The broken lives of Roberto, Diego, Uriel, Jaime and Dante, the disappeared young men from Lagos de Moreno, Jalisco

The broadcast of brutal images of the kidnapping of the five young men has kept Mexico on edge and shows the slow progress of investigations into cases of missing persons

Jóvenes desaparecidos en Lagos de Moreno, Jalisco
Jaime Adolfo Martínez Miranda, Dante Cedillo Hernández, Diego Alberto Lara Santoyo, Roberto Olmeda Cuellar and Uriel Galván González in photos from their social media.RR.SS.
Beatriz Guillén

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In the photo, they are kneeling, gagged and beaten. Their relatives say that it is them, but Roberto Olmeda, Diego Lara, Uriel Galvan, Jaime Martinez and Dante Cedillo are much more than that. They do boxing and cycling, they study engineering and work in a blacksmith’s shop, they support the América soccer team and Messi, they listen to Junior H and Peso Pluma. They recently went to the movies to see Oppenheimer. The childhood friends are between 19 and 22 years of age. On Friday, August 11, they met up where they always meet: at the San Miguel lookout in Lagos de Moreno in Jalisco, Mexico. They sent their last message at 10:55 p.m. to say that they were on their way home; since then, there has been only pain. The boys’ disappearance and brutal leaked images of their kidnapping have shaken a numb country; they also show the authorities’ difficulties in solving missing persons cases.

On the one hand, there is the horrifying video in which two of the boys appear lying face down, with their white T-shirts covered in blood, and another of the boys being forced to beat and stab one of his friends. On the other hand, there’s the recording of the group at sunset at the lookout point, the video of Uriel as a child showing off his bicycle, the photos of Diego on the beach with his sister, Dante’s cycling awards and the choked cries of Roberto’s father, waiting at the top of the lookout point for his missing son to return: “Let’s go, my Cochi, where are you going to climb up from, son?”

Scant official information prevents us from knowing where or why the boys were taken and who took them. The trail of evidence points to organized crime. The released video bore the mark “Pure MZ,” which is attributed to Mayo Zambada, the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, and the car of one of the young men was found in flames on the highway linking Lagos de Moreno with Encarnacion de Diaz, a red zone in the dispute between the Sinaloa Cartel and the New Generation Jalisco Cartel (CJNG). On Wednesday, Jalisco’s governor, Enrique Alfaro, stated that it is “evident” that the crime is connected to drug-trafficking groups.

But where are the young men? Six days have gone by, and the authorities still have not located them. On Wednesday afternoon, the Attorney General’s Office found the property where the photo and video were allegedly taken. Hours later, they identified a farm with the charred remains of four people. Meanwhile, the heartbroken families can only wait: “Bring them back. It doesn’t matter what condition they’re in. [To] the people who have them: send them back. Don’t break [our hearts] over and over again.”

Roberto Olmeda Cuellar

Roberto Olmeda Cuellar Lagos de Moreno
Roberto Olmeda Cuellar, in a 2020 photo shared on his social media.CORTESÍA

On Tuesday, a worried Armando Olmeda said that his son had already missed a class. Classes had begun at the University of Guadalajara, where Roberto was in his sixth semester of Industrial Engineering, and the boy had already lost a day. “Classes started yesterday, and he couldn’t go. I know the teachers can wait for him, but, well, he already missed a class, but it’s not his fault,” said the father, who refused to watch the video. “I don’t want to watch anything, because I probably can’t stand to see that. I don’t want to hurt my mind. I have to stay strong.”

Roberto, known as Cochi, is 20 years old, a student and an athlete. He regularly practices boxing, often with Uriel. “He’s a guy who hardly goes out, doesn’t smoke, hardly drinks,” his brother Miguel said recently. Last Friday, while he was waiting for the rest of the group, Roberto sent him a photo from the San Miguel lookout point. “If my brother were here in front of me, I would tell him that I love him very much, that I am very proud of him,” he says in an interview. “My mother sells pozole on Saturdays and he is the one who helps her.”

His Facebook account shows his enjoyment of rap and reading, his trips to Puerto Vallarta and Teotihuacán, his fondness for movies and sunsets. He celebrated his last birthday on December 12, when he wrote with a smiley face: “Now in the second decade #20years old.” On August 11, he was wearing a black short-sleeved shirt, dark pants and white tennis shoes. On Wednesday afternoon, Armando wrote next to a photo of his son: “You are the sky, you will change its color, I will always love you, the magic remains in me. 5 days for 5 angels.”

