Mexico's Missing Ayotzinapa Students Are More Than Just a Number


For many Mexican artists, the disappearance of 43 students who attended a rural teachers’ college in Ayotzinapa has represented an inescapable theme in their work. As such, several portraits by illustrators and graphic artists have been widely shared on the Latin American blogosphere under the hashtag #Illustrators with Ayotzinapa.

The artist who started the initiative is Valeria Gallo, and many other artists joined the project soon after to create portraits of the missing students, with the goal of getting closer to them. In an interview with Muesó, Gallo spoke about how it started: 

Se me ocurrió que dibujar a los estudiantes nos acercaría un poco más a ellos, y le conté mi idea a algunos colegas. Empezamos a retratarlos y a subir las ilustraciones a Facebook y a Twitter con el hashtag #IlustradoresConAyotzinapa. El mismo día mi pareja, Alfonso Ochoa, creó el blog en Tumblr.

It occurred to me that drawing the students would bring us a bit closer to them, and I told a few of my colleagues about my idea. We began drawing them and uploading the illustrations to Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #IllustratorsWithAyotzinapa. The same day, my boyfriend, Alfonso Ochoa, created the blog on Tumblr.

Students from the National School of Dramatic Arts (ENAT) and from the Sonora University of Performing Arts (UNISON) also dedicated performances to the students, even before the investigation released a report that presumed the students to be dead, something that still remains unconfirmed. The common theme among the works, along with the illustrators’ initiative, is the desire to humanize the students and go beyond the number 43, which has been at the center of campaigns throughout Mexico expressing outrage over the tragedy. 

In one performance, UNISON actors called out the names of each student: 


Similarly, in a performance by ENAT, actors evoke the names and ages of the students: 

More recently, ENAT gave another performance that has been widely shared on social media in Mexico and around the world: 

The original video was posted on Facebook and attracted many comments from users interpreting and reflecting on the performance. Juan García:  

El mensaje que yo me llevo es que: los zapatos representan a personas que han muerto por alzar la voz a la opresión y los chicos, representan a la población general que intentan hacer cambios pero son ejecutados o intimidados con la sangre de otros por un gobierno que utiliza el terrorismo para someter a la población. Hablando de México, debemos despertar y dejar atrás esa estúpida idea de que “Peña [Nieto, el presidente de la República] es el culpable de todo” y de que “estaríamos mejor con obrador” por que déjenme decirles, señores, que los dos son seres viles, indecentes, e inadecuados para gobernar un país. México, despierta y date cuenta que, como este video muestra, la población es la mayoría y si dejáramos atrás el miedo y si nos pudiéramos organizar, podríamos lograr un cambio verdadero. […] La culpa no es del gobierno sino del pueblo que sigue ciegamente [al primero] que les regale una torta, una tarjeta de regalo, o que les hable de su adorada “morena”. Que lástima me da por todas la víctimas hasta ahora, pero me da más lastima aún ver cómo el pueblo desesperado y poco educado se une a las filas de otro […] partidista que solo ha trabajado incansablemente para llegar al poder y que garantiza perpetuar el ciclo de opresión.

The message I carry in me is that: shoes represent people who have died for raising their voices to oppression and the kids represent the general population that tries to make changes but is executed or intimidated with the blood of others by a government that utilizes terrorism to suppress the population. Speaking of Mexico, we must wake up and leave behind this stupid idea that “Peña [Nieto, the President of the Republic] is to blame for everything” and that “we would be better off with [2012 presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López] Obrador” because let me tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that both are vile, indecent human beings who are not adequate enough to govern a country. Mexico, wake up and realize that, as this video shows, the population is the majority and if we leave fear behind and could organize ourselves, we could make a real difference. […] The government is not to blame, but rather the people who blindly follow [the first] to give them a treat, a gift card, or the one who talks to them about their worshipped “Dark Virgin”. I feel such sadness for all of the victims up until now, but I am more sad to still see how the desperate and uneducated join the ranks of the other […] party member who has only worked tirelessly to rise to power and guarantees to perpetuate the cycle of oppression.  

Follow Global Voices Online's special coverage on the disappearance of the students.


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