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Ayotzinapa: The Socialization of Pain


Have you heard any news about Iguala?, asked one of the participants of the education for peace initiative we launched in Chilpancingo, Guerrero, in a worried tone. That had been the first I had heard about Ayotzinapa. My two colleagues and I searched until dawn but could not find any information on what had happened. As Saturday September 27th went by, we learned that part of the group would not be attending the closing of the workshop; they were tending to the wounded and those who appeared to have died. The workshop was tense. During coffee breaks, we heard whispers and assumptions around what had happened. No one knew for sure. Around one in the afternoon, near the end of the session, one of our community facilitators arrived, who had by chance come by the place we were working the day before. She was crying and upset  when she told us all in the room: My son, he’s been killed. She was speaking about a member of a local soccer team.

Some context to understand Ayotzinapa


On the night of September 26th 2014 and early morning of the 27th, three students from the Escuela Normal Isidro Burgos (Isidro Burgos Teachers College) were killed. The school, located in Tixtla, Guerrero, is commonly referred to as the Escuela Normal de Ayotzinapa (Ayotzinapa Teachers College). During the same attack, led by the municipal police of Iguala, a member and a driver of the “Los Avispones” Sports Club and a teacher at the Coordinadora Estatal de los Trabajadores de la Educación de Guerrero (CETEG, Guerrero State Education Workers Coordinating Committee) were killed. Many were injured, while others hid for protection. To this day, there is a list of 43 missing young normalistas (Ayotzinapa Teachers College students). Presumably, Alexander Mora, one of the 43 normalistas, is among the human remains that were found in the Colula dumpster (December 2014). The Mexican State was and is stillresponsible.

These acts of violence are directly related to the December 12th, 2011 murder of 2 Ayotzinapa students, when police officers attacked a peaceful demonstration on the Sol Highway in Chilpancingo. Attacks by private security companies against rural teachers colleges and Guerrero communities reflect the ongoing surveillance policies, social control and terror that is settling like dust in the state. The criminalization of the people’s demands, of freedom of expression and of students mobilizing and social mobilizing in general has been the authorities’ response to actions pushing for decent, free and quality education as part of community development.

Sociologist Armando Bartra refers to the state as Guerrero Bronco (Wild Guerrero), because there is no justice, only execution. The social censure is most strongly against indigenous peoples, land workers, teachers and students. Government security squads do not suffer the consequences of staining the land with blood; in Guerrero, they have planned innumerable persecutions, tortures, disappearances, unlawful detentions and massacres. In 1960:  a student massacre in Chilpancingo; in May of 1967: deaths and injuries in Atoyac de Alverez; in June of 1995: the extermination of peasants in Aguas Blancas; in June of 1998: El Charco; and just a few months ago, Ayotzinapa. There are thousands of examples of repression and fear across the south of the country and not enough words to share them all here. Though the Sierra de Petatlan environmentalists should be pointed out, who were outraged by the criminalization of opponents of the La Parota dam and attacked the attempts to eliminate the Community Police criminal justice system. These examples are only but a small sampling of ongoing grievances.

How many lives have been taken?, Who has cried in a humble cottage for their peoples?, Why seek to erase others’ humanity? Ayotzinapa calls upon us to give names, faces and meaning to the demands for justice, the fight against killings and the need to rebuild trust, a cry that is not unfamiliar and much less new to the normalistas, their families and their communities. In countless parts of Mexico and at the international level, the hashtags #AyotzinapaSomosTodos/as (We are all Ayotzinapa) and we are missing #43ymás (43 and more) have hit the nail on the head.

Mexico is a mass grave: other killings

Chilpancingo. Photo by Erandy Reséndiz

The prominence of death profoundly affects social relations. No one could deny that we live in a world surrounded by death and it is a bit of an of awkward realization. It is difficult today to avoid seeing the collateral damage of our private lives caused by the political violence; murders, forced disappearances, feminicides and arbitrary detentions are the daggers that have pierced through our struggles for resistance and into our daily lives. In Mexico, bodies are removed, hope is erased and men and women are emptied of their humanity. The political class in Mexico has turned death into become an “object” to be manipulated; the necropolitics of eliminating life that changes with the control, management and gain of legal and unofficial institutions. Experts like Achille Mbembe of Cameroon have coined our coexistence as one based on necroliving.

