When María de Jesús Tlatempa Bello first heard that her son, José Eduardo Bartolo Tlatempa, was one of 43 students who had gone missing in Iguala, Mexico, after a clash with the police, she said she felt rage and desperation.
“From that day, we have lived a nightmare,” she said. “Why were they doing this to our children?”
Now, Jesús and other family members and classmates of the missing 43 students are traveling around the U.S. with Caravana 43, a project created to raise awareness about the event in hopes that international pressure will coerce the Mexican government into fully investigating the case.
Jesús and Cruz Bautista Salbador — uncle of missing student Benjamín Ascencio Bautista — joined more than 50 students, staff and community members at the Ohio Union on Wednesday for a rally, panel discussion and candlelight vigil, continuing to demand answers and justice in light of the students who have been missing for over six months.
The event was organized by the Multicultural Center at Ohio State and Caravana 43.
Indra Leyva, an intercultural specialist at the MCC, said it was important for her to bring this event to OSU so that students would open their eyes to what is happening around the world.
“It’s a tragedy itself, to see the corruption (and) violence in Mexico,” she said. “We have this here — police brutality. It’s important to create those connections with what we have here, what’s happening around the world.”
On Sept. 26, a group of student teachers from the “Escuela Normal Rural” in Ayotzinapa, a school known for its leftist politics, traveled to Iguala in southwestern Mexico to protest education reforms and raise funds for their school.
What they came across instead was an encounter with the local police, who intercepted the students for disrupting a political event for Mayor Jose Luis Abarca’s wife, according to Vice News. Six people died from the encounter, at least 25 were wounded and 43 allegedly disappeared.
The aftermath triggered a wave of protests across Mexico, surfacing long-simmering issues of what much of the public believes to be a corrupt Mexican government.
Though police have released a statement declaring the students’ bodies had been found dead, which they blamed on the gang Guerreros Unidos, the citizens remain skeptical.
“I didn’t believe it because I could feel it, as a mother,” Jesús said. “And we will not stop searching until we do find them.”
Stephanie Patino-Garfias, a first-year in political science and international studies at Wright State University, traveled to OSU with two of her friends from her school to partake in the event.
“I’m Mexican-American, and when I first found out about the news, it was heartbreaking,” she said. “This involves U.S. laws, and it’s college students just like us.”
Patino-Garfias was referring to the Merida Initiative, a partnership between the U.S. and Mexico to fight crime and violence while prioritizing human rights and law. The initiative has been appropriated $2.3 billion from the U.S Congess since its launch in 2008, according to the U.S. Department of State.
Looking forward, Patino-Garfias said the future is not looking bright for the current Mexican government.
“I feel like this is the last straw,” she said. “Hopefully the Mexican people get the government that they deserve now. People are finally listening, people are finally active. United we will prevail.”