Texto finalista en la categoría Reportero Local en el 2014 Kurt Schork Awards in International Journalism 2015.
The 43 missing students weighs on Iguala, the city is not the same anymore, and in every corner you can hear the whisper of fear, the anxious glance of women and elderly people. The young ladies fear being kidnapped, when they get off from school, in retaliation; a written message on a blanket told them so, threatening them, one of these days.
Iguala sleeps tonight trapped among hundreds of the Gendarmerie, the Mexican army, and the State police.Convoys stroll through Its streets, Its hotels are crowded and in one of the high schools, 600 community police officers of Costa Chica sleep clinging to their machete.
Iguala is the epicenter of grief. The search smells, at times , like death.
By Shaila Rosagel
Iguala, October 8 (however)- It’s five in the afternoon and a child is in La Vaca Negra restaurant playing on a kiddie ride. With his hands he puts in a coin through the slot: “lets play!”, Sings with his childish voice and the pale blue car with orange tires starts to move.
The child laughs, takes the stirring wheel, presses the buttons, makes noises with his mouth. His father observes him at the threshold of the venue.Three uniformed gendarmes pass by and take a look inside. They carry those long weapons on the side, helmets, boots, and uniforms.
The child smiles at them, the uniformed pass by. The father calls him and takes him by the hand, but the father loosens his grip on him, he runs by the sidewalk skipping.Five minutes later, when he disappears, a police convoy passes by. First, an open vehicle with 10 gendarmes standing, with a steady gaze, with their eyes fixed on the horizon. