“Hasta Encontrarlos” (Until We Find Them): A Student Protest and a Mass Grave in Iguala, Mexico

Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times

On September 26, police opened fire on student protesters in the city of Iguala, Mexico. 43 students were reported missing from the Ayotzinapa Normal School, a rural teacher’s college with a history of social activism and radicalism. The students ran into trouble when they attempted to steal buses for transport to a demonstration against cuts to their state-financed school in early October. At least 6 students and bystanders were killed amidst the violence. A state prosecutor investigating the incident has discovered mass graves in Iguala, one containing the charred and dismembered bodies of 28 people, believed to be many of the missing students.

22 police have been arrested in light of the violence, suspected to be either part of or working for local gang Guerreros Unidos. Witnesses also claim that gang members were responsible for the student murders, and investigators are pointing to a specific druglord who may be guily for ordering the massacre. There is no evidence of student ties to gang members, although students did fight extortion attempts made by the gang in 2013.

Suspected alliances between gang members and police is not a new form of corruption in Mexico, nor are the chances of becoming a “desaparecido” in Latin America a new phenomenon. At question are the forces of power effectively controlling the town of Iguala and investigating the police brutality and disappearances. Schools such as Ayotzinapa Normal School employ educators often affiliated with teachers unions that reject the corporate model of other labor unions in Mexico. Students sought to combat the cutback in funding for their rural school, serving students from poor and indigenous communities, through activist means of protesting, and their voices were met with oppressive acts of violence.

“Indeed, the interests of the oppressors lie in ‘changing the consciousness of the oppressed, not the situation which oppresses them,'” writes Freire, in Pedagogy of the Oppressed. What better way to change the consciousness of the oppressed than by eliminating consciousness altogether, through intimidation, violence, and ultimately, death. As state investigators attempt to uncover what occurred, I wonder whether they have any real desire to bring the perpetrators to justice. When local police are trusted and become conspirators in injustice, effectively abusing their position of power, I wonder if those in greater positions of power will be more or less effective.


Archibold, R. (2014, October 6). 43 Missing Students, a Mass Grave and a Suspect: Mexico’s Police. The New York Times. Retrieved October 7, 2014, from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/07/world/americas/43-missing-students-a-mass-grave-and-a-suspect-mexicos-police-.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=HpSum&module=first-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

Perez Salazar, J. (2014, October 8). Police examine Mexico mass graves. Retrieved October 8, 2014, from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-29532549

Schepers, E. (2014, October 8). Anger in Mexico over attack on teachers’ college students. Retrieved October 8, 2014, from http://peoplesworld.org/anger-in-mexico-over-attack-on-teachers-college-students/

T, H. (2014, October 8). Outrage, at last. Retrieved October 8, 2014, fromhttp://www.economist.com/blogs/americasview/2014/10/massacres-mexico


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