Located in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, the Rural Teacher’s College Raúl Isidro Burgos in Ayotzinapa is a school that caters to the rural poor and is known for its political activism. On September 26, 2014, several of its students were in Iguala 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.
This month will mark the first anniversary of these events. As of today the case is far from being resolved, the 43 students are still missing, and Miguel Ángel Jiménez Blanco, the activist leading the civilian movement to find them, was killed on August 9, 2015. The aforementioned report released by a team of experts from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights debunks the findings provided by the Mexican Attorney General’s Office. It mentions a line of investigation that was never even considered by the government: the trafficking of heroin and cocaine out of the state of Guerrero. This could explain the extreme violence with which authorities and the local drug gang behaved during the attack against the students.
Graduate students 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.
This exhibit highlights the 43 disappeared students and the historical and social context that has led to the current human rights crisis in Mexico. There will be four cases arranged thematically along with visuals and art pieces. The first case will contain books about the drug war, its political and economic impact and its relation to the United States and the rest of the world. The second case will include several copies of the Madison edition of the cartonera book Ayotzinapa: Forced Disappearances, as well as ephemera collected during the three massive demonstrations held in Mexico in 2014 where thousands of people demanded the return of the 43 disappeared students along with the many thousands of civilians that have also been forcibly disappeared. The third case focuses on library materials that study the long history of repression that teacher training schools have faced in Mexico. The last case will display different examples of representations of human rights crisis in graphic novels, children’s literature, and other artistic representations. All the cases include a suggested bibliography with the call numbers of the books found in the Memorial Library.
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 cartonera book Ayotzinapa: Desapariciones Politicas recollects the voices of some of the survivors of the Ayotzinapa disappearances, students that survived the shooting and were not taken by the police, and the voices of the people attending the demonstrations that followed. This book was originally published in Mexico by Pensaré Cartoneras in 2014. In 2015 a bilingual co-edition between Axolote and Pensaré Cartoneras was released Ayotzinapa: Forced Disappearances, in which Axolote translated the texts to English. Both editions of this book are part of the Cartonera Book Collection held at UW-Madison Special Collections. Cartonera books are a grassroots publishing movement. Each book cover is hand-painted by the community in workshops which promote literacy, as well as cultural and social awareness.
The exhibit starts September 16th and ends October 30th, 2015. Read Ayotzinapa, a burning wound.