The 43 students from the school Normal Rural Raul Isidro Burgos(Ayotzinapa)ate soy with beans and a portion of rice. They lived in groups of 12 in nine square meter rooms and the ones that faired better, slept in bunk beds in rooms with walls full of holes that were covered with cardboard. They showered in unsanitary bathrooms with cold water.They studied in classrooms without learning materials, and deteriorated desks.
Meanwhile, Jose Luis Abarca Velasquez, mayor from the PRD party with license in Iguala and a fugitive from justice, lived in a fortress, with his own gym and swimming pool; he had several cars and properties. He lead a life of luxuries, in a community of miserables. Well, like a narco.
This is the story of the marginalized young students missing in Iguala. It’s the account of an institution that shapes new teachers:without food, resources, and neglected by their government. This is the life that first year students lead that went out in search of aid to pay for their practices. It’s also the account of a politician member of the Partido de la Revolucion Democratica(PRD) that was at his wife’s party when the tragedy occurred…
By Shaila Rosagel
Ayotzinapa, Guerrero October 13 (however)- The hands that planted those purple cempasuchil flowers and cilantro crops, and radishes that grow under the sun of Ayotzinapa,did not come back to water them.
The crops flourish, the color of the flowers makes contrast with the green trees and the corn that grow on the side,in those small plots carefully lined up with a tractor that only this year, replaced an old rusty one that since almost three decades performed that job.
The first year students were, the ones that traditionally sowed the land like part of their tests to obtain a registration. This August, like every year, the Normal students sowed, and their seeds bloomed, but they, since September 26, didn’t see again the result of their labor. They traveled to Iguala to ask it’s residents for contributions to cover their observation practice expenses, but they never came back, the hands of the 43 missing students left their sowing unfinished.
Luis Angel Gonzalez Flores lives in the area of “Los Olvidados” at the Normal in Ayotzinapa. That’s how a row of dorms is called, that together with “Las Cavernas” provide lodgings for the students.
The student says he feels fortunate, he shares a room of approximately nine square meters with only three students in a bunk bed.The majority of the first grade students spend the night crowded in rooms in the oldest main building of the school, glued together, even 12 in one place.
“this area, well it’s forgotten, that’s why it’s called ‘Los Olvidados’. We don’t have anything in good conditions, everything is falling off , but, the majority of the first graders are worse,because there is not enough ‘cubis’ [rooms]for everyone, and over there, in “Las Cavernas”, between 8 and 12 sleep”, he says.
The normal students’ rooms, like all the school, are dilapidated and have a musty smell.The doors are closed with a chain and a padlock, because they don’t have door locks and the holes in the wall are covered with old rags or with a piece of cardboard, the inside of the room seem dull, they have poor lighting and ventilation. They only have room enough to accommodate themselves in the bunk beds when It’s time to sleep.
They have to watch their way so they don’t bump into each other, says Luis Angel. Besides the students’ dorm, six of the 43 missing students lived, and lived in the same poor conditions.
They were their friends and neighbors, last time he saw them it was in the school cafeteria, one day before they took off to Iguala to raise some money. He spoke to them. They were happy in spite of their lack of resources, he wanted to get enrolled in Ayotzinapa, and he achieved it. They had been there for six weeks as internees, and the third week of September was arduous, because they had to prove that they really wanted to study in a series of ability and aptitude tests.
That is why he endured living in poor conditions and eating 50 pesos food portions. In the morning eggs for breakfast, soy with beans or rice for lunch, occasionally meat or a light supper. They shared a bathroom per floor, the place was unsanitary, and they showered with cold water,as a result of a lack of heaters. They washed their clothes in a concrete sink, because they only had one washer for the whole school, where they could only wash bedspreads. To be teachers and study a four year career, they had to endure the heat, they lacked the most essential thing to fight summer’s high temperatures, a fan.
“the school has always been in lack. We do activities to muster up resources, there are old buildings, old structures, a damaged hall, the classrooms are not in good shape, we don’t have enough resources, as we should, according to a top-level school, the government has limited our resources, that’s why we go out to different cities to raise money, to help us out”,says Axayacatl, a young man from Costa Grande who is 19 years old, and is in his second school year.
The day the students went missing, they went out to raise money to cover their expenses for field trips that lasted in occasions more than a week long. With their own resources they travel to the most distant and marginalized regions of communities of Guerrero to offer their services, resources that the government nor their family, provided.
