By Tom Spencer, Staff Writer
University of New Hampshire students participated in a candlelit vigil in remembrance of 43 Mexican students who were allegedly murdered while their government looked the other way in September.
The vigil was held in the Murkland Courtyard on Nov. 20, when similar vigils in honor of the 43 missing students were being held.
About 30 people gathered in the courtyard at 5 p.m., where a few rows of chairs assembled with a flickering electric candle in the center of each seat — one for each student.
The first ceremonies were recitations of the poem “Ayotzinapa” by David Huerta in English, Spanish and French.
Following that, guests were given red cards with pictures of the missing students and biographies assembled from family notes.
These biographies included nicknames, hobbies, families and aspirations of each of the missing 43 students. At the end of each biography, the gathered crowd would say “presente,” (present, in English) as a somber symbol of solidarity for the missing students.
There were names like 21-year-old Everardo Rodriguez Bello, an auto mechanic.
There was Saul Bruno Garcia, 18, who was known as Chicarr`on, or Pork Rind. According to his biography, Garcia was known everywhere he went as a practical joker.
There was Miguel Angel Mendoza Zacarias, “a barber trying to get ahead.”
According to Lori Hopkins, associate professor of Spanish and women’s studies, the missing students were all from a rural area and attended a school that focused on teaching students from their socioeconomic class how to educate those who share their upbringing. According to Hopkins, many in these areas oppose what they believe to be a corrupt government in Mexico.
The date of the vigil was chosen in memory of the Mexican Revolution in 1910.
The Mexican government cancelled the traditional parades and celebrations for the revolution in an effort to quell the energy of tens of thousands of citizens who have been marching the streets and burning government buildings to protest the disappearance of the students, according to The Washington Post.
“It’s like saying July 4th is cancelled,” said Hopkins, who co-organized UNH’s vigil.
The movement has ignited a series of vigils across American colleges and universities similar to the one at UNH. Several institutions of higher learning in Texas will be participating in such vigils, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Demonstrations of solidarity in America have been in Los Angeles and New York, according to the Los Angeles Times and NBC.
While the story of the 43 vanished students is gaining international attention, some sources assert the occurrence is tragically familiar. According to Francisco Goldman from The New Yorker, the Mexican state police and federal army failed to act on warnings of the disappearance from human rights activists in Iguala. Goldman also explained that many local police departments are subjugated by drug cartels, leaving the general population vulnerable.
“Part of the tragedy is the fact that bodies are being found, but there are so many, we don’t know if they were necessarily these missing students,” Hopkins said.
It is unclear to Hopkins why this particular tragedy was the trigger of a revolution, but she believes it may be that those suffering decided enough was enough.
“The difference is this time the families did not let go, the students did not let go. This revolution is completely from the bottom up. These [movements] get picked up by forces beyond themselves and are beyond our power to explain,” Hopkins said.
It is possible that because this story lays bare so many failings of Mexican society, the story has become larger than other kidnappings, murders or disappearances.
“This particular event is of interest because it brings together a whole host of issues,” said Scott Weintraub, assistant professor of Spanish. “Narco trafficking, gangs, drugs, corruption and the U.S. as drug consumers.
“I’m disappointed tow see the lack of coverage of this issue in the mainstream media,” Weintraub said. “If you read Latin or Spanish papers it’s everywhere … we hope this vigil will bring local audience to the story.”