NEW YORK — “We can’t continue to tolerate so much contempt for life.”
That’s how Mariana Barrera, a young Mexican living in New York City for the past six years, explains her impassioned participation in the spontaneous, grief-filled protest held Sunday (Oct. 26) in the emblematic Union Square Park.
“We are very dismayed,” she said.
Barrera and dozens of moved and irate Mexicans gathered in Manhattan to express their horror over the disappearance of 43 student teachers kidnapped on Sept. 26 by the local police in Iguala, Guerrero, a deed whose brutality has shaken Mexico.
Unbelievably, the policemen turned the students to Guerreros Unidos [Warriors United], a violent gang of drug traffickers. Ever since, nothing has been heard from the students.
Last Friday (Oct. 24), shouting “They were taken alive; we want them back alive!”, another group of Mexicans defied the cold and the rain to stage a vigil outside the Mexican Consulate General in Manhattan, demanding the return of the students.
“I come from Iguala and my family lives there. They tell me that people are afraid,” said Jacqueline Castrejón, who took part in the demonstration outside the consulate. “What the government wanted was to silence the students. It wanted them docile, so they wouldn’t raise their voices against the corruption.”
According to Mexico’s Attorney General, Jesús Murillo Karam, the police acted under orders from the mayor of Iguala, José Luis Abarca. He wanted to keep the students from protesting against María de los Ángeles Pineda, his wife, who is said to be Guerreros Unidos’ “main operator” in Iguala. Both fled, along with the city’s police chief.
“There’s got to be a solution. The youngsters must reappear; the culprits must be punished,” Barrera said. “This is symbolic. They’re students from rural communities and students always are committed to change society. For the government to have given the order to kidnap them is most awful.”
“The people of New York and around the world are demonstrating their solidarity with the families of the students,” Barrera said. “A group of artists is calling on New Yorkers to gather at Union Square on Sunday, Nov. 2 — the Day of the Dead in Mexico — to raise an altar in memory of the 43 missing young people and all others who have been victim of drug violence.”
Insisting that the protests will continue until the students reappear, Barrera could have been speaking for all the demonstrators when she said: “We must end with corruption and impunity. We must punish all those who are guilty of this terrible crime, at all levels of government.”
As Elena Poniatowska said in Mexico City last Sunday, before thousands of moved and indignant Mexicans: “We must raise our protest to the skies.”
Photos: Zach Hyman