“Sometimes we have to raise up to 2000 pesos each one, and that’s a lot of money compared to our parents wages, who are farmers or don’t have fixed-term jobs”, Alexander denotes.
The first year classrooms are in one of the buildings. Empty, without desks, they have been left like that because there aren’t students. Those classrooms are not in better shape from the rest. They don’t have enough furniture, nor learning material. Lately they put up a whiteboard, but for years the teachers worked without one.
Axayacatl explains that in their petition sheet they asked the government for a digital library, a projector for their presentations, and paint to remodel the classrooms, give them life and cleanness, they asked for resources for a recycling ecological project, but everything remained a dream, the government did not reply their petition, and what they raised, was not enough.
“If the government gave us all we need here, we would not have a need to go out and beg for money to pay for photocopies, or a notepad that we could need”, he says.
Since September 26 all activities were on hold in the school, the school does not even count with food portions that the government used to provide, then, the Normal students sold some pigs and cows to provide support for the 43 students’ families.
He affirms that the authorities of Guerrero have the tradition of seeing them as “the plague”.
“they say we are vandals, partisans, even terrorists, that’s why they attack us at first sight. In Chilpancingo they have pointed a gun at us, they don’t shoot because there are too many people, there would be too many eyewitnesses, but they have pointed a gun at us”, he recounts.
In the area of “Las Cavernas” there are wall paintings that portray those episodes of their history: repression. The names of Alexis Herrera Pino and Gabriel Echeverria de Jesus are found there, two students that died in December 2011, when the governor Angel Aguirre Rivero cleared del Sol Highway with violence. In the main building the death of Juan Manuel Huikan Huikan is portrayed on a wall, a student from Campeche that died at the hand of state police in 1988, he had his funeral procession service in school.
Axayacatl says that they repress them because they are revolutionaries, because of the training they receive at the Normal Rural School, they are being instructed, because in the marginalized communities, they educate the population.
“What the government fears is a social awareness awakening, the town being helped, and raising awareness of the needs and rights, that’s what pains them.That is the reason why only 16 remain, out of the 32 Normal Rural schools that existed. The government want to get rid of them, if not, Why do they have us living like this?”, he says.
Due to the 43 students missing, Normal Rural students around the country are lodged at the Normal Rural in Ayotzinapa, in support of their fellow students.
Miriam Santos Bonilla, student from the Normal Rural from La Montana, in Tlapa de Comonfort, Guerrero, is one of those, who arrived at the site to volunteer with the cleaning and the cooking.
The young woman considers it a moral duty to be in Ayotzinapa in support of the students there. Miriam laments: they didn’t get to see what it is to have your first group, your first kids, now they are not going to get to feel it”.
Young people like “El Frijolito”, one of the 43 missing, known to be lively, always diligent with his cleaning task, alway participating in class.
In Iguala, 200 kilometers away from Tixtla – community where the Normal Rural School of Ayotzinapa is located-, a man lived behind high walls, in a fortress with electric walls and with several police units safeguarding his house perimeter, this is the dwelling place of a Mayor, and justice fugitive, Jose Luis Abarca Velasquez.
Abarca and his wife Maria de los Angeles Pineda Villa lead a luxurious life in a middle class neighborhood, close to downtown.There he was the owner of half a block, and from their fortress they were kings, lords, and owners of the city.
Feared by their neighbors, few spoke about the fugitive Mayor, whoever had the courage,the PGR member, 1.52 [5″4] tall, would come outside in the mornings wearing a tight shirt, because he liked to show off his biceps.
In the interior of his great wall, Abarca velazquez, his neighbors recall, they had a gym where he worked out and his own swimming pool to have sunbaths. Besides five luxurious cars, the Lincoln was his favorite.
The wife, Mara Pineda, was know as an exuberant blonde, good-looking and taller than her husband, “he had to stand on the sidewalk to reach her because she was 1.70 [5”6]tall, truely, she was good-looking”, says one of the neighbors.
Even though Jose Luis Abarca is short in height, his pockets are wide, and his fortune is big, he’s like an urban legend. Some residents assure that he owns Iguala: the commercial center Galerias Plaza, Farmacias Guadalajara, several self-service stores.
