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Drowned migrants return to El Salvador for burial on Monday

The bodies of 25-year-old Oscar Alberto Martínez and his young daughter, Valeria, were returned after they died trying to swim across the Rio Grande.
Credit: AP
The funeral car carrying the bodies of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, 25, and his daughter Valeria, 23 months, crosses the border from Guatemala to San Francisco Menendez, El Salvador, Sunday, June 30, 2019. Martínez and Valeria were swept away by the border river between Matamoros, Mexico, and Brownsville, Texas, on Sunday, June 23, and their bodies were found the next morning. The wife and mother, Tania Vanessa Ávalos, survived. (AP Photo/Salvador Melendez)

LA HACHADURA, El Salvador — Editor's note: The story contains graphic details and a graphic image.  

The young father and daughter who drowned in each other's arms last week in an attempt to swim across the Rio Grande to the United States have been returned to El Salvador for an expected burial at a private ceremony in the capital Monday.

Their bodies entered the Central American country by land Sunday from neighboring Guatemala.

Photographs of Valeria, lying face down in the water with her little arm wrapped around the neck of her father, Oscar Alberto Martínez, broke hearts around the world and underscored the dangers that migrants undertake in trying to reach the U.S.

The father and daughter were swept away by the current in the river between Matamoros, Mexico, and Brownsville, Texas.

Martínez, 25, and his wife, Tania Vanessa Ávalos, 21, had been living with his mother and apparently felt that their salaries working at a pizza parlor and as a restaurant cashier would never be enough to purchase a modest home in their suburb of San Salvador.

That dream to save money for a home led the family to set out for the United States, according to Martínez's mother, Rosa Ramírez.

The neighborhood they left behind in El Salvador is a humble bedroom community where most people live in low-rise, two-bedroom homes with a combination kitchen-living room-dining room, worth about $10,000-$15,000 each.

Residents say violence and extortion has eased in the neighborhood, but that poverty and ambition still drive many to migrate.

In the Mexican border city of Tijuana, people included a picture of the drowned father and daughter in a memorial erected in the memory of migrants who have died trekking north toward the U.S. The pictures, candles and crosses of the memorial were placed next to the U.S.-erected fence along the border.

Credit: AP
Candles are placed next to the border fence that separates Mexico from the United States, in memory of migrants who have died during their journey toward the U.S., in Tijuana, Mexico, late Saturday, June 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Emilio Espejel)

A total of 283 migrant deaths were recorded along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border last year. The official death toll so far this year has yet to be released.

Migrant families have been coming over the border in unprecedented numbers in recent months, reaching a peak in May, when 84,000 adults and children traveling together were apprehended. Nearly 500,000 immigrants have been detained at the border since the start of 2019, resulting in dangerous overcrowding in U.S. holding centers.

(Warning: This story contains a graphic photo below.) 

Credit: AP
Candles are placed next to the border fence that separates Mexico from the United States, in memory of migrants who have died during their journey toward the U.S., in Tijuana, Mexico, late Saturday, June 29, 2019. On the border fence hangs a cartoon depiction of a news photograph of the bodies of Salvadoran migrant Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter Valeria, who drowned on Sunday, June 23 on the banks of the Rio Grande between Matamoros, Mexico, and Brownsville, Texas. (AP Photo/Emilio Espejel)
Credit: AP
The bodies of Salvadoran migrant Oscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his nearly 2-year-old daughter Valeria lie on the bank of the Rio Grande in Matamoros, Mexico, Monday, June 24, 2019, after they drowned trying to cross the river to Brownsville, Texas. Martinez' wife, Tania told Mexican authorities she watched her husband and child disappear in the strong current. (AP Photo/Julia Le Duc)

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