely dehydrated in a sweltering tractor-trailer truck in which at least 51 migrants died in the deadliest human trafficking tragedy in recent U.S. history.

Vasquez had recently left the Mexican Army, according to his uncle Aquilino Guzman, who said he had seen his nephew several weeks before he left for the United States. But Vasquez had not shared those travel plans with his uncle, Guzman said.

"I guess it was the same story as always," Guzman told Reuters. "Looking for better opportunities."

Guzman belongs to one of dozens of families awaiting word of loved ones after the government said it believed 27 Mexicans had died in Texas. Three Guatemalans and four Hondurans were also reported dead, while other victims remain unidentified.

Oaxaca's government is seeking a humanitarian visa for Vasquez's mother to be with her son while he recovers in Texas.

Vasquez, whose condition and hospital stay were announced by the Mexican government, could not immediately be reached for comment. He set out for the U.S. border with his cousin, Javier Flores, said Manuel Velasco, a relative of Flores and municipal secretary of the nearest town, San Miguel Huautla.

The last time Flores called his family was June 19, when he told them he had already crossed the border and was hiding in a house in Texas, according to Velasco. Flores' family is now anxiously hoping for news that he is alive.

"He told me he was going to look for a better life," Flores' mother, Virgilia Lopez, told Reuters. "To send his kids to school, help them get ahead and have a better future."

The truck carrying Vasquez was found abandoned in the outskirts of San Antonio and may have held around 100 migrants, but the exact total is unclear, U.S. officials say.

Over a dozen survivors were transported to hospitals for heat stroke and exhaustion, including four minors.

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