Two months after 43 students went missing after being taken from Iguala, Mexico by police during a protest, University students commemorated the missing students’ lives during a vigil on the Diag Thursday evening.

Around 5 p.m., a group of students and Ann Arbor residents marched from Mason Hall to the Diag, carrying posters with the phrase “Vivos los Queremos,” roughly translating to “bring them back alive,” and a string of images depicting the faces and names of the missing students. They chanted: “Where are the 43 students? Where?”

On Sept. 26, 43 students from Raul Isidro Burgo Ayotzinapa Normal School were protesting for education reform in Iguala when police officers shot at the students and then rounded them up into police vehicles. They have not been seen since.

Mexican government officials have since stated that the students were killed by a cartel, however their bodies have not been accounted for.

The protest and vigil comes on the eve of a global day of action, which is slated to include more than 250 protests across the world. On the Diag, a group of about 30 people created a large circle around the block M as speakers discussed the situation, speaking in English and Spanish.

Jorge Najera Godinez, a math student from Guerrero — the state where the students disappeared — came to Ann Arbor in the fall to complete his master’s degree at the School of Education. He said he was shocked and saddened to hear that his friends and fellow students from the region were abducted and likely killed.

“It was just really hard to concentrate on my studies so that’s why I went to ask for help and they helped organize it,” Godinez said in an interview before the vigil. “It’s important that everybody knows what’s happening in the city — especially my town — because this is not the first time that something like this has happened. Right now there are 43 students but before that there were many.”

Godinez said the abducted students traveled to Iguala, an hour and a half away from their hometown, to raise money for the schools. He said every few years a few students go missing, and it is often blamed on the cartels.

Without support from the government, receiving an education is a challenge for many people in the region where these students were from, Godinez said. He explained how many students live on mountains, sometimes hours away from the closest school, and have to walk there in extremely hot conditions.

University alum Marta Valadez met Godinez a few weeks earlier and connected him with other Mexican students and community members outraged by the disappearance of the students.

“To be able to support a student who comes from so far away, who’s very isolated, to be experiencing this where he’s here and he feels like he can’t do anything,” Valadez said. “This is an opportunity that feels like we can do this together. So for us to do it here, that’s very powerful for us … People are not going to be quiet. People are not going to be silenced in Mexico, and in the United States and around the world.”

Valadez said the attack, which targeted a large group of students, resonated with many across the world.

“They were being brought up to be critical thinkers and I think that a lot of the fighting of what’s happening there is because these students were speaking out against injustice and harm that was happening through the government’s responsibility,” she said.

Eduardo Garcia, one of the protesters involved in creating Thursday’s event, said the purpose of the demonstration is to show the University community that there is a massacre happening in a neighboring country.

“I think that the U.S. government has been really connected to the Mexican government and in this case the U.S. government should pressure the Mexican government. In the past few years, many Americans have also disappeared,” Garcia said. “We want to conjoin all the anger, direct it at something good, that will bring change.”

During the vigil, Garcia said there were nearly 30,000 forced disappearances in Mexico over the past seven years. At its core, Garcia said Mexico is really having a crisis of student rights.

“It’s a war against the people, a war against the poor, a war against the youth, a war against the students,” Garcia said.

Some of the speakers called for the United Nations to seek justice while others reminded each other that as long as the students were missing their families would have no peace.

As the speakers recited the names of each missing student, many University students stopped to listen, take pictures and sign up for a mailing list to receive more information.

LSA freshman John Mathew stopped to check out the protest and sign up for the e-mail list on his way to class. He said he had heard about the news, but didn’t know much about the ongoing situation in Mexico.

“I think it’s an appealing cause to college students because they see the government taking advantage of the students,” Mathew said. “Almost like they are (being) put down, and not included as a member of the population.”

LSA senior Tatiana Bravo met Godinez earlier while working on a class project and decided to attend the vigil to support him. While she was raised in the United States, many of her family members live in Mexico and she visits there often. She said the event has affected her greatly, as she is around the same age as the disappeared students and also fears the corruption in Mexico.

“A lot of it is people are really fed up, people are disappearing in Mexico and it just gets thrown under the rug or people look the other way, that’s the norm and it shouldn’t be the norm,” Bravo said. “If 43 of my friends went missing on a school day on campus, the entire nation would know and it would be a huge deal, but there it happened and it’s OK.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.