This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Editor's Note: This story is reprinted by permission of Noroeste vora, a newspaper in Sinaloa, Mexico, the home state of missing Crandall Canyon miner Juan Carlos Payan. It was translated from Spanish by Tribune intern Olga Muñoz.
ZAPOTILLO, Mocorito - It was more than 10 years ago that Juan Carlos Payan's family left the state of Sinaloa, Mexico, in search of a better life without ever imagining what awaited them.
Today, Payan is one of the six miners trapped in Utah's Crandall Canyon mine.
Jose Luis Payan, Juan Carlos Payan's father, was a humble farmer, who did not have enough resources at home, and decided to head north and try his luck.
"He left with his family more than 10 years ago for Camalu, Baja California, looking for [a better life] because here there's nothing more than the land to work," said Marisela Olivas Payan, the miner's cousin.
Olivas Payan remembers little about about her 22-year-old cousin. She stands pensive for a few minutes and can barely recall one memory of him.
In the early hours of Aug. 6, six people were trapped in the Crandall Canyon coal mine in Huntington following a cave-in.
Two of the men were from Sinaloa, Mexico, Jose Luis Hernandez and Juan Carlos Payan; a third, Manuel Sanchez, is originally from Chihuahua, Mexico; the three others, Kelly Allred, Don Erickson and Brandon Phillips are American.
Olivas Payan mentioned that Jose Luis Payan, Juan Carlos Payan's father, formed a family with Maria Isabel Villa, with whom he had six children: Miriam Payan, Jose Luis Payan, Yaritza Payan, Zulema Payan, Guadalupe Payan and miner Juan Carlos Payan.
Olivas Payan said her cousin's family stood out for being good, calm people.
"Juan Carlos attended part of grammar school in rural Jose Maria Pino Suarez before leaving," she said.
But she has not been in contact with Juan Carlos Payan's family since the cave-in. All she knows about her cousin and his family is what she hears on the local news, she said.
"I feel very sad, but we are praying to God for a miracle. Hope is the last thing that dies," she said. "We hope that Juan Carlos will come out of this OK."
Jose Rafael Olivas Paez, principal of the elementary school Juan Carlos Payan attended, said Payan only attended the first and second grade, so he doesn't remember him well.
"His dad was my friend, and he was a hard-working man," Olivas Paez said. "In fact, I think [Juan Carlos Payan's father] had worked in the mine in Utah."
Back in the Payan household, the walls seem sad and abandoned. Transparent curtains cover the worn walls. And at the end of one of the bedrooms stands a dresser, one that could hold a reminder of Juan Carlos Payan, the miner who left Sinaloa as a boy and today, like another man from Sinaloa, is facing destiny's hardest challenge: survival.