Bakersfield family prays for priest who disappeared in Mexico

Bakersfield family prays for priest who disappeared in Mexico »Play Video
Father Santiago Alvarez Figueroa, 27, is missing in Mexico, and his Bakersfield, Calif., family says they suspect it could be a drug-cartel kidnapping.
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Mayra Figueroa of Bakersfield has been left flabbergasted after her cousin, 27-year-old Santiago Alvarez Figueroa, disappeared in Mexico on Dec. 27.

"Who would do that to a priest?" asked Figueroa, who works for a local Realtor.

Father Santiago had just finished celebrating Mass in the small town of Jacona in the state of Michoacan in southern Mexico, got into his car and started to head home to his hometown of Paredones.

"He called one of the nuns that he was going home," said Figueroa. "He never got home."

Disappearances in Mexico are not uncommon. The country has one of the highest rates of kidnappings in the world. Much of it is attributed or related to drug cartel activity. But innocents frequently fall prey.

Many kidnappings in Mexico go unreported, because people simply do not trust the authorities to investigate.

So far, there has been no contact with the family of the disappeared priest – no calls demanding ransom. Mexico's Federal Judicial Police is investigating and has retraced the route along the highway that would have been driven by Santiago.

"We have discarded any possibility that he was involved in an accident," said Jesus Reyes Garcia, spokesman for the governor's office of Michoacan.

The area is known for bloody conflicts between rival drug cartels.

Ironically, the disappearance of Santiago happened exactly one year after he was ordained into the priesthood.

In Bakersfield, the Figueroa family is still holding out hope that Father Santiago is safe and alive.

"All we can do is just pray, because what can we do from here?" said
Mayra Figueroa.