Friday, November 28, 2014

Protesting Mexico’s Disappeared Students

Last Thursday evening, I joined my friend Josue and hundreds of people at Cabrillo Park in Santa Ana and marched to the Mexican Consulate on 4th street to voice our outrage over the disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero, Mexico at the hands of police and (allegedly) drug cartels.  This march was done in solidarity with massive protests across Mexico on Thursday, the 104th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution. 

These movements reflect a growing discontent among people of Mexico regarding the corruption of local and federal governments, and the collusion between political power, police, and powerful drug cartels.  Though similar protests have happened before, the outrage over the disappearance of 43 students has created a kind of tipping point.

Outside the Mexican Consulate in Santa Ana, protesters held photographs of the disappeared students and signs which called for Justice, Solidarity, and an end to the killings. Many had harsh words of criticism of Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto, and the Mexcian government in general.

“We are here to raise our voices against the Mexican government, which is killing people in our society just for having different views,” said protestor Marco Garces, “We want a better country.”  

The 43 disappeared students from a rural teachers college in Ayotzinapa, Mexico were on their way to a protest in Iguala when they were intercepted by local police, who opened fire on the unarmed students.  Six were killed, and 43 were taken away in squad cars, never to be seen again.

Many at the Santa Ana protest wore t-shirts and carried signs which read “Todos Somos Ayotzinapa” (We are Ayotzinapa).  Chants of “Justicia!” filled the air along with a sense of communal outrage and sadness.  Folk songs and speeches were occasionally punctuated by prolonged moments of silence for the 43 victims and their families.  It was a moving vigil of candlelight and cell phones—both illuminating and recording the events.

“I am here in solidarity with the students and people of Mexico, and to raise awareness about an issue that is being mostly ignored in the United States,” said protestor Benjamin Vasquez.

A music group called Son Del Centro, consisting of volunteers from Santa Ana’s El Centro Cultural de Mexico played traditional Mexican folk songs, adding new choruses and verses to reflect the current issue, a practice which, according to musician Yuritzy Perez, has a long tradition in Mexico.  

“Music gives us power,” said Perez.

Another member of Son Del Centro, Alvaro Colez, translated one of the verses from the Spanish:

The streets are for the people.
Where are the people?
The people are in the streets,
Demanding liberty!

“This is a major injustice,” said Colez, “The people need to stand up and say ‘No More!’”

The crowd was totally peaceful and included families with small children, the elderly, and many students.

"Your pain is our pain" Photo by Josue Rivas

To see more of Josue's photographs, visit OC Weekly HERE.

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