Reflections on the One-Year Anniversary of the Disappearance of Students in Ayotzinapa

Uruguay por Ayotzinapa Marcha contra la detención y desaparición de los 43 normalistas de Ayotzinapa, desde la Plaza Independencia hasta la Embajada de México. Noviembre 17, 2014. Montevideo, Uruguay.

March against the detention and disappearance of 43 school teachers in Ayotzinapa, in Montevideo, Uruguay, November 17, 2014. Image from Sofia on Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Omar Garcia, also known as “the 44th” for having survived the tragic night of September 26, 2014, when students from the Raul Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in Ayotzinapa disappeared (and were reportedly killed), posted a message on YouTube just few days before the one-year anniversary of the disappearance.

In his video, he referenced the recent publication authored by the Interdisciplinary Group of Experts that refuted the Mexican government's official version of the night's events, and sought public support so that thousands of others who have disappeared would not be forgotten.

Ya no son dichos, ahora lo están diciendo expertos, lo están diciendo los organizmos internacionales que pudieron revisar el expediente de la PGR y que descubrieron todas las irregularidades (…) Hoy por hoy podemos demostrar que aquí en México gobierna un narco estado.

México no vive, México está muriendo. ¿Cómo vamos a hacer un grito este 15 de septiembre diciendo que tenemos independencia? ¿Independencia de qué? (…)

Ojalá ustedes puedan replicar las acciones globales del 26 de septiembre (…) Ahora el movimiento tiene legitimidad nuevamente. Pensaban que con el tiempo nos iban a derrotar. Pensaban que conforme fueran pasando los meses los padres de familia se iban a quedar callados, se iban a ir para sus casas, pues no.  (…)

Para nosotros la noche del 26 de septiembre no ha terminado.

They're no longer just words, now the experts are saying it, international organizations have been able to review the Attorney General's report and discovered all of the irregularities (…) Today we can show that Mexico is governed by a narco-state.

Mexico doesn't live, Mexico is dying. How can we celebrate our independence this September 15? Independence from what? (…)

I hope you can repeat the global action of September 26 (…) The movement has again proven to be legitimate. They thought they would defeat us over time. They thought that as the months went by, their parents would stay quiet, that they would just go home, but that's not the case. (…)

For us, the night of September 26 hasn't ended.

As Omar mentioned, activists are organizing a global action event, similar to that of November 15, 2014, where thousands came together for what “could be the biggest political action in the history of Mexico.” Among other activities, a national march is being organized for September 26, with plans to march from Los Pinos (the President's official residence) to the Zocalo (the main square) in the capital. Masses of citizens are mobilizing to participate in the events across the country.

Foto de Valentino Bellini de la exposición “365 por los 43. Hasta las paredes saben”

Picture of the demonstration, by Valentino Bellini: “365 for the 43. Until the walls know.”

The remembrance events also include cultural activities, such as a photography display telling the story of the missing teachers, titled “365 por los 43. Hasta las paredes saben” (“365 for the 43. Until the walls know”), running from September 19 through October 17 in the Casa del Hijo del Ahuizote, in the country's capital. The photographers want to permit public use of the images so that they are distributed in the streets and posted on walls as a form of public expression. A cart is also set up to distribute the photographs during the September 26 march in Mexico City.

A reflection on the significance of Ayotzinapa, written by journalist and author Federico Mastrogiovanni, accompanies the photographic display. Here are some excerpts from the text:

Trescientos sesenta y cinco días separan a los cuarenta y tres normalistas de Ayotzinapa de nosotros.

A partir del 26 de septiembre de 2014 Ayotzinapa dejó de ser un lugar, para convertirse más bien en una idea, un símbolo. (…)

Desde hace trescientos sesenta y cinco días 26 de septiembre quiere decir desaparición forzada. (…)

Los fotógrafos Valentino Bellini, Brett Gundlock, Giulia Iacolutti, Mauricio Palos y Heriberto Paredes, han documentado con sus imágenes la búsqueda y el dolor, las marchas, la esperanza y la indignación a lo largo de un año.

Pero su trabajo se queda incompleto si las imágenes no generan conciencia, si no invaden los espacios públicos, si no se hacen alimento para la mente. (…)

Para que no siga imperando el olvido y la impunidad.

Three hundred seventy-five days separate us from the 43 school teachers in Ayotzinapa.

On September 26, 2014, Ayotzinapa stopped being a place, and became an idea, a symbol. (…)

For 375 days, September 26 has been equated with forced disappearance. (…)

Photographers Valentino Bellini, Brett Gundlock, Giulia Iacolutti, Mauricio Palos, and Heriberto Paredes have, for the better part of a year, documented the search for truth and the pain, the marches, the hope, and the outrage.

But their work is not complete if the images don't generate a consciousness, if it doesn't invade the public places, if it doesn't feed the mind. (…)

So that forgetfulness and impunity no longer dominate.

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