Last Saturday marked the first anniversary of the 2014 Iguala Mass Kidnapping. On Sept. 26 of last year, students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College in Guerrero, Mexico travelled by bus to Iguala to protest the city’s corrupt mayor, who was known for his involvement with drug cartels. Just as they arrived, the local police opened fire on the buses, killing several people. After the shooting, 43 of the students were forced into police cars and were never seen again. As a result of the search for the missing students, dozens of mass graves were found, presumably created by local drug cartels. Families still hold the hope that their sons are alive, as none of the remains have been identified as any of the 43 students.
“It’s a learning opportunity for us to make ourselves knowledgeable. We owe that to these 43 people,” says Vice President of MEChA India Buckley.
Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA), is a student organization dedicated to involvement with Chican@ activism, a civil rights movement whose goal is to promote Mexican-American empowerment. In remembrance of the mass kidnapping, MEChA held a candlelight vigil in Gleeson Plaza last Friday at 7 p.m. Social Outreach Director Jazmin Maya says that students must stand in solidarity with their fellow student activists. “They were students from another school who were doing the same thing; they were being activists,” says Maya.
MEChA leaders placed 43 chairs with pictures of the kidnapped students in front of Cowell Hall Friday morning, and then remained there throughout the entire day to answer questions. Just before the vigil, members moved the chairs into the shape of a circle in the middle of Gleeson Plaza. More than 45 students attended, and each stood behind a chair in the circle. MEChA encouraged participants to share their thoughts, and many people shared powerful words and slam poems dedicated to the 43 students. Then, participants lit candles and held a 43-second moment of silence before a unity clap – a clap that starts out slow and builds to an applause – ended the ceremony.
The ceremony also included another activity, during which one student read each name of the missing students aloud. After each name, everyone was told to say “presente,” like a class roll call. This served as a reminder that as long as the missing students continue to be remembered and fought for, their voices will always be heard.
Photo courtesy of Racquel Gonzales/Foghorn