Ayotzinapa and San Miguel, Solidarity against Impunity, Corruption, and Repression
By Tania Noriz and Jesús Aguado
Following on the violent events that occurred in September in Iguala, Guerrero, different versions¾official and unofficial¾show that disagreement exists between civil society and the Mexican government. The government blames the tragedy on organized crime. However, parents of the 43 missing students and journalistic investigations have proved that to be unlikely. Meanwhile, social and cultural movements have arisen, supporting the students’ struggle and tragedy through artistic demonstrations opposed to the rooted violence in Mexico. Transcending national and international borders, these groups demonstrate that the spirit of Ayotzinapa lives and that Mexico is not dead, as many want us to believe.
Ayotzinapa SMA, creating community
San Miguel de Allende is located 663 kilometers away from what happened in Guerrero, but Ayotzinapa SMA has brought them together. This “closed” social and cultural movement, created in the Facebook social network, has gathered a group of 621 citizens of San Miguel de Allende, including actors Jesusa Rodríguez and Damián Alcázar, concerned and outraged with the current situation of impunity, corruption, and repression on the part of the government in general toward the people of Mexico.” Driven by the demonstrations in Mexico City, members of Ayotzinapa SMA began to organize peaceful protests in support and solidarity, not only with the students of Ayotzinapa and their families, but also with the families of all people missing because of government oppression.
The movement also aims to build community among its members and among all residents of San Miguel, local and expats. In an artistic and cultural way, they demand that the government “do the job for which they are being paid.” All government actions should obey and prioritize the interests of the people of Mexico, from whence its power came. “We work without leaders and all our community is working with a base group of 30 people projects to show Ayotzinapa as a factor of change in benefit of Mexico,” said Michael Vidargas, member of Ayotzinapa SMA.
T-shirts to keep their memory alive
Gabriela Osorio, a member of Ayotzinapa SMA, is an art therapist guiding the collective exhibition “Solidarity and union, Ayotzinapa, the strength of Mexico.” This exhibit, which opened January 17 at el Charco del Ingenio, shows a pasillo (corridor) of mourning t-shirts representing the 43 students of Guerrero.
The exhibition features 50 t-shirts—43 symbolizing the missing students, and the other 7 representing local and national issues, such as violence and other social problems in San Miguel. “San Miguel can have the title of the best city in the world and can have a beautiful historic center, but its traditions are dying, and born and raised sanmiguelenses are being left to live in communities or impoverished zones to give priority to tourists and expats who are owning our town,” said Vidargas.
Osorio used black t-shirts as icons of mourning and as a kind of collective catharsis. The shirts were designed by members of this group and other community members who wanted to be part of this social project. One t-shirt displays a plaster mask representing Julio César Mondragón, flayed alive during the attacks. Its inscription says “You can take my face off, but you will never have my soul.” Another t-shirt represents Michoacán. Others symbolize the killings in Tlatelolco, Tlatlaya, Acteal, and the ABC daycare center.
Osorio wanted these art pieces to be close to the viewer, not far away, as exhibits tend to be. “When you walk by, you are in front of them, facing reality, because many times, as Mexicans, we don’t want to do it, and at some point we might have to do it.” This exhibition aims to display the violent reality in the country from a friendlier point of view as it is art, expressive and, above all, peaceful. “We will continue with projects of inclusion; we want people to participate and express, artistically, all their feelings,” Osorio said.
Ayotzinapa, raw feelings
Ayotzinapa is a rural community in the state of Guerrero where the rural teacher training college, Raúl Isidro Burgos, is located. Notorious not only for what happened to 43 of its students, but also because guerrillero Lucio Cabañas studied there, this is a school for low-income students. It works on the basis of four pillars: education, agriculture, culture, and sports. Students are not only academically trained, but they must also learn economic and productive models to can apply in other communities to generate progress. This model of rural schools, derived from the educational reforms of the 1920s, is commonly associated with socialist ideologies, thus stigmatized as a hotbed of rebels (guerrillas)—students who demonstrate by blocking the roads, hijacking transportation, and loitering.
