Ayotzinapa: We Will Not Wither

September 17, 2015
A tree sculpture for the Ayotzinapa Exhibit
A tree sculpture, whose leaves display the names and portraits of the 43 disappeared students.

On September 26, 2014, several students from the Rural Teacher’s College Raúl Isidro Burgos in Ayotzinapa—a school that caters to the rural poor and is known for its political activism—were on their way to a demonstration when police opened fire on the buses in which they and other civilians were traveling. Over the course of several hours that night the police killed three students, three bystanders, and injured twenty-five people. Forty-three of the Ayotzinapa students were detained by the police. Further extra official investigations would claim the detention was a concerted effort with the Guerreros Unidos Cartel, with the acquiescence of the 57th Infantry Battalion of the Mexican army, on the orders of José Luis Abarca, mayor of Iguala, and his wife, María de los Ángeles Pineda. The next day, the tortured body of one of the students, Julio César Mondragón Fuentes, was dumped in the middle of a busy street. The most recent report released by a team of experts from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on September 6, 2015, reports a toll of 180 direct victims, 43 forcibly disappeared, six people executed, 40 wounded, and 700 families with psychological distress.

Display case with posters and cartoneras for the Ayotzinapa Exhibit.
Timeline and exhibit case with posters, books, and cartoneras related to the Ayotzinapa events.

This month, on the first anniversary of these events, graduate students from the departments of Spanish & Portuguese, History, and Art, a local artist, and community members from the organization Axolote Group of Mexican Students and Friends in collaboration with UW-Madison Memorial Library’s Ibero-American Studies librarian, have curated the exhibit “Ayotzinapa: We Will Not Wither” that will be on display in the lobby of Memorial Library from September 16 to October 30, 2015. This project has been made possible thanks to the support of Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies (LACIS) and Memorial Library.

A giant puppet (boneco) with which Axolote participated in Strut!, a community procession held in Madison on May 2, 2015.
A giant puppet (boneco) with which Axolote participated in Strut!, a community procession held in Madison on May 2, 2015.

To provide a historical and social context, the exhibit will include a timeline of the ongoing drug war, starting from the U.S. prohibition laws in 1937 until now, stressing its direct link to the human rights crisis en Mexico.

The artwork and poetry included in this exhibit aim to bring a more human element to the statistics and facts of the thousands of victims of the war on drugs.  The ongoing assertion in these texts, art, poems, ephemera, graphic novels, and chapbooks continues to be one of the most repeated chants at the massive demonstrations in Mexico: “they thought they could bury us, but they did not know we were seeds”. Therefore the title of this exhibition displays the hope that united we can all end violence: “We will not wither”.

The Ayotzinapa: We Will Not Wither exhibit was created by:

Paloma Celis Carbajal, Ibero-American Studies Bibliographer (curation, research, editing, & main coordination)
Edith Beltrán, PhD Candidate, Spanish (curation, main research, editing, & Axolote coordination)
Alec Schumacher, PhD Candidate, Spanish (poetry curation, poetry translation, and tree)
Pete Bouchard, MFA Student, Art (art curation, original art, graphic design, & boneco)
Adela Cedillo, PhD Student, History (timeline research, curation, and book annotations)
Nadya Ponce, Local Artist, (graphic design of chapbooks and bookmarks)
Daniel Joe, Senior Artist for UW-Madison Libraries (mounting of visuals)