PAINTING OVER GRAFFITI ON WALLS IS NOT THE SAME AS BLEACHING OUT BLOOD FROM PEOPLE’S COLLECTIVE MEMORY
The recent publication of the second damning GIEI report, first publicized in the New York Times with subsequent coverage on National Public Radio is clear evidence that the Ayotzinapa movement has endured the test of time by staying in the world’s attention almost two years after the forced disappearance of the 43 normalistas. The Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts responsible for the GIEI Report (named such for its acronym in Spanish) was created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on March 2015 to investigate what happened to the 43 students on September 26, 2014 in Iguala, Guerrero.
In the highly competitive media industry that is always starving for new stories, it is difficult to keep any one single issue on people’s psyche among the many which compete for publication for several months, let alone almost two years. Yet Ayotzinapa won’t go away, despite orchestrated attempts by the Mexican authorities and its support from Mexican media to block any news about what happened. Only four months after the incident the then Mexican Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam closed the case to any further investigation, claiming that the criminal group Guerreros Unidos had detained, murdered and cremated the 43 students — to later throw the ashes in the San Juan River — because they were supposedly linked to their rival group Los Rojos.
The case is not unique among many other injustices committed against the people in Mexico; only this time, the Mexican government picked the wrong people to victimize. Cesar Chavez — in his folksy style of humor — used to tell a joke about a fellow who was a sharp shooter and would typically boast about it. To his credit, he would shoot flies in the air over and over again without a miss; however, when he was asked to shoot a bee, he said he couldn’t. “You see,” he said, “the bees are organized and the flies are not. When you mess with a bee, you’ll get the entire beehive come after you.”
Let’s not forget that the teaching college Raul Isidro Burgos in Ayotzinapa is part of the patrimony remaining from the Agrarian Revolution of 1910. In spite of the constant attacks from the government for their activist oriented pedagogy, 17 of the 29 Normal schools remain in operation. They were built to fulfill the legacy of bringing education to rural Mexico and have continued to jealously keep the post-Revolution vision of education reform, along with instilling social and political awareness and civic participation among the teachers in training. These are the breeding grounds of martyrized leaders like Lucio Cabañas and Genaro Vasquez who, in the 1970s, took arms against government policies.
The activism spearheaded by the parents of the 43 missing students has empowered many people who in the past remained silent to the violence. This kind of openness, according to Clemente Rodriguez Moreno — one of the parents — is extremely important for families to talk about on their own. It is indicative of the political work by the Ayotzinapa movement as it gives courage to many people who were afraid to talk about the violence they had endured and, in many cases, ended up fleeing from by emigrating to the United States. Omar Garcia, a student survivor of the attack, was quoted after the publication of the GIEI report as saying, “Society needs to understand that this is the first time a movement led by victims of such crime have the courage to unite and march with their head up high, to withstand each retaliation and not to buckle under.”
The United Nations has called on the Mexican Government to properly implement a follow-up mechanism in conjunction with the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights to keep track of the progress in the investigations in light of the lack of support from the Attorney General’s Office (PGR: from its acronym in Spanish) and its campaigns to discredit the GIEI’s work and the results of its investigations.