Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Boys Behind the Symbol: Ayotzinapa

Where are the Ayotzinapa 43?

I first mentioned Ayotzinapa when I wrote about the tragedy of September 26th, 2014 in my other blog. Our loose group of grassroots activists had the first online encounter with the normalistas from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers' College, who had 43 students go missing from Iguala, in the state of Guerrero, Mexico.  

So, as I have been saying for some time now — after the 43 students of Ayotzinapa were disappeared — and after the government tried to quiet the parents with bribes and threats and impunity and all sorts of bully tactics (which adjunct faculty know only too well!), some of the parents decided that the next step was to come to the United States to seek justice and awareness for their cause.

Some of the other parents decided to go to Europe, that way raising awareness worldwide.

The president of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, came and went to the United States at the beginning of January to also ask for assistance for the opposite cause — to have us help him get his government back under his control. What kind of control would you call that when almost 10,000 deaths have been reported in his administration alone, even when Mexico was already rampant with dirty drug wars, crime, corruption?

Yet still the parents and remaining students persisted, as is their right.

"We want our children back: give us the truth! Vivos se los llevaron; vivos los queremos. Alive they were taken; alive we want them back."

In DC, on January 6th protesting Peña Nieto's visit to the United States
© Ana M. Fores Tamayo
    I went to DC when Peña Nieto was here at the beginning of January, and it seemed quite the farce, all the antics both governments played together. What have we come to when our government condones the actions of a corrupt regime? Are we in league with the devil? Are we the devil? Why are we so eager to downplay the obvious ties to an unscrupulous system, a narco-government that gives no value to human life?
One of the things I ponder as I look through all the photographs and videos of the parents of the disappeared, is how venerated these students have become, yet how human they still remain.

Day of the Dead, Mourning 43 lost lives
© Ana M. Fores Tamayo

I look at those faces — the boys behind that iconic 43 now — and I understand that they are what we should be mourning first, and only then should we take up the symbol of what they have become: seeds for the future. 

If we do not mourn their humanity first, we do their memory a great disservice.

Thus I sometimes get a queasy feeling when I see folks repeating words they do not really understand, as if these boys have lost all humanity…

That makes me shudder, but I try to believe that people will not forget.

We should never forget the boys behind the symbol. 

One of the flyers I saw, which was exquisite, said something to the effect that the government tried to bury the evidence, yet instead that same evidence of truth sprouted throughout the entire world.

Best photo ever of 43 snowmen in Switzerland!
"43 Ayotzinapa: where are you?"

This is the same message that artist Jess Chen communicated through her piece:
"Trataron de enterrarnos; no sabían que éramos semillas. They tried to bury us; they didn’t know we were seeds." 
She was kind enough to let us use this poignant image and message for our online event at the end of the year, when we presented the mothers and students of Ayotzinapa for the first time to the United States public back in the beginning of December.

Just Seeds, Ayotzinapa, by Jess X. Chen

BUT the real beauty of this black & white engraving is that the letters are actual figures of people: it was amazing what this artist did, the sensibility of these boys' lost lives: she felt their emotion in each stroke, in each figure, and she captured each letter and made it human. 

Sadly, however, there is not much coverage here in the United States that makes these boys accessible, if we think about it. Might it be because we do not want to bring particular light to this event or to these boys' lives — or disappearances — knowing how complicit we are? These normalistas were not only in an area of land that could produce riches, drugwise, as the opium poppy growth meets the surge in heroin demand here in the United States. This area is also ripe for the exploration of silver, gold, and copper mines, so much so that the government (the US government too?) does not want any attention brought to this matter.

Indeed, the Mexican government feels forever easy blaming a scapegoat, even down to condemning the mayor of Iguala if it needs to, or letting the Mexico City Police Chief resign, so that it will not let out its other dirty little secrets. 

Peña Nieto’s coming here to the United States right at this time was no coincidence either. He has told our government and our president: "We do your dirty work, and now you have to help us get our government back under control, because we are losing it." 

Interesting how nothing continues to happen in the case of Ayotzinapa!

Though only one out of 43 bodies has been found, they have declared the 43 students dead. The government has closed the case. They want no more questions asked, although Human Rights groups say this action is unthinkable.

AND the United States remains silent.

Do you not wonder, as an aside, why we never talk about the indigenous communities in Canada? I believe it is probably for similar reasons; we do not want to draw attention to all the dirty digging we are doing in Canada too, in direct violation of the indigenous tribes of the north. 

We should think about all the borders we draw up, and how we draw them when we want them, yet how we strike them down when we need to rid ourselves of them.

How convenient...

We need to get rid of borders, all borders... between adjunct faculties, adjunct populations, between marginalized peoples and all those who think they are on top: physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, intellectual... 

We need besos, not borders, Ana/Adjunct Justice

Cotton Glory, © Ana M. Fores Tamayo


  1. Ah, thanks so much, Vanessa! That one word from you means more to me than many words might mean from so many other people.

    Thank you! Besos, Ana

  2. I wanted to write more but my day's "think and write by ...." time stamp had expired for the day.

    The cotton field picture brings back memories. With my father running doodlebugging (seismic exploration) crews, we lived in a number small rural central Texas. Through the south -- not just Texas, cotton is the quintessential sharecropper crop, especially before picking was mechanized. It's backbreaking work too.

  3. It was interesting that this cotton field, and so many I saw driving by the border, were right next to the fences, stark black against the white.

    Though we do not realize it, immigrants do backbreaking work that many will not do, and that we all take for granted when we wear our nice cotton jeans and shirts.

    We do not think twice about it.

    Except when we think about our fathers and our grandfathers, and how they struggled to achieve that American dream.

    We are proud of them, rightly so.

    Why can't we give the next generation of dreamers a chance? Why is our collective memory so short?

    Thank you for reminding me of this, Vanessa.

    I am sure we all have similar stories. We should allow others to have their stories, their dreams, too!

  4. Perhaps their dream of becoming teachers has become a reality. We all have learned from them and their voices still echoing around the world through stories like this one. Thank you for sharing compañera Ana.

  5. Not only through stories like this or through the endless news of what happens to them -- is still happening to their "disappearance", and to their parents -- but through finding them, perhaps we will find a better self.

    And through finding these students who dreamed of becoming teachers, we will learn from them and teach the bigger picture: that there is a higher truth out there, and we should seek it, learn it, and bring it forth.

    Thank you Roberto, for spreading this message; as you do this, you also become part of this network: the teachers they wanted us to be.

    Besos, Not Borders! Ana