The Missing Americans Project

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Why Are Men Disappearing in Latin America and the Caribbean? And Why Does No One in Authority Seem to Care?

The recent disappearances of high-school valedictorian August Reiger in Baños, Ecuador, andArmando Torres, a U.S. Marine, in Matamoros, Mexico, have begun bringing attention to an underreported problem that has become a major focus of my life: the challenges faced by families who lose loved ones while traveling outside their national borders.

When my brother, Joe Dunsavage, disappeared while on vacation in the Bay Islands of Honduras in 2009, we had no idea how common such disappearances were, how little help local and U.S. authorities are prepared to provide, and how indifferent the media are to such stories, unless they follow a very specific narrative, typically involving an attractive, vulnerable white woman. In the four years since Joe disappeared, we have come into contact with many families who have lost relatives – mainly white males between the ages of 28 and 49 and primarily in Latin America and the Caribbean. Bringing government and media attention to this spate of disappearances has been tantamount to trying to perform oral surgery on a Kodiak bear without anesthesia or instruments.

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