From the May-June 2015 issue of News & Letters
Caravana 43 in Detroit
Detroit—The “Caravana 43,” some of the courageous parents of 43 students “disappeared” in September, from the Normal Rural School Raúl Isidro Burgos in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, Mexico, arrived in Detroit April 12 to raise awareness and funds for their continued search for their children. The disappearances sparked thousands to protest across Mexico and in the U.S., where they were joined by Occupy Wall Street Zapatista in a rally in Washington, D.C., in January. These 43 disappeared students are only a few of thousands disappeared and murdered in Mexico by drug gangs and local and national “law enforcement.” (See “Zapatistas and the Ayotzinapa rebellion,” Jan.-Feb. 2015 News & Letters and “Guerrero in a national focus,” March-April 2015 News & Letters.)
The Caravana, which has stopped in many cities, forges solidarity with North Americans while emphasizing the U.S. government’s role in allowing the horrible drug wars to continue. One Detroit organizer said, “We see the same thing here that has completely corrupted Mexico. The stories we heard broke our hearts, but the people are not giving up.”
A woman outside the Mexican consulate joined us because her brother had disappeared in Mexico, and nothing was done. She wept as the names were called of the disappeared students. We have found that this issue resonates with Mexicans, because so many thousands of people have gone missing with no arrests ever made. They call it impunity—impunidad.
Even though a group of us from Detroit and across the state offered hospitality and held fundraisers in preparation for Caravana 43 arriving in our cities, we can’t imagine doing what these parents are doing: telling the story over and over to strangers, getting back on the road and doing it all over, day after day.
I am grateful for the courageous travelers from Ayotzinapa. We hope we have made a difference for them, as they have for us.
—Susan Van Gelder
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Caravana 43 in the Bay Area
Berkeley, Calif.—On April 2, students from the Normal Rural School in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, Mexico, and parents of some of the 43 disappeared normalistas brought “Caravana 43” to Civic Center Park near downtown.
A campesino on the panel told the crowd that he and other parents have been living at the school since September 2014, when the kidnapping took place. They found comfort in being around the workshops and tables their sons used when they hoped to become teachers who would serve poor communities in Guerrero. He said the government is afraid of poor people with knowledge.
One student from the school remarked that the law ranks students and teachers among delinquents, vandals and narco-traffickers. “But,” he continued, “the only weapons we have are our books and our consciousness. They fear us the most because the conscious individual is more dangerous to a government than any drug dealer or criminal. A conscious people are a free people.”