There is still no closure in the tragic case of 43 missing students, almost certainly dead, in the Mexican state of Guerrero.
On Sunday past renowned Mexican journalist and author Elena Poniatowska gave a powerful and immensely humanizing speech in Mexico City’s central square – el zocalo. The original transcript published in La Jornada can be found online here. Below is my English translation.
Today, Sunday October 26, one month after the disappearance of the 43 young men from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College, taken by the Municipal Police of Iguala, Guerrero, we demand here in the centre of the country, in the capital of Mexico the presence of these young people and we shout to the open sky: “Bring them Back“.
The Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College is very poor but it is the only place where those who have nothing can receive a free tertiary education. It is the only option for poor rural farmworkers who have chosen to become rural teachers. The living quarters of the school’s students show the misery and the neglect faced by these youngsters. Their food shows it as well. When one of them was given milk he exclaimed that it was the first time he had seen it and smiled as he said that he liked it. Apart from milk, there are many other foods that the youngsters don’t know. Their shirts, their backpacks, their sweaters hung on the walls of their empty rooms, their plastic cooking utensils; all are testament to their poverty.
The time has come for the poor of Mexico to speak up, the time has come for citizens to protest above the political parties. The time has come for us to be consulted. Consultation is a political right that we, the inhabitants of the 32 states of the republic, have been demanding for a long time. We are thousands of Mexicans who do not feel represented, thousands of Mexicans who want a participative democracy, thousands of Mexicans who raise our voices and ask to be taken account of in public affairs, above all in those of great national importance such as our energy future. These important issues concern us but they concern our young people even more because, in addition to being the future they have to find a way to survive. Without them we have no country. As the saying goes “without corn there is no country”. Without our young people there is nothing.
Last Wednesday October 23, in a march that was NOT organized by just one party, citizens organized themselves and carried out an exemplary protest, an absolute one of a kind. The protest was five times bigger than reported by the media: 350 thousand people, a river of people flowed into and packed the streets adjacent to the zocalo until it was bursting at the seams. The crowd protested against the crime of Ayotzinapa, a crime against humanity. The students were hunted, subjected to torture until death, forced disappearances, to arbitrary executions and now those guilty want to wash their hands of responsibility by blaming the students and seeking to criminalize them by linking them to the “Los Rojos” or “Guerreros Unidos” cartels. There is no value in diverting the investigation from the facts and holding press conferences claiming that it was a confrontation between cartels. Nor is there worth in linking the young students to guerrilla groups. The “Iguala Case” is an atrocious stain on the official and political life of our country which was already sinking in the mud.
The journalist París Martínez , assisted by friends and relatives of the missing, concerned himself with drawing up profiles of the students. It is deserved, albeit with just a few lines, that we remember each and every one of them and I request that, after the name and description of each youngster, we all in unison say: “Bring him back” just like when after the fire at ABC Nursery in Hermosillo and the death of 49 children and the wounding of 76 more on June 5 2009 we said “present” after the name of each child.
1. Jhosivani Guerrero de la Cruz, 20 years old, from Omeapa. Thin, a slender face with almond-shaped eyes nicknamed “The Korean”. Walks 4 kilometers on his way to school to reach the public transport and 4 more on his way home because he wants to be a primary school teacher in his hometown of Omeapa.
2. Luis Ángel Abarca Carrillo, 21 years old, from San Antonio in the municipality of Cuautepec in the Costa Chica, nicknamed ” Amiltzingo”. Very affectionate, a member of “Activist House” in which students can enroll to receive political training. Inside the house the name of Lucio Cabañas resonates. The rich of Guerrero consider the students to be troublemakers because the hero they wish to emulate is the guerrilla Lucio Cabañas, who was also a teacher.
3. Marco Antonio Gómez Molina, 20 years old, nicknamed Tuntún of Tixtla. He loves rock gigs and particularly likes “Saratoga”, “Extravaganza” and “Los Angeles del Infierno”. He is also the classmate that always makes the others laugh in Activist House.
4. Saúl Bruno García, 18 years old, known as Chicharrón (Pork Rind). He’s a complete ‘disaster’, one of the students who tries to make you laugh until you cry, a big, friendly joker. He’s from Tecuanapa and is missing the ring finger on his left hand because it was chopped off by the mill when he was making tortillas. Saúl Bruno García shaved off everyone’s hair in the Activist House. A classmate had photos from the ‘shaving’ on his cell phone but the police took it off him.
