SAN SALVADOR – The bodies of Oscar Martinez and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria, who drowned in the Rio Grande on June 23 while trying to illegally cross into the United States, were buried Monday in San Salvador at a private funeral service.
The caskets were taken by vehicle from a local funeral home to the La Bermeja public cemetery and the press was barred from obtaining access to either site.
The funeral home and the cemetery are being guarded by members of the Metropolitan Officers Corps of San Salvador.
Dozens of neighbors and friends from the central town of San Martin, the hometown of the Martinez family, came in buses to be with the family at the burial.
The burial service for Martinez and his daughter, whose deaths shocked the international community after a photograph showing them both drowned and lying facedown in the water on the Mexican bank of the river, began about 10 am.
San Martin Mayor Victor Manuel Rivera confirmed the burials to reporters and said that Martinez’s wife – Valeria’s mother – Tania Vanessa Avalos, thanked “the people who have given their support.”
The remains of the father and daughter, accompanied by Avalos, arrived by highway on Saturday morning in El Salvador after being transported from the northeastern Mexican city of Matamoros starting on Thursday.
The young mother, who was traveling with her husband and daughter, was rescued from the waters of the Rio Grande, the river that divides Mexico and the United States, arrived in El Salvador on Friday accompanied by the Salvadoran consul in the Mexican city of Monterrey, Rafael Rosales.
Salvadoran authorities said at a press conference, which Avalos attended, that the bodies were transported by land to El Salvador because “it’s a much quicker procedure and much more direct,” allowing authorities to take better “care of the bodies.”
The government of Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele has been criticized by various sectors for presenting Avalos to the media at the San Oscar Arnulfo Romero international airport.
She, her husband and daughter were trying to get to the US to request asylum, as many of their countrymen have done to escape the poverty and violence of the gangs who dominate many neighborhoods in El Salvador.
The image of the drowned father and daughter, according to many media outlets, is the most tragic image ever taken of the Central American migration phenomenon which has been growing since October 2018.
The photo shows the upper half of the little girl entangled in Martinez’s shirt, her arm around his neck, suggesting that his final aim was to protect her.
Over the past month, the migration crisis on both the northern and southern Mexican borders has become more intense after US administration of Donald Trump gave Mexico an ultimatum to end the northward migrant flow.