On Sept. 26, students from across campus joined to commemorate the third anniversary of Ayotzinapa, a metonymy for the disappearance of 43 students after an attack in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico.
On that day in 2014, students from Ayotzinapa were on their way to Chilpancingo, Mexico City to commemorate the anniversary of the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre. The students had commandeered several buses to get to Mexico City and raise funds for their travel. On their way to Iguala, police surrounded three buses and opened fire. Students fled for safety and others attempted to hide by lying on the ground. By the end of the attack, six students were killed, 25 were wounded and 43 would be declared missing.
Mexican authorities have blamed municipal officials and the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel for allegedly incinerating the 43 bodies; however, no such scientific evidence has provided support for this explanation, and review of state and federal records reveals inconsistencies in the state’s investigation. Many conflicting theories point to government corruption as the true blame for the attack. Fue el estado (“it was the state”) is often shouted by protesters and victims’ families.
The demonstration this year, organized by MEChA de Estánfor, a Latinx activist group on campus, involved the holding of 43 posters, each featuring the face and description of a disappeared student, around the Claw in White Plaza. The demonstration was intended to mourn and honor the disappeared 43, but it was also a call to the Mexican government. Three years after the attack, the government has yet to provide a truthful explanation of the students’ disappearance. The chant vivos se los llevaron, vivos los queremos (“alive you took them, alive we want them”) is a refusal to sit idly by while the government attempts to move on. It is a refusal to simply accept that these students are dead, that they’ve joined the countless victims of Mexican state violence. It is a cry of hope.
This cry of hope, however, goes beyond calling for the safe return of los 43. Ayotzinapa is but one instance of the state-sponsored violence that occurs throughout Latin America and within the United States, and it should not be discussed as singular. In an effort to expand this conversation, MEChA also hosted a screening and discussion of “Which Way Home,” a documentary that speaks to the violence against Central American unaccompanied minors that is promoted by the Mexican and U.S. governments. Last Wednesday, we organized Rezando por justicia, a candlelight vigil where folks gathered to talk about, pray for and mourn the lives lost due to state violence.
We, as MEChA de Estánfor, felt compelled to respond and bring attention to the events at Ayotzinapa, because as students and rising educators, los 43 are similar to us in more than age. They aspired, fought and worked for a more just world, a world free from state-imposed violence and terror, violence that always threatens the most vulnerable among us first.
We see this violence all across our homes in the Americas. Historically, in the Atlantic slave trade, mitas and encomiendas that enslaved and brutalized our African and Indigenous foremothers and all the pain and divisions those continue to cause between us. We see this violence all the way up to contemporary history, with the forced sterilizations of Quechua-speaking women in Peru under Fujimori and the eugenics Law 116 imposed on our boricua siblings by the U.S. government. We see it over and over again with despotic regimes like Pinochet in Chile and Trujillo in the Dominican Republic killing thousands of our siblings and foremothers who dared to call for justice, who dared to rise up against oppression and who faced brutal retribution at the hands of corrupt governments, often backed by the violent force of the U.S. military and government.
We see state-sanctioned violence in the systematic disenfranchisement of our bodies, in the profit made off the labor of our siblings and parents in fields, restaurants, universities and hospitals while criminalizing their labor and demonizing their bodies for political gain. We see this violence in the policies that militarize the border, directly leading to thousands of lost lives, including those of migrant children, and in the barbarity with which agencies like ICE or militarized police forces attack our communities and our hermanxs. It is with this context that we recognize Ayotzinapa as a symptom of a larger pattern of multifaceted state-imposed violence. It is with this context that we honor the thousands of victims of state violence across our homes in the Americas. It is in this context that we commit ourselves to uplift our communities and to keep Ayotzinapa alive.
MEChA de Estánfor
Contact MEChA co-presidents Bernardo Velez and Marisol Zarate at bvelez ‘at’ stanford.edu and marisolz ‘at’ stanford.edu.