NEW YORK, NY -- During a vigil this past Sunday in New York City's Union Square for the 43 missing students in Mexico, a protester asked God not to make others indifferent. As some held Spanish-language signs that said "Your daughter could be number 44" or "Your son could be number 44," the woman reminded listeners that the students in Guerrero defended the rights of their communities, as we are all called to do.
Mexican expats and other Latinos in the U.S. are increasingly mobilizing in solidarity with the tens of thousands of Mexicans who have taken to the streets and to social media to protest the case of the missing students. In New York, activists have been using the hashtags #YaMeCansé and #FueElEstado (#ItWasTheState) to hold the Mexican government accountable for the disappearance of the 43 students. According to Mexican government reports, local officials coordinated with a criminal gang to apprehend, kill and dispose of the students.
“What this massacre says to everybody,” said an outspoken Mexican activist in New York who uses the pseudonym Esperanza Morales to protect her identity, “is that the Mexican government doesn’t care about killing. They think that they can do it. And they think that they can get away with it.”
When Mexico’s attorney general Jesús Murillo Karam recently uttered three words - "Ya me cansé (I'm tired already) to end a press conference about the case, his statement reflected a government overwhelmed by the corruption and violence in Mexico. Yet those same words reverberated as a rallying cry that mobilized Mexicans, and “Ya me cansé” has also become a catchphrase and a call for action in the United States.
Tens of thousands of Mexicans have been killed as a result of gang violence and the war on drugs which was escalated under the previous president, Felipe Calderon. But the disappearance of the 43 Guerrero students stands out because local government officials, including the Mayor of Iguala and his wife, have been implicated with organized crime in an attack that targeted people for their politics.
“They were picked on for who they are,” said Morales. “They represent a completely different alternative to where Mexico is going.”
According to federal prosecutors, the Mayor of Iguala ordered local police to round up the students, who were then turned to a criminal gang who shot and burned the students, discarding their remains in a river. The families of the missing say that until there is physical evidence, they still have hope they will be found alive.
Here in the U.S., activists say the 43 missing students - who attended a rural, leftist teachers college - shared many of their values. Their determination to educate people in underprivileged schools, to establish strong community roots by living as a collective, and to put what they learned into action is very similar to the principles of Occupy Wall Street and other movements.
The students also remind Mexican activists at home and abroad of Mexico’s indigenous community values, which focus on establishing healthy, sustainable relationships with each other and the places they live in.
“Our society is so individualistic that the idea of pulling yourself [up] by your bootstraps makes it difficult to have a sense of being connected,” said Juan Carlos Ruiz, a Mexican community organizer based in New York. “We need to organize ourselves as large extended families to reconnect with that primordial sense of where we live and who we are.”
This indigenous, holistic perspective of society aims to make people aware of their connections with other groups, a primary focus of many coalitions and movements who are supporting the Mexican people.
“We cannot think that what is going on in Mexico is isolated,” said Bolivian activist Diego Ibañez. He explained that change in Mexico and beyond will be possible when people break through the invisible walls that divide communities and countries.
As first reported in Latino Rebels, activists announced Monday a large-scale mobilization in 43 U.S. cities on December 3rd calling for peace in Mexico. The demonstrations and rallies will also focus on making people more aware of the consequences of government policies, specifically Plan Mexico, a multimillion dollar agreement between United States, Mexico and Central American governments to fight drug trafficking and organized crime. Activists say these initiatives do not attempt to reduce the demand for drugs in the U.S. which leads to more crime in Mexico.
In New York, protesters are calling for greater transparency regarding U.S. policies to stem the demand for drugs and access to guns, issues which spill over to Mexico with devastating consequences. In the end, they say, it's all about the connections between different communities.
“Whatever we do here [in the United States] is going to have an impact somewhere else,” said Bolivian activist Diego Ibañez.