MEXICO CITY — Yecenia Lazcano Soriano left behind a 4-year-old daughter in her home town of Tehuacan, Mexico, when she set out almost in secret to reach the United States.

The last message she sent to relatives was a heart emoji. Days later, on the California coast, two small boats carrying her and other migrants capsized in rough surf off a beach in San Diego.

The 22-year-old’s body was one of eight recovered shortly after the accident last Sunday at Black’s Beach, one of the deadliest maritime smuggling events near U.S. shores.

A single mother, Lazcano Soriano’s story was almost a microcosm of the desperation that drives many migrants to the United States. Nearly 129,000 migrants were stopped trying to cross the U.S. border in February.

At age 15, Lazcano Soriano went to live with the father of her child, but he was abducted and disappeared, like over 112,000 other Mexicans who have vanished since drug cartel violence picked up in 2006.

Lazcano Soriano dreamed of opening her own store in Tehuacan, a poor agricultural town lying between the cities of Puebla and Oaxaca in south-central Mexico. Most there make a tenuous living growing flowers or corn. The single mother sold fruit and vegetables at a local market.

But with jobs scarce, she decided to follow her aunt, Wendy Valencia, who left Tehuacan to emigrate to Dallas six years ago.

Lazcano Soriano left Tehuacan weeks ago, telling only two of her relatives. The last message she sent was a heart emoji to Valencia. After that, there was silence, until the chilling news came: Authorities had identified her by ID documents found on her body.

“She wasn’t afraid of work,” Valencia said in a telephone interview. “She was a warrior, a woman who was accustomed to struggle.”

She left her daughter in the care of her 72-year-old grandmother and two other aunts, but had hoped to be reunited with the girl.

“Her goal was to give her daughter a better future, an adequate home,” Valencia said. Life was never that kind to Lazcano Soriano; her companion’s disappearance was never solved.

A total of 23 people were thought to aboard the two boats that capsized off San Diego. Many of the other passengers are believed to have made it to land and escaped.

Mexican authorities said preliminary identification based on records found with people’s bodies indicate seven of the eight dead were Mexicans.

Just 25 miles (40 kilometers) from Tehuacan, in the town of Tlacotepec de Benito Juarez, the tragedy touched the family of Alma Figueroa Gorgoria.

Figueroa Gorgoria would have turned 18 next week. She had set out for the United States with her aunt, Ana Jacqueline Figueroa, 23. Both of their bodies were identified in San Diego.

Just seven miles (12 kilometers) in the other direction, the nearby farming community of Santiago Miahuatlan was the hometown of Guillermo Suárez González, who also risked traveling in the boats to reach the United States. A worker at a local export assembly plant, the 23-year-old dreamed of a better life; he left behind four children. Eloy Hernández Baltazar, 58, also lived in Santiago Miahuatlan, and was also among the dead.

The Puebla state migrant aid office said the paperwork has been submitted to return Suárez González to his home town for burial.

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