5. Jorge Antonio Tizapa Legideño, from Tixtla, 20 years old, according to his mother. He has a dimple on his left cheek. He likes working the land, sowing grains and vegetables because the resources provided by the state government for the 500 students is never enough.
6. Abel García Hernández, form Tecuanapa is a 19 year old country boy. He has a mark behind his right ear, he’s skinny and he is 162 cm tall.
7. Carlos Lorenzo Hernández Muñoz, 19 years old. Baptized as ‘el Frijolito’ (The Little Bean), he’s from the coast. A chatterbox, he’s always willing to help others. “El Frijolito” was the first to stand up to donate blood when requested in Tixtla to help a sick person.
8. Adan Abraján de la Cruz, 20 years old, farm worker. He’s from El Fortín neighborhood in Tixtla, a town that looks after the Community Police. He’s a member of the Pyrotechnics football team in El Fortín. His friends consider him a good footballer.
9. Felipe Arnulfo Rosa, worker from a farm in the Municipality of ayutla. He’s 20 years old. He fell head over heels when he was little and has a scar on the back of his neck.
10. Emiliano Alen Gaspar de la Cruz, baptized as “Pilas” (Batteries) for his intelligence. A hard worker, quiet and reasons better than others. He likes everything to be in its place. Emiliano was one of 20 first year students who enrolled in Activist House two months ago.
11. César Manuel González Hernández, 19 years old from Huamantla in Tlaxcala. A disorganized youngster, he has the nickname “Panotla” but he is also known as “Marinela” because once, in Jalisco, he got a lift in the van of the cupcake making company.
12. Jorge Alvarez Nava, “el Chabelo“, 19 years old from the municipality of Juan R. Escudero, Guerrero. He has a scar in his right eye and is calm. He never upsets anyone, never swears and is so patient that he is never rude to anyone. He’s one of the most sensitive students of Activist House. His parents wait for him on the sports field of the Ayotzinapa School and hug each other while they speak of him.
13. José Eduardo Bartolo, 17 years old from Tixtla. Student in his first year at the Rural School. His father is a bricklayer by trade and hopes that his son will be a professional.
14. Israel Jacinto Lugardo, 19 years old from Atoyac, nicknamed “Chukyto” by his friends. His mother holds up a poster with the face of her son and shows it to passing motorists on the Highway of the Sun. “He’s quite strong and has a scar on his head. His skin is light brown, his nose quite flat. He’s a good boy, he came with high hopes of studying.
15. Antonio Santana Maestro, nicknamed “Copy” because he’s a very good public speaker. He is well known in Activist House where the other students also attend. Copy plays guitar and likes video games. He plays playstation but what he loves the most is to read.
16. Christian Tomás Colón Garnica, 18 years old from Tlacolula de Matamoros, Oaxaca. His father travelled as soon as the abduction of the 43 students was reported. I am a day laborer, I make 600 pesos a week maximum and that’s when there is work because sometimes there is none. My boy wants to be a teacher, that’s the profession that he wants but they put a brake on it, they put a stop to it. What are we supposed to do?”
17. Luis Ángel Francisco Arzola, 20 years old. His classmates call him “Cochilandia” but nobody knows why. He arrived with the nickname. He’s a serious young man, hard working and we are waiting for him here and we want him to know that we won’t stop until we find him.
18. Miguel Ángel Mendoza Zacarías, from Apango in the municipality of Mártir de Cuilapa. He is 23 years old and his classmates think of him as “already old”. His classmates are between 17 and 20 years old. In his town, Apango, he was a barber trying to get ahead. He’s a short guy, “awesome” according to his mates because he supports them, gives them advice, gives his all in exchange for nothing. He looked after his parents and siblings. He came to school sitting next to a classmate on the bus “but they started shooting and unfortunately he ran for one side and I ran for the other. He was arrested by the Iguala police, I managed to escape but since then I haven’t been able to find him…”
19. Benjamín Ascencio Bautista, 19 years old, known as “greedy guts” because one day he ate, by himself, all the biscuits on the table at a conference. He’s originally from Chilapa. Before entering the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College he was a community educator in the National Council of Public Education. He trained volunteers to teach literacy in marginalized, isolated, rural and indigenous communities all over the country.