Abarca lived surrounded by, hills, bushes, and clandestine burial pits, and he doesn’t let himself be seen in the marginalized neighborhoods. In San Miguelito neighborhood, located near La Joya, the site where the PGR found the last four burial pits, the residents dwell in cardboard or brick houses, they were too austere, the people didn’t know him.
“I never saw the Mayor, maybe it is because I have never been fond of politics, I only go sowing here, I’m a farmer, I’ve never seen him here” says Santiago, a 47 year old man that goes down a hill with two buckets of water on his shoulders.
Maria did see him once in the downtown city, and she didn’t like his face; ” he seemed arrogant, he didn’t have a friendly face, nor behaved like an educated person, and his wife, one time I went to DIF[desarrollo Integral de la Familia]to ask for help to buy some medicine, because I had a high-risk pregnancy, and she told me to get a job, that I was young”, recounts.
Iguala’s Mayor lived in a city that was a stage of terror, torture and death in it’s surroundings. In the outskirts of the hills, not so far from the urban area.
Maria and her husband lived very close to La Joya, and in the middle of the night the man would get up and listen to the sounds that the echo of the mountains would bring to his ears.
They were not pleasant sounds: they were screams of horror, from men and woman that cried, squealed, they pleaded for mercy, and help.
“they were heard at mid-dawn, even more so on Saturdays and Sundays, the screams that came from the mountains, they were men and women, all the same”he says.
Other residents of the neighborhood San Miguelito, assure that in the areas where the new pits are, hummer, jeeps, pick up trucks, motorcycles, and Police vehicles were seen.
A young man that asked for confidentiality on the matter, says that two weeks ago, when the students went missing, he heard vehicles in the area and detonations.
According to the young man, for some time know it was common to hear “cuerno de chivo” [AK-47] detonations, besides the coming and going of vehicles in the middle of the night and at mid-dawn.
That night Jose Luis Abarca didn’t hear anything, because he was at a DIF party with his wife, according to his statement.
That Friday, September 26 some of the residents that were at the plaza that night threw themselves to the floor when the gunshots started, and the town panicked.
The young students, residents comment, they took a bus back to Ayotzinapa, and the police was chasing them and shooting at them. That night they disappeared in the darkness.
Now it’s known, that the Mayor allegedly, had links with organized crime and he is being investigated by the PGR.
In the middle of the basketball court of the Normal School in Ayotzinapa there is an altar with candles that the 43 students’ parents placed there praying that their children would come back.
There, Macedonia Torres Romero, a 49 years old woman, a three year widow, awaits for Jose Luis Torres Luna, a 21 years old young man that went missing in Iguala between the night of September 26 and mid-dawn of the 27.
The woman of humble means, cries, 15 days have passed since she left Amilcingo, Morelos when she was told that her son was missing. Macedonia was getting ready to go sell her corn and peanuts to Cuautla, when they gave her the news, and she left everything.
“I took off running and I thought I would find him right away, but no, a lot of time has passed, and there isn’t news, he doesn’t show up”, she says
Macedonia speaks with tiredness, but she cheers up when she speaks of Jose Luis, a young man that wanted to study at the Normal in Ayotzinapa to have access to better opportunities in life.
Even though, the woman’s acquaintances warned her of the dangers of studying there, her insistent son convinced her so.
“He told me: ‘Come on mom let me study so I can have a special job and have more, we don’t have anything, let me so you can live with me in a better house’, because we are poor, we don’t possess anything over there in Morelos”, she said.
“The concrete room, he built it working in the fields, he said: ‘wife what do we do with the sorghum money, god multiplied it. wife, should we buy clothes and shoes?’, because I wanted clothes for my children”, she recalls. “But he tells me: ‘There are always clothes, there are always shoes, but not a house’, then we built the concrete room”.
As well as Macedonia, the majority of the 43 students’ missing remain in Ayotzinapa everyday awaiting for news.
Forensics come and go all day long to run DNA tests to compare them with the genetic information that they sampled from the 28 corpses found in the first burial pits in La Parota neighborhood in the region of Pueblo Viejo, at the foothills of the Cerro Gordo in Iguala.
They leave the school facilities early in the morning to come back to sleep, but Macedonia spends the majority of her time in the old building, the empty classrooms, and Ayotzinapa’s poverty, awaiting news from her missing son.
Photograpy by Antonio Cruz para SinEmbargo.mx
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