so day are likedat

I saw in the parents’ protests a battle for the soul
of Mexico, a critical fight for the future of a
country that I had come to love. Mexico is deeply
layered, a country that lives at the heady
crossroads between pulsing, commercial
modernity and traditions as old and earthy as making tortillas with bare hands. The Mexicans I
got to know included quiet artisans and
bohemian surfers, eager mathematicians, auto
mechanics who are gorgeous salsa dancers,
urbanites with BMWs, and intellectuals with
visions of a better day for their nation. Even now, when I mention disappearances in
Mexico, most people I know in the United States
are only aware of the 43 college students who
disappeared from the town of Iguala in 2014,
apparently abducted by some sick combination
of drug gangs and local police (and allegedly with the collusion of higher authorities). They
don’t realize that there are actually more than
23,000 people across Mexico who have
disappeared—and that’s only by government
counts. Taken for crossing the wrong person or
just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, these people have vanished into the dark
night of the drug wars’ violence and chaos,
whether or not they were involved. Jaime The families on our trip would not accept the
vanishing. Beyond the city limits, our bus
stopped at a brightly lit gas station amid dark
hills. We bought snacks—orange-flavored
cookies, spicy peanuts, cinnamon rolls—and
shared them, like any other road-trip companions, shivering in the brisk night air.
“Let’s go, babies!” chimed Jaime, in English, as he
jumped back into the front seat. The first snores
began after 11 p.m. We passed through the
states of Querétaro and San Luis Potosí, entering
flat, empty country where patches of clouds partly obscured the half moon. Somewhere out there could be unseen graves
that held bodies. That was what the killers and
kidnappers usually did with their victims: buried
them in the mountains, stashed them in caves, or
dissolved their bodies in acid. It was not
unheard of for abductees to be conscripted into labor for the cartels. But there on the minibus,
the overwhelming likelihood was that all these
parents’ children were dead. No one spoke
about it. Araceli said she still hoped to find her
son alive. Far off to the right, I saw the lights of a
little town with a neon blue cross atop its church spire. The mountains near Monterrey, as viewed from
the bus. We arrived in daylight at the offices of the local
human rights group Ciudadanos en Apoyo a los
Derechos Humanos (CADHAC) and tumbled out
into a sea of other searchers. In an instant, this
small band of fighters multiplied tenfold. There
was Javier Sicilia, the grieving poet, and human rights leader Emilio Álvarez Icaza. The rooms
were filled with people like the parents on our
bus, carrying photos and handmade signs. One
mother held her son’s high school report card
and jiu jitsu medals. But Álvarez quickly got
down to business; we had to get to the attorney general’s office. “What do you think?” I asked Araceli. “It’s nice,” she said. “It’s not the same as finding
my son.” * * * Protesters march to the attorney general’s office. The crowd marched several blocks to the
attorney general’s office and took up residence
on the patio in front of the glass doors. Family
members of the disappeared began entering the
building for meetings in groups of five.
Attorneys general in Mexico oversee the public prosecutors, tasked with investigating crimes
and determining if there is enough evidence to
go to court. The officials were expected to share
any new information they’d found, while the
families pressed them for more progress. These
Monterrey summits had begun four months earlier, when the caravan arrived in town and
demonstrators marched from the plaza to the
attorney general’s office to demand action.
Nearly thirty cases would be heard today, many
of them for the first time. Julia and Jaime, center. Melchor at far left.

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