Family Members of 43 Disappeared Students Steadfast in Their Search
Jhosivani Guerrero de la Cruz
Photo: ayotzinapasomostodos.com [WeAreAllAyotzinapa]
Luis Hernández Navarro
La Jornada, 22nd September, 2015
A portrait of Jhosivani Guerrero de la Cruz is painted a few meters from his house on the outside walls of the tele-middle school [distance learning] in Omeapa. Next to him are the faces of two other friends from the pueblo. They grew up and studied together. Together they entered the rural normal school of Ayotzinapa. Together they disappeared.
Omeapa is about 15 minutes drive from Tixtla de Guerrero, the municipal seat. Omeapa has fewer than 400 residents, some of whom still speak an indigenous language. They live in ninety modest houses, many with dirt floors. More than forty of them over the age of 15, can neither read nor write.
Jhosivani is the youngest of seven children in a family that works in farming. As a child he loved to play with cars. His relatives say that he is a potential little genius. Before entering the normal school [teachers college], he passed the time inventing all kinds of instruments. He wanted to be a chemist, but going to college was impossible. His parents keep his room just as he had it before the tragic September 26. The wires he used in his creations are still there.
His parents first called him Efraín, but the name did not suit him. After several attempts, they named him Jhosivani. With a slender face, his classmates nicknamed him The Korean. When they disappeared him, he was 20 years old. He entered the teachers college to have a profession, to get ahead and help his community.
On September 16, Arely Gómez, Attorney General of the Republic, declared that forensic experts from the University of Innsbruck in Austria had concluded that there is a 72-to-1 probability that a bone fragment analyzed by them belonged to someone (genetically) related to the student’s mother [rather than to any other person]. The remains were found inside a bag that, according to experts with the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF), was discovered without following steps established [to assure] the chain of custody. With utter lack of sensitivity, rather than first informing Jhosivani’s family members of the finding and conclusions, the Attorney General publicly announced the results.
Members of the EAAF gave the Attorney General’s version an unusual reprimand by explaining that the conclusion of the analysis performed by the Innsbruck laboratory on the remains is that there are indications, but not certainties.
Anayeli, Jhosivani’s sister, thinks that after so many lies the government has told them about the disappeared youths, it is difficult to say now what might be true. Anayeli, Pedro Juárez (her husband), Margarito (her father)—whom they call Don Benito—and her mother, Doña Martina, have searched tirelessly for Jhosivani.
At first, Anayeli was distressed to tell her mother, whose health is very delicate from so much grief, about the new claims by government officials. Deeply upset, Anayeli said: "We can only hope and trust in God. It is a profound pain and an anguish so great that I’m living through for my little brother right now!"
When Doña Martina finally heard the news, she did not believe the government.
For the Guerrero de la Cruz family and other family members of the 43 disappeared, life changed dramatically on the night of September 26. The search for their boys became the centre of their existence. Everything changed. For them nothing is the same.
Many family members have moved to the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Normal School. Their days and nights take place within its walls. There they sleep, eat, wash and dress themselves, inform and organize themselves, meet with supportive groups. From there they face the new challenges that lie ahead, keep abreast of what is happening, keep searching for their loved ones and set out for their committees and meetings.
Not just a few have had to leave behind crops, care of animals and preparation of the land for new plantings. Others have lost their jobs. The work of maintaining properties and houses has been abandoned. The family dynamic has profoundly changed. In some families, members take turns participating in meetings and marches.
Putting themselves into movement as an organized community, they honour their sons. Nothing else has mattered to them—not the distance between their houses and the school, not their health, not their economic insecurity. Searching for their sons is central to their lives. It is an urgency that permits neither pause nor rest. They dream about them, think about them, speak with them, dedicate their memories to them, feel with them.
Networks of solidarity and bonds of affection able to withstand adversity and despair have been woven among the relatives of the disappeared. One year together, united by a common tragedy, has tempered them as a group and allowed them to deal with the natural diversity of their views.
The family members expect nothing from the government. The authorities have deceived them. They have transmitted false expectations about their sons’ whereabouts. They have broken promise after promise. Several officials have insulted them by trying to bribe them, divide and discredit them. The official versions—distorting and misrepresenting the facts, then using the power of the media at their service to propagate [the distorted, misrepresented facts]—have generated enormous frustration and distrust. Again and again, repression has been the response to their demand for truth and justice.
When on September 24, almost one year after the tragedy, parents of the 43 Ayotzinapa students are to meet once again with President Enrique Peña Nieto, they will do so with great distrust, suspicion and anger. Doña Martina, Jhosivani’s mother, says:
"I feel bad not having my son close to me. I love him so much. He knows that wherever he might be, I am going to look for him. I want him back with me. They took him alive, and I want him back alive."
In many different ways, the other parents and relatives of the disappeared say the same thing. They are going to the meeting with the President demanding the safe return of their young men.
Translated by Jane Brundage