20. Alexander Mora Venancia, 19 years old from “El Pericón” in the municipality of Tecuanapa, Guerrero. Nobody could talk him out of his idea of becoming a teacher. He likes teaching. He started out helping in the countryside but he wanted to study… “I urge the authorities” says his father ” to do their work as it should be done, that there be no cover ups of the guilt of the Iguala Police and the town mayor who committed this massacre. Just as they were taken alive, we want them to be returned alive…”
21. Leonel Castro Abarca, farm worker from the community of “El Magueyito” in the municipality of Tecuanapa. He doesn’t have a nickname and to his friends “he is a serious person but with a sense of humor. He dreams of being a teacher to help his people move forward.
22. Everardo Rodríguez Bello, 21 years old. Originally from Omeapa. Known as “Shaggy” because he resembles Shaggy from Scooby Doo. An automotive mechanic qualified in the National College of Professional and Technical Education, he gets very angry at inequality, above all in the case of food. “If they give you six tortillas and him five, he protests”.
23. Doriam González Parral, from Xalpatláhuac, Guerrero. He is 19 years old. He’s short and “looks like a little kid” and consequently is called “Kinder”. He’s very funny and easy going. He has a brother at the school…The brothers entered together, their brotherhood is obvious and both of them were abducted together.
24. Jorge Luis González Parral is 21 years old and the older brother of Doriam, “The Kinder”. He is a serious classmate who has worked in several taco joints and although he liked the work he wanted to get ahead and decided to become a teacher just like his little brother Kinder. His nickname is “Charra” because he has a scar on his leg that looks like it was inflicted by a charrasca (type of musical instrument).
25. Marcial Pablo Baranda, 20 years old. He speaks an indigenous language and wants to be a bilingual teacher by the side of other bilingual teachers that come from even poorer towns. He’s short, good natured, cousin of Jorge Luis and Doriam and his friends call him “Magallón”, because his family has a musical group with that name which sings songs from his homelands, the Costa Chica. He spends his free time singing cumbias and playing the trumpet and drums.
26. Jorge Aníbal Cruz Mendoza, from Xalpatláhuac. Belongs to the same group as Kinder. They call him “Chivo” (Billy Goat) and he’s serious, gets on well with everyone and almost never causes problems.
27. Abelardo Vásquez Peniten, originally from Atliaca, Guerrero. He likes football. In a recent match he scored several goals. Never causes any problems. He gains respect because he respects everyone else and doesn’t go around criticizing others. Apart from football he loves studying, “he grabs one book and then grabs another and another and another”.
28. Cutberto Ortíz Ramos from Atoyac. They call him “The Commander” because he has a certain similarity to the singer of norteño ballads. He has a very strong look, he’s strong, tall, friendly and relates to others well. He is very enthusiastic about the fields of crops and he loves to tell jokes about SpongeBob. He laughs and imitates SpongeBob’s laugh to perfection.
29. Bernardo Flores Alcaraz, farm worker, 21 years old. He has a mole on his chest which resembles a little cat’s paw. He has high hopes of becoming a teacher and helping children and adults who don’t know how to read or write. In the countryside there are a lot of people who lag behind in education and it is his hope to teach them. The 43 students went out to collect funds in order to be able to complete their practical teaching. It is not just that their lives are cut short and they are left to lie in their own blood.
30. Jesús Jovany Rodriguez Tlatempa from Tixtla, nicknamed “El Churro”. He is 21 years old, the oldest of four brothers and “the only support for his mother” according to his cousin who walked for five hours holding up a placard with his picture. He is a very generous young man who has been supporting his niece for a year because his sister is a single mother and he acts as a father figure. His cousin furiously demands his return just as she asks for justice for the many youngsters of Tlatlaya in Mexico State.
31. Mauricio Ortega Valerio de Matlalapa or Matlinalpa, from near “La Montaña”, 18 years old. He is nicknamed “Espinosa” because when his head was shaved – a tradition for first year students at the Ayotzinapa School – he had a certain resemblance to Espinosa Paz, the singer.
32. Martín Getsemany Sánchez García de Zumpango, 20 years old. He likes to play football and supports the Cruz Azul club. All his family are looking for him. He has eight brothers and during the march in Chilpancingo on Wednesday the 22nd his relatives carried a blanket with his photograph.
