Families of missing Mexican students travel U.S. to find support for justice


EL PASO — Blanca Luz Nava Vélez gripped the tissue with both hands as if it were about to float away from the tears forming in her eyes as she forced herself to speak through the shake in her voice to say that even if the world were to end she will find her missing son Jorge and the 42 other students kidnapped in Ayotzinapa, Mexico, on September 26.


Blanca Luz Nava Vélez cries while pledging to find her son Jorge and his classmates who disappeared on Sept. 26, 2014. The 43 missing students from Ayotzinapa were allegedly killed while in the custody of Mexican authorities. Photos by Aaron Montes / Borderzine.com

“When I am at home, I want to die,” she said. “I feel like dying because I see the items that belong to my son, his guitar and I would go mad. That’s why I am doing something about what happened.”

Speaking at a forum at the University of Texas at El Paso, March 17, she said she finds comfort and consolation when she gathers with the other families who are trying to find their missing sons. Being with the families and staying at her son’s school is better than being home, she said.

Related: El Paso marchers join global protest against kidnapping of Mexican students in Ayotzinapa
Photo gallery: El Paso march, vigil demands justice for Mexican students
En español: Marcha en El Paso da grito de apoyo a Ayotzinapa
Voces / Commentary: Condenan en El Paso la muerte de los estudiantes y la corrupción en México

Nava Vélez along with other parents and supporters have protested and demanded that the Mexican government find the missing 43 students. She says that the parents have been outside the Mexican presidential palace through the rain and cold demanding justice only to see the gates closed in their faces.

Nava Vélez along with Josimar de la Cruz Ayala and Stanislao Mendoza Chocolate for a caravan of three traveling through the southwest of the U.S., up to the northwest and back down to Colorado. They are one of three caravans supported by an extensive coalition of U.S. organizations from California to New York. According to Cruz Ayala they are coming to the U.S. seeking solidarity from church groups, students and communities from more than 40 U.S. cities. There are 11 caravan participants; three stayed in Mexico because they were not granted visas to enter the U.S.

Building support for justice

Nava Vélez , Cruz Ayala and Mendoza Chocolate marched, protested and demanded justice in front of the Mexican consulate here along with supporters from this community. The group was well received by forums at the Centró Sin Fronteras, Café Mayapan, the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) and St. Mark’s Catholic Church. There they shared their pain, frustrations and hopes and related the efforts that the community in and around

Josimar de la Cruz Ayala listens and answers questions from students at the University of Texas at El Paso.

Josimar de la Cruz Ayala listens and answers questions from students at the University of Texas at El Paso.

Ayotzinapa has been engaged in to find the missing students.

The Mexican government has stated that the cremated remains of the 43 students were found near the town of Cocula. According to former Attorney General of Mexico Jesús Murillo Karam two gangsters had come forward admitting to the massacre.

According to the gangsters, they had bedded the ground with tires and wood and then added diesel to light a massive fire that burned for 14 hours According to Velez and those in the caravan, the parents and supporters do not believe that story and do not trust the Mexican government.

“I have personally been there and there is no way the students were burned there,” Mendoza Chocolate said. “We all have had to go to caves and rivers and far away places to personally look for our children.”

Mendoza Chocolate, the Dad of Miguel Ángel Mendoza Zacarías, saw his son eight days before his disappearance. He said that Miguel came to him asking for help to pay for school and books. He said that Miguel also worked as a barber to earn money and find a way to pay for his schooling.

“All I know about him is because of the students who survived,” Mendoza Chocolate said. “We have not received any reliable information from the government.”

Mendoza Chocolate said that the students who attend “Escuela Normal Rural de Ayotzinapa,” are from farming and poor backgrounds, but attend the school and serve the communities and the children they teach.

He said that in the search for his son, he only trusts the Argentine forensic experts who have gotten involved in the investigation. The group of 30 experts criticized the Mexican government’s handling of the investigation and its failure to keep the site of the alleged crime under guard.

Selfa Chew-Smithart, a history professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, moderates the discussion on current events in Ayotzinapa.

Selfa Chew-Smithart, a history professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, moderates the discussion on current events in Ayotzinapa.

According to Mendoza Chocolate the Argentine experts explained that the degree and size of the fire required to burn 43 bodies was not evident at the scene where Mexican officials claim the cremations took place. He said that the experts are looking into identifying remains the Mexican government says is one of the missing students, Alexander Mora.

“We hope to find them alive,” Mendoza Chocolate said. “As long as the Argentine experts say the remains are not those of our children.”

Selfa Chew-Smithart , a history professor at UTEP who moderated the forum, said that the involvement of the international community in the investigation and in the discussion of this crime demonstrates an awareness of the flawed system of government in Mexico.

“We are aware of the corruption that plagues all systems in Mexico,” she said. “It also means that we have the support of the international community of intellectuals and scholars who can apply science to convey the reality of a country that is mired in violence and blood. We are tired of that.”





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