“When I am restless, I remember that all through history,
the paths towards the truth and love have always won.
There have been tyrants, murderers and for some time, they seem invincible,
but in the end, they always fall.”
Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico
On September 26, the Mexican people's desperate cry found an echo around the world. In the state of Guerrero, in the south of the country, a student march ended up in a massacre.
Forty-three students from the Rural Normal School Raúl Isidro Burgos de Ayotzinapa, an indigenous community some 60 miles away from the famous harbor of Acapulco, were taken away and disappeared. Seventeen others were kidnapped and tortured until they were dead.
Julio César Mondragón Fontes, only 22 years old, was flayed. His dreams of becoming a professor to make sure his baby girl would have a better future were drowned in a pool of blood. His unrecognizable face stands for another level of terror and wrath.
Hardly 3 months before, in the village of San Pedro Limón, set deep in the municipality of Tlatlaya, in the state of Mexico, 22 people were executed by the Mexican military during an operation against drug trafficking. A witness declared that most of the victims had already yielded to the authorities with their hands on their heads.
After the killings, protests spread among the social networks and people started marching together all around the country, led by the parents of the students who had disappeared: from Mexico City to Chihuahua, from Chiapas to Tlaxcala, from Guerrero to Michoacán. With them are millions of Mexicans, shaken and outraged, as well as the horrified international community.
Behind the “pain of the rain of anger,” a popular demand is outlined clearer and louder than ever: “This government must stop!” And, Ayotzinapa is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the systematic violations of Human Rights, kidnappings, disappearances and deaths, occurring in the country.
In the Aztec lands, reign unlawfulness and corruption, and a state of minimum rights is amiss since all those who govern, attorneys and district attorneys are part of a huge network of complicity with the organized crime.
Along with the 43 students, another 22,322 persons already disappeared, according to the numbers given by the General Attorney's office's Special Search Unit working on disappearances. Official numbers state more than 150,000 persons died since the beginning of the “war against drugs.” Systematic disappearances and murders have always been the State politics.
The same story
José Ángel, Marcial, Everardo and their classmates were forced down the bus which was taking them to the march, with guns pointed at their faces, and handed over to the criminal group of Guerreros Unidos by the Iguala city police. It happened only a few days before the commemoration of the events of October 2, 1968, the biggest student massacre in the country's history.
Forty-six years ago on Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco, Mexico City, a student meeting ended up in an ambush. Police officers and soldiers in civilian clothing cornered the demonstrators. More than 1,000 were apprehended and we still don't know today the real number of those who disappeared. Hundreds were killed.
Since 1974, the activist Rosario Ibarra de Piedra has been looking for her son Jesús. He disappeared after being detained by the authorities of Mexico City, accused of being part of a communist armed group, Liga 23 de Septiembre. Jesús Piedra is yet another victim of the forced disappearances orchestrated by the Mexican government in the 1960's and 1970's.
Today, Melitón Ortega, of humble origins, is also looking for his son Mauricio, who disappeared 2 months ago. With no answer from the authorities as to the possible whereabouts of his son, he decided to take the search into his own hands. “They can not negotiate with our suffering. It is more important for us to see them back rather than being given gifts from the federal government,” he said after the fruitless meeting he had with the president Enrique Peña.
Besides, the official investigations look more like a dog and pony show in the purest style of film director Luis Estrada (El Infierno). José Luis Abarca, ex-Mayor of Iguala, accused of being the intellectual author of the massacre and disappearances, has been captured but, neither that nor the deposition of the local governor have put light upon what exactly happened to the students and most importantly, where they might be today.
Official versions disagree. Some say they were cremated with wood, tires and plastic for more than 15 hours; others say that the burnt bodies that were found are not those of the students so there might be some hope to find them alive still.
Hence the slogans “What will harvest a country that sows corpses?,” “They were taken alive; Alive we want them back,” “We want Justice!,” and the same “Out with Peña!” can be found in the streets of Mexico City, Monterrey, Guadalajara, Saltillo, Hermosillo, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Iguala, Chilpancingo, Paris, Edmonton, Bogota, Rio de Janeiro, Caracas... Buenos Aires.
Ayotzinapa smells like Acteal, Chiapas, where, in December 1997, hundreds of Tzotzil indigenous people, who were fasting and praying, were slaughtered by para-military groups. It smells like San Salvador Atenco, where, in 2006, thousands of police officers violently broke up the demonstrations of the holders of shares in common lands who were resisting expropriation from their lands. It smells like San Fernando, Tamaulipas, and the 72 tombs of migrants. It smells like State crime.
Not only the latest disappearances rekindle wounds that were not closed yet, they also open new ones. Every day, corpses are found where diggings are done. So far, 331 bodies were found in clandestine graves in the state of Durango; 31 others in Veracruz.
A few months ago, in the municipality of Allende, here in the state of Coahuila, at the border with Texas, hundreds of burnt bodies were found. The slaughter, unleashed by drug trafficking revenge upon a family of the surroundings, happened years ago, but nobody had talked about it for fear of reprisal.
Nowadays, with the renewed interest in gas exploitation (shale), which was recently approved with the energy reform and given up to the trans-national firms upon a silver platter, the authorities find themselves “digging up” corpses.
The semi-desert with water-bearing mantles at its top will suffer the consequences of hydraulic fracture (fracking). Those would be as serious or more than those left by the open-cut mines managed by Canadian firms, which expend, voracious, all over the ceremonial grounds and indigenous community lands. Something even more aberrant: since 2005, up to 1,800 disappearances have been registered in this region only.
Coahuila and the whole of Mexico have their own Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, just like Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. Their children come this way as they're heading towards their American dream and are the victims of atrocious crimes, not only from the organized crime but also from public servants of all levels.
Father Alejandro Solalinde Guerra, one of the main advocates of the migrants' rights, declared about the Ayotzinapa case that a witness assured him the students had been murdered. “They too are in the pits,” he said when I visited him in his refuge in Ixtepec, Oaxaca.
Ayotzinapa uncovered the cesspool of tragedies the entire nation has been suffering from for decades. The number 43 has become the symbol of the demands of the people.
On the 43rd minute of every hour, messages can be heard over community and cultural radios; on the 43rd minute of a soccer game, the sharp cry of “Justice!” resounds. Oil lamps burn in thousands and thousands of homes. Pictures of Cirino, Magdaleno and Mario cover up the neighborhood posts.
“I'm looking for you, don't be afraid,” chant mothers, fathers, brothers and friends. The students want a national strike. Like never before, this one threatens to be followed by more and more social sectors.
On the city walls, graffiti spread like the plague. One that can be found over and over reminds everyone of the Article 39 of the Mexican Constitution which recognizes that “ […] the people hold at all times the inalienable right to alter or change the form of its government.”
Ayotzinapa woke Mexico up. This country can not be the same anymore.
In Pausa #146. November 19, 2014.
Translated from Spanish (Mexico) by Julie Klene and Susan Child Hancock