Ville de Mexico. Photographie de Erandy ReséndizCity of Mexico. Photo by: Erandy Reséndiz

Since October 2014, there have been 240 official reports of missing persons in Guerrero, among them the 43 students of Ayotzinapa Teachers College. At least 152 cadavers were also discovered in unmarked graves (approximately 13). At the same time, since 2009, the location of hidden graves in 16 of the 32 Mexican states have been discovered, among them the most commonly known in San Fernando, Tamaulipas, where the bodies of 193 people were found.  The number of missing women and feminicides adds to the panorama of death; to date, in the state of Mexico, at least 400 girls and adolescents are missing and from 2005-2011, 922 were killed. At the national level, 13,606 women were killed between 2006-2012. We all miss them too.

The Paradox of Violence: We Leave and We Mobilize

One of the major paradoxes of violence is its ability to create charitable socialization, where pain leads to moments of coming together, ritual, solidarity, sorority, etc. Through shared uncertainty and faced with the certitude of government responsibility, as is the case with the normalistas, a strong collective organization is formed with a common path of resistance. At this point, the earthquake that is Ayotzinapa is stirring civil society, diverse types of organizations (religious, unions, student groups, among others) and individuals near and far from Mexico and Guerrero.

City of Mexico. Photo by Erandy ReséndizCity of Mexico. Photo by: Erandy Reséndiz 

Across a number of cities in Mexico and other places in the world, we took to the streets to demand the return of the 43 normalistas, whom, we have come to know and name and  continue to support their families and Ayotzinapa Teachers College. Having limited understanding of how to act and have genuine empathy around such an immense assault, we discussed, created and contributed based on our own knowledge and professional experiences. A few months ago, an amazing Chilean group of silkscreeners passed through Mexico and together with Mexican artists, plastered the city with the missing normalistas. Caravans of bicycles, nuns, children with mothers and fathers, have joined the marches. Feminists have done an impressive job reflecting on and coordinating around justice for our missing. Among friends from diverse networks at the international level, we have exchanged press coverage around the demand “they took them away alive, we want them back alive.” Through pictures, audio, interviews, demonstrations in front of embassies, in town squares, in universities and other centres, we are speaking out against violence in Mexico. Voices and hands together in the fight for “enough is enough, never again without all of you!” pouring out like water from Guatemala, Spain, India, Germany, among other countries. Is that enough? No, but it’s one grain of sand to fill the Sahara.


During a press conference held on December 11th, one of of Christian Rodriguez Telumbre’s family members more or less said: We need to be strong, understand our indignation. For us, there are no holidays, how can we celebrate without our children? Understand our pain. This is why we are here, our pain takes no holiday. This statement seems to me a maxim for the Ayotzinapa movement; we have nothing to celebrate and certainly, we cannot begin to understand how these attacks affect the normalistas, their families and even us ourselves. Nevertheless, today, like yesterday and tomorrow, we have an obligation and a responsibility to rise up and speak up for the need to demand the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43 plus lives. This is not simply an atrocious political situation, we have to instill ourselves with demands and actions to leave this world of death they have forced upon us. The 43 normalistas:they took them away alive, and we want them back alive.

(27 January Update: The Mexican government officially pronounces the normalistas dead (a process replete with irregularities). Their families reject the attempt to slow down the investigation. To be continued?)

January 2015, Erandy Reséndiz (Mexico City)


Bartra Armando (editor), Crónicas del sur. Utopías campesinas en Guerrero (Chronicles of the South: Rural utopias of Guerrero), Mexico, Ediciones Era, 2000.

Espino David, Guerrero: zona de fosas clandestinas (Guerrero: Region of unmarked graves) El Universal, 26 October 2014. Available at:

Merino José, Jessica Zarkin and Joel Ávila, ¿Cómo se cuentan los feminicidios en México? (How are Feminicides counted in Mexico?), Animal Político, 16 December 2014. Available at:

Monterrosa Fátima, Silenciosa desaparición de 400 niñas-adolescentes en Edomex (The silent Disappearance of 400 young female adolescents in Edomex), Insurgente Press, 9 December 2014. Available at:

Murillo Celeste, Las mujeres, el otro Ayotzinapa (Women: The other Ayotzinapa) La Izquierda Diario, 5 November 2014. Available at:

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