On 26 September 2014 43 male students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College went missing in Igula, Guerrero, Mexico. The cries of their parents and supporters reached out across the world – even to urban Manchester- as local students protested and called on activists to support their demands for truth about the disappearance of the students.
A Massacre in Mexico by journalist Anabel Hernandez is a gripping and gruesome insight into the events before and after the student’s disappearance, but is also a revelation about the corruption of the Mexican state. As Anabel says “This is an investigation conducted not only by a journalist, but by a citizen who was forced out of her country by violence and impunity, and who then returned to Mexico because of the violence and impunity meted out to others.”
The students were travelling to Mexico City to commemorate the Tlateloclo Massacre of 2 October 1968 when Mexican soldiers and police murdered hundreds of innocent protestors. The security forces hunted down the unarmed students, killed six people, injured dozens and then “disappeared” the 43 students.
The students were from a rural training school based on a Marxist-Leninist ideology on a model of “student governance” with the objective of training teachers who speak Spanish without having to give up their native indigenous languages and could teach in their own communities. Most of the students come from campesino families and becoming a teacher is the only way of obtaining a professional job.
Politics is at the centre of the school which is a community. “Along with training in agriculture, the students are training politically and ideologically, reinforcing their attachment to their surroundings, as well as their contentment with what they have,” writes Anabel.
In her reconstruction of the event of September 2014 we can see the complicity of the State’s involvement in the disappearance of the 43 students. Anabel gets access to government internal documents; she sees video surveillance that the government tried to hide and destroy. Her bravery in undermining the government’s official version is astounding: this book is a superb case study of investigative journalism. As she says, faced with state violence, “The only thing I could do to protect myself was to keep investigating.”
The government’s attempts to create a false story or, as they put it, the “historic truth” about the disappearance of the 43 students is incredible. Anabel proves that the government were quite prepared, not just to fabricate a fake case with fake evidence, but also to arrest dozens of “suspects” whom they tortured to provide fake confessions that would back up the government’s version.
Apart from Anabel there are many heroes and heroines in the story. Not just the 43 students and their determination to go to the Tlateloclo Massacre, but their families and supporters who refused to accept the government’s story of the events of September 2014. The Mexicans who protested on the streets of the country shouting; “jFue el Estado!” “It was the state!” and those ordinary people who “during those dark hours of fear and desolation, as the Mexican state hounded, murdered and disappeared young students, …opened their doors to save the lives of a least sixty other students, enabling them to tell the tale of that night.”
The 43 students are still “disappeared “and the Mexican government can still not provide any credible story as to what happened to them. Anabel believes that any Mexican person could find themselves in the same position: arrested, tortured and “disappeared”. Her story interweaves with that of the students and all Mexicans. “This is not merely a question of justice for the families who continue to search for their loved ones. It also means giving the example of justice to a country that needs to pull itself out of an abyss of corruption, impunity and violence.”
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