Vivos se los llevaron, vivos los queremos.
On the 26th of September, municipal police from Iguala and Cocula attacked a group of students from la Escuela Normal Rural Isidro Burgos de Ayotzinapa. All signs point to the ex Mayor of Iguala, José Luis Abarca Velázquez, and his
wife María de los Ángeles Pineda Villa, as the individuals who ordered this attack. The result: six deaths, 25 injured, and 43 missing students.
A little more than a month after this incident, the public outrage continues to crescendo, manifested in daily protests in Mexico City and around the country. The rage also trickles down our computer screens, in Twitter feeds and Facebook posts that demand the safe return of the disappeared students. Recently, more than 100 Mexican illustrators and designers — myself included — came together via the hashtag #ilustradoresconayotzinapa to express our feelings of fury and deep sadness over this incident — an outburst of protest artwork at once urgent and heartbreaking. The initiative invited all Mexican visual artists to illustrate one missing student, using the technique of their choosing, and post it on social media with the hashtag and caption “Yo (insert illustrator name), quiero saber dónde está (insert missing student’s name).”
We’re willing to use culture, the most honest tool at our disposal, to raise our voices and be heard.
At first, this social media movement began among friends, at the behest of illustrator Valeria Gallo, who spearheaded the idea and reached out to her network of friends to spread the word. Three days later, more than 100 Mexican artists had posted original images on their social media pages. When viewed altogether, they are a portrait of Mexico’s disillusioned youth; we are furious, saddened, and completely at odds with the way human rights in our supposedly free and democratic country are handled.
As illustrators, we have found a way to tell the government: “We know who the missing are, we know their features, their faces and their histories, bring them back alive.” Each illustration reinforces the students’ identities — they stop being a name on a list, and become a human being with individual characteristics.
Inspired by this outpouring of drawings, a tangential movement has begun using the hashtag #escritoresconayotzinapa, where various Mexican poets, storytellers, essayists, and novelists have joined the fray. These include writers like Yuri Herrera, Brenda Lozano, Álvaro Enrigue, Valeria Luiselli, Luigi Amara and Alberto Chimal, among many others who demand to know where the disappeared are.
Though the cause is tragic, it undeniably proves the intense solidarity and strength of Mexico’s youth in these moments. In the last month, young Mexicans have organized protests, rallies and movements like this all over the country and the world, to demonstrate that there is still hope, that Mexico’s youth demand an answer and a democracy we can participate in, that this impunity infuriates us, and that we’re willing to use culture, the most honest and free tool at our disposal, to raise our voices and be heard.
Check out a few of the illustrations below, and more here. For those in NYC, there will be a Día de Muertos gathering on Sunday, November 2nd at 3:00pm in Union Square, to pay homage at altar for the victims of state and criminal violence in Mexico. More details here.