33. Magdaleno Rubén Lauro Villegas, 19 years old. Known as “El Magda”, he’s a calm and generous classmate that is studying to become a bilingual teacher in order to be able to teach indigenous kids who don’t speak Spanish.
34. Giovanni Galindo Guerrero, 20 years old. Known as “The Spider” because he’s skinny and has his own unique running and jumping style as if he were hanging form spiderwebs just like Spiderman.
35. José Luis Luna Torres, 20 years old from Amilzingo, Morelos. His friends call him “Duck” because he looks like Donald Duck and has the voice of a duck. He is serious, calm, always speaks well, good natured, quiet and doesn’t cause much trouble.
36. Julio Cesar López Patolzi, 25 years old from Tixtla. He doesn’t have a nickname. He is simply called “El Julio”. He’s a good natured and quiet guy, doesn’t cause problems, hangs out with just a few others but is always friendly.
37. Jonás Trujillo González from the Costa Grande in the municipality of Ticuí de Atoyác. Called “Beni” because his brother also attends the Ayotzinapa School but is in his second year and his name is Benito. Therefore that are known as the Benis. He is tall, chubby and gets on very well with his brother. They are quite similar although the younger one is taller and has fairer skin.
38. Miguel Ángel Hernández Martínez, 27 years old. His nickname is “Little Bota” because his older brother, who also studies in the school, is called “Bota” and so of course they gave him the name of “Little Bota” although he is of average height and weight. He is not at all disorganized, always friendly, healthy, good natured. He is polite, always willing to give a hand, available to others. He’s a young guy who shows a lot of solidarity with others.
39. Christian Alfonso Rodríguez, 21 years old, from Tixtla. Longs to be a teacher and likes folkloric dance. He is called “Hugo” because he always wears Hugo Boss t-shirts. His cousin, during the march on Wednesday the 22nd grew hoarse from explaining so many times that “he’s not just my cousin, he’s my friend…he’s a very diligent person, very dedicated to his studies and dance and it is unjust that someone who gives so much of himself and makes such an effort should suffer such tragic consequences at the hands of the government…”
40. José Ángel Navarrete González, 18 years old. He shares a room inside the school with two other young students in which there is not one piece of furniture, not even beds, just frayed sheets of rubber foam.
41. Carlos Iván Ramírez Villarreal, 20 years old. He is called “The Little Devil”. The truth is that he is good, doesn’t interfere with anybody, calm, he wants to be someone, but not the clown…”
42. José Ángel Campos Cantor, 33 years old from Tixtla is the oldest of the 43 disappeared students. Although he’s older he never takes advantage of the others. On the contrary he supports them in everything, he’s everybody’s friend..”
43. Israel Caballero Sánchez, originally from Atliaca, a small town halfway along the road between Tixtla and Apango. He’s called “Aguirrito”. He’s preparing himself to be a teacher in indigenous communities and when his classmates call him Aguirrito he complains ” Don’t be assholes, don’t call me that stupid name..”
Ayotzinapa is devastated. Mexico is devastated. The students of the Ayotzinapa Teachers College keep the broken sneakers of their classmates, their clothes, even the cardboard that they used as beds. They wait for their return despite the extraordinary priest Alejandro Solalinde, protector of migrants that this very moment is giving a mass in Ayotzinapa, having been told by several witnesses that the students had been murdered, dismembered and thrown into a pit which was set alight. There is no adequate response to such a heinous crime. The photo of the Mexico State student Julio César Mondragón whose eyes were gouged out circulates on the internet. We are facing a national catastrophe. In five states there are protests in support of the 43 missing students. Mexico is bleeding. The international community is shocked and now considers Mexico the most dangerous, non war-zone country for young people. Mutilated youngsters, youngsters without bodies, murdered youngsters. Indignation reverberates around the whole world. The mother of Guadalajara student Ricardo Esparza, who was attending the Cervantino Festival in Guanajuato said that she would be pleased to receive her son’s body so that she could lay down flowers upon it. Isn’t her resignation monstrous? Or as Gloria Muñoz Ramírez asks, “To what point has government sponsored terror been embedded in the breast of society?” In the face of terror all that is left is the unity of the people who rise up and shout as they have done for days: “They were taken alive, we want them alive.”