“Profound shock and vast sympathy”
Letter from Mexico! More people are kidnapped in Mexico than anywhere else in the world – in a seminar, Estefanía González meets affected families.
Nov 24, 2015
The semester is drawing to a close, and I am starting to get nostalgic. One more Tuesday eating the delicious enchiladas verdes that the vendor has ready and waiting for me in front of the philosophy department when I arrive, one more time enjoying the exciting critical discussions in the seminars – and then the exam phase starts, next week. It’s amazing that I’ve already been here for four months, I think as I walk into the philology institute to attend a colloquium titled “Heteronomies of Justice” that my roommate helped to organize.
Today, the opening day for the one-week international conference featuring guests from Paris, family members of the disappeared have been invited to share their stories with us. They are all members of the organization Familiares en Búsqueda (Family Members in Search), a group whose goal is to help people search for their loved ones. Every day in Mexico, 13 people vanish without a trace. These events often involve “desaparición forzada,” or forced disappearance – which means it is a political act in which the Mexican state is involved, and not merely a kidnapping.
Women and young people have accounted for a disproportionate share of the disappeared in the last 30 years in particular – the Ayotzinapa incident in 2014, when 43 students disappeared, was not an isolated case. As the first woman starts to tell about her four vanished sons, whom she has been desperately seeking for several years, the mood in the room turns immediately from initial lightheartedness to profound shock and vast sympathy. Each and every story of what has befallen these people is shaped by unimaginable pain – I can hardly believe my ears.
Following the individual personal accounts, which are full of direct calls for help aimed at us students and the “outside world,” a heated debate breaks out in the room. What is the rationale behind the strategy of disappearances? Why young people in particular? To what extent is the war on drugs at fault for the violent circumstances in Mexico? How can the government allow something like this to happen? “The laws don’t protect us, they only exist to make fools of us” – that’s how one of the chairs of Familiares en Búsqueda ends the debate when the time is up. But my questions are still far from being answered, and I decide to devote my upcoming master’s thesis to this subject.