On Sept. 26, 43 students from Ayotzinapa, a rural teacher’s school in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, disappeared after participating in a political protest in the city of Iguala, some 150 miles from their school.
Then mayor of Iguala José Luis Abarca and his wife Maria de los Angeles Pineda— who were on the run until being apprehended by federal authorities on Nov. 4 — apparently ordered that the students “be taught a lesson.”
According to prosecutors, Abarca ordered police to confront the students. The police, it’s said, turned the 43 students — known as the “Normalistas” — over to a gang, which killed them and dumped their bodies.
The Associated Press reported thatbMexico’s Federal Judiciary Council said in a statement that Abarca has been charged with organized crime, the kidnapping of seven people and the killing of another in crimes that occurred before the students disappeared. In addition, 36 Iguala municipal officers, and 17 members of Guerreros Unidos and their leader have been arrested.
Long accustomed to impunity from such crimes, the case has galvanized Mexicans into action. They have organized huge protests, burned and destroyed government buildings, blocked highways and refused to believe the government’s assertion that whoever killed the the students had burned up their bodies and disposed of their ashes in a river.
While searching for the missing students, concealed graves full of human remains have appeared all around Iguala, much as they appeared in the past in the northern states of Durango and Tamaulipas.
People in Los Angeles plan to show their support. Protestors will gather at 4 p.m. today, Nov. 20, in front of the Olvera Street Church in downtown Los Angeles and then march towards the Mexican consulate to protest this crisis in their country. Organizers of the march are asking participants to dress in black, to show their grief.
Thousands of Mexicans are expected to come together in Mexico City as well this day for what is expected to be a massive demonstration against the Mexican government.
The disappearance of people in Mexico has been an ongoing problem for years, and has given American tourists — and even those with relatives in Mexico — some pause about traveling in the country.
Families in the San Fernando Valley know full well the trauma of not knowing what happened to loved ones. There are residents here who are missing family members.
March 27, 2011, was the last time Sylmar resident Maria Ignacia Gonzalez heard from her son, Andres Ascension Tellez Gonzalez. Tellez Gonzalez, 37, and his friend Braulio Hernandez Bravo had left Puebla, Mexico and were on their way to Laredo, Texas.
Andres called his mom and told her he was two hours away from Nuevo Laredo, just across the border from Texas. It was his last call.
Andres worked as a truck driver in Texas and according to his sister Belen, he disappeared at a police stop.
“We told my brother not to go to Mexico because it was dangerous, but he said that if you don’t mess with criminals nothing’s going to happen to you. But that’s a myth,” said Belen, who last week joined with other people whose loved ones have disappeared in Mexico to show their solidarity.