Story and photos by Jessica Salgado
About 30 students at CSULB gathered last week to mark the second anniversary of the kidnapping and disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero, Mexico. The event coincided with similar actions on college campuses worldwide.
Organized by the CSULB student organization, La Raza, participants at the Monday protest laid on the grass along Friendship Walk where they held up signs depicting the names of each of the 43 victims. Other students painted their hands red and held them up with a photo of a victim.
The 43 were students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College in the Mexican state of Guerrero. They disappeared on Sept. 26, 2014. Many suspect they became victims of local drug gangs working in collaboration with local officials.
The Mexican government initially reported that the 43 students’ bodies had been incinerated, but international forensic experts rejected that story and revealed evidence that suspects involved in the case were tortured into giving such testimony.
Student organizers of the CSULB event say their aim was to commemorate the 43 missing, and to raise awareness about the importance of protecting student activists in Mexico and elsewhere.
“It’s important to understand that this could happen in any country,” said econ major Edgar Hernandez, 24. Pointing to fellow protesters, he added, “I think it’s brave that we have people here representing the Philippines, the Muslim community as well as the Mexican community.”
Carlos Guijarro, a Chicano/Latino Studies major, describes himself as a “pretty active student.” He said the protest brought home the experience of the 43 missing students. “As I was laying down, I was trying to think, ‘Well if I was one of those students, how would I feel?’”
For Franchesca Rodriguez, 21, the experience was visceral. “It just really hurt to feel that – to have red on your hands, to just be lying there. It was just not a good feeling, not a good feeling at all.”
Two years ago, about 100 students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College traveled to the city of Iguala to obtain buses for a demonstration in Mexico City.
That’s when the students were confronted by local officials and allegedly attacked by Iguala police working with criminal organizations.
Al Jazeera interviewed Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College alumnus, Oscar Arias. He describes the college as a school with, “great power for mobilizing people and calling for social consciousness.” He also stated that, “the government didn’t want people to wake up and be aware of their situation.”
Every year, Ayotzinapa students had travelled to Mexico City to protest the 1968 killings of unarmed students in Tlatelolco.
“What happened in Mexico is happening every day and it’s happening around the world,” said Johnny Rodriguez of International League of People’s Struggles. “If we stop fighting now [the 43 students’ disappearance] would have been in vain.”