Forty-three student teachers (normalistas) disappeared on the evening of September 26 in the municipality of Iguala, in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero. The incident has attracted national and international attention, and it has also generated a wealth of speculation and misinformation. The daily reports concerning the discovery of numerous mass graves have further muddied the waters; the only silver lining, such as it is, in these reports is that the missing normalistas do not appear to have been buried in any of the discovered grave sites. The contrast between the hope that the normalistas might still be alive, and the despair of living in a country where mass graves can seemingly be uncovered by simply kicking over a few stones, is striking.
But perhaps the most depressing aspect of this story is the indifference of some Mexicans that have even attempted to argue that the normalistas somehow deserved their fate because of their “rebellious attitudes” or their “delinquent” appearance. Thus, a society already divided by social class, skin color, linguistic differences, clothing styles, the size of one’s bank account, zip codes, and a host of other frivolous matters has found new ways of demarcating distinct types of Mexicans: “good” versus “bad”; those that receive justice versus those that do not; and those that can versus those that do not even deserve to try.
Meanwhile, Mexico’s political parties are only interested in representing and advancing their own interests. The left has lost its identity in its efforts to reach power. The right, which is more concerned with maintaining the appearance of good behavior, has shrouded itself in silence and indifference. And the ruling party’s principal preoccupation is the next election cycle and the perpetuation of its political dynasty, not the needs of Mexico’s citizens.
The Ayotzinapa case reveals the deterioration of Mexico’s political and social spheres. The missing normalistas are poor, indigenous or mestizo (mixed-race), and brown-skinned. Their hair is straight, they are not particularly tall, and they speak with the accents of the countryside. Simply put, they are Mexicans. But their surnames – Tizapa, Jacinto, Patolzin, Ascencio, Tlatempa, and Lauro, among others – are not among Mexico’s famous, and they are more likely to be found in the country’s seemingly infinite number of mass graves, as opposed to a social club or the halls of the stock market. The divide between Mexicans has become so great that some are not even moved by the heartrending pain experienced by the parents whose sons are missing.
The Ayotzinapa case has quickly become symbolic of the daily disappearances and murders that occur in Mexico, and of the mass graves that vastly outnumber the number of roads, hospitals, universities, and science and technology centers that have been built in recent years.
Throughout the world, many are pressuring the Mexican government to resolve the matter and bring those responsible to justice. Hundreds of thousands of Mexicans have taken to the streets demanding that the normalistas be found, while also calling out the shamelessness of the governments, political parties, and dominant social classes that allowed the disappearances to occur. But there are millions of Mexicans, and the majority of them appear to have been stunned into silence by the Mexican apocalypse, or have chosen to express their outrage safely behind closed doors.