“We have said this to other media before. Sometimes people begin to be aware of the social realities when they are right in their faces—you know—the raw feelings right in the face. However, we students of Ayotzinapa didn’t open our eyes on September 26. We opened our eyes more than 80 years ago. Since then, we have known how Mexican society was. We knew what the trends of the government were—to get away from the pueblo, to represent interests that no longer belonged to the people, but to the business class along with the mafia and cronyism, in power exclusively,” Omar García, a survivor of the September 26 attack, told Atención.
On September 26, the students arrived in the town of Iguala, where—according to the official version by Procuraduría General de la República, PGR—Mayor José Luis Abarca ordered their detention as he was afraid they would disrupt the activities report his wife, María de los Ángeles Pineda, president of the local DIF, was to give. Under the orders of Abarca, local police attacked the students, resulting in the death of three of them and three civilians, and later the detention and disappearance of 43 students, carried out by the local cartel Guerreros Unidos, also under the orders of Abarca.
“For us, Guerreros Unidos is a synonym for a political party. As in other states, the cartels who work in them are synonymous with the parties of the politicians in power. For us there are no narcos (drug dealers) in Mexico because there are always deputies or senators, governors, mayors, regional chiefs, or entrepreneurs surrounding them, so that, in this case, Guerreros Unidos is the same as the government,” García said.
Many demonstrations were soon held to put pressure on the government to accelerate the investigation and learn the students’ whereabouts. Finally, Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam reported that students were burned to death in a dumpster in the city of Cocula and then thrown into the San Juan River. From these remains, only one student, Alexander Mora Venancio, has been identified.
“In the assertion of the Attorney General’s office, there are many versions and many inconsistencies. His version provides political motivations to shelve the case. They do not provide us with a resolution or an answer about our classmates. We said from the first that we want to see Enrique Peña Nieto. If there have not been tracks to lead us to their whereabouts, it means that someone powerful, an expert in forced disappearance, had perpetrated such an act that night, and there is no one more expert in the country than the army itself. Almost everything points to the fact that they too are involved in the disappearance of our comrades,” said García. He commented that the unofficial version of the facts, published in the issue number 1989 of Proceso, which gives an account of the involvement of the army and the Federal Police, is very accurate, “We saw what happened that night in Iguala. We know who did that; we also know that the Federal Police were in the caseta (booth) on the road from Chilpancingo to Iguala. I was there, I saw the army, I heard them and saw them not providing emergency care to our fallen comrades.”
Although the PGR has stated the army was not involved, the families of the victims now believe their sons could have been cremated in the military area of Chilpancingo before being thrown into the dumpster and the San Juan River, where they were found. Recently, students and relatives of the victims tried to break into the Iguala military base in search of the missing, but they were stopped. Finally, Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, Secretary of the Interior, gave access to family members, who will search for the students in the 27th Infantry Battalion in Iguala, in the 35 zone in Chilpancingo, and at the general headquarters of the Ninth Military Region, in Cumbres de Llano Largo.
“Hope is what is keeps us moving, always hoping to find our peers. We have to force authorities to tell us where they are because people of the state participated and helped in this. We are clinging to knocking on doors, making alliances with people who want to change the country, who want to join this great movement that has surpassed other thousands of problems that we have in the country,” García noted. He expressed concern about whether they will be linked to a political party or will be thought of as liberators. “We are just hurt people, run over; we are responding to an assault. We don’t want to see other families suffer like us … suffering from problems where the state is involved, where it is the creator of that suffering,” he stated.
“What’s going to happen with the social movement generated because of what happened in Ayotzinapa?” Atención asked García, “This movement is going to grow, and people are going to have to participate. At some point you have to ask how can I help my brother, my sister, my countrymen? There you will see the willingness, readiness, and social commitment. Visit our school to see what we do there, the pain of our parents, to feel what we feel, hear what we hear, see what we see, and you can thus be a reflection of our struggle your own land, so that you can be a mirror.”