Diego Lara Santoyo

Diego Alberto Lara Santoyo  desaparecidos en Jalisco
Diego Alberto Lara Santoyo, in a photo shared on his social media.CORTESÍA

Diego’s sister was the one who sounded the alarm on Twitter. Desperate, Magalli Lara wrote on Sunday: “Urgent: since last night, our lives have been plunged into anguish. We have not heard from my brother and his friends. Every minute counts in this desperate search.” The young woman also said that her last communication with her brother was on Friday at 10:55 p.m., when he was on his way home. But he never arrived.

Diego is 20 years old and works as a blacksmith in his father’s workshop. His family describes him as “a very cheerful boy and a jokester.” He was proud of his car, a brown Volkswagen Jetta; he even used it as his Facebook cover photo. The five young men were driving in that car on Friday night. The Jalisco Prosecutor’s Office found the vehicle early Monday morning on the highway between Lagos de Moreno and Encarnación Díaz. The car was on fire; the remains of a male person were in the trunk, according to the authorities, who had yet to identify the body.

According to the investigation, on the day of the disappearance, he was wearing a white long-sleeved T-shirt and torn jeans. In the macabre leaked video, a person fitting that description appears, lying on the floor, with his hands tied behind his back, surrounded by blood. “Why the hell do they want to make people see such horrible content? Besides continuing to harass the families who see this content? They don’t think that we’ve been in enough pain?” wrote Magalli on Wednesday, after the images were leaked. For her part, she has shared photographs of her brother on the beach at sunset: “Come, make fun of me with your most mocking laughter, dare me with your eyes, but come back.”

Uriel Galván González

Uriel Galván González jóvenes de Lagos de Moreno
Uriel Galván González, in an image shared on his social media.CORTESÍA

At just 19 years old, Uriel is the youngest of the group. His father Jaime has said that the boy “is very happy, very friendly and close to his family.” As early as Friday night, they were worried when he did not answer his cell phone when they called and then he did not go to bed. “We called him, and he didn’t answer. It broke my heart. I would tell him that I love him, that I miss him so much.” His father sparked Uriel’s passion for bicycles, so much so that he joined a group of cyclists in Lagos at a very young age. He also boxed with Roberto.

The day he disappeared he was wearing a white T-shirt, faded jeans and black tennis shoes. Hours after his disappearance, his vehicle was located next to the Archangel parish, less than 200 feet from the San Miguel lookout where he had arranged to meet his friends. It was undamaged, which leads us to believe that he left it there to travel in Diego’s car with the rest of the group

Dante Cedillo

Jaime Adolfo Martínez Miranda desaparecidos en Jalisco
Dante Cedillo Hernández, in a photo shared on his social media.CORTESÍA

Dante was a professional cyclist; when he was still a minor, he won two gold medals in different categories at the 2016 National Olympics. “He has national trophies,” his brother Mauro Cedillo said recently. “He is my only family,” Mauro noted, explaining that his parents had passed away. He also shared search images with the caption “your brother is waiting for you.” At 22 years old, Dante is the oldest of the group. The day he disappeared, he was wearing a black T-shirt and jeans. He also had his pink Specialized bicycle with him.

Dante also works in a restaurant and had started a new window silicon business. “You don’t know the pain I feel knowing that you are no longer here. Everything changed from one day to the next, so many years of friendship, we shared so many moments and so many stories, you taught me what the word loyalty means,” his friend Juan Alberto wrote. “I cherish all the beautiful things we experienced together; a person like you does not need prayers or masses because you are already in heaven with your parents.”

Jaime Martínez Miranda

Jaime Adolfo Martínez Miranda desaparecidos en Jalisco
Jaime Adolfo Martínez Miranda, in a photo shared on his social media.CORTESÍA

21-year-old Jaime was devoted to his family and the América soccer team. He had a Facebook profile picture with his grandmother and a cover photo with his mother and all his siblings. The boy worked as a bricklayer. Jaime regularly shared jokes and memes on social media, as well as the music of Peso Pluma and, especially, Junior H. He was wearing black shorts, sandals and socks on the day he disappeared.

“Jaime is a very happy boy, he loved to dance, he always had us smiling at any silly thing he did, he was our joy, he was my little boy, he is my youngest brother,” his sister Ana said between sobs. She also begged the authorities to give them closure.

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