Hundreds of mourners, many of them family, streamed into this town settled in the 1950s by American fundamentalist Mormons for the first of the services, held in Langford’s backyard.
In eulogy after eulogy, mourners spoke of La Mora and other nearby Mormon communities as one large extended family, members now leaning on each other as they mourn their losses and face the uncertainty of what comes next.
Dawna Langford grew up in the nearby Mormon community of LeBaron, playing and camping in the Sierra Madre mountains, part of a community that considered itself both American and Mexican but lived out of reach of either government, in an enclave that still practiced polygamy. She had 49 brothers and sisters.
Relatives described the large family as one of its great blessings. They remembered how Dawna had served as a kind of second mother, helping to raise some of her siblings. When she was 19, she married and started a family of her own. After living in Minnesota and Wyoming, she knew she wanted to be in Mexico, though many of her relatives had moved to the United States. The family settled in La Mora.
Her daughter Crystal said everyone in northern Mexico’s extended Mormon community appeared to know Dawna. Even when Crystal was visiting LeBaron, across state lines in Chihuahua, strangers would talk about how much they loved Dawna.
“I told her, ‘Even these random strangers love you, mom,’” Crystal said.
Those communities were normally void of almost any government presence, leaving residents to figure out their own alliances or ways of avoiding local criminal organizations. But on Thursday, during the funerals, La Mora was packed with security personnel. The governor of Sonora arrived in a helicopter. A truck of national guardsmen parked nearby.
“Me being more than 1,500 miles away when this happened was more than I could bear,” said Ryan Langford, Dawna’s son.
The service was mostly in English, with some Spanish peppered in. The eulogies focused mostly on the community’s faith in God and their memories of the dead, but the brutality of the incident pierced the ceremony.
“What happened just tears us apart,” said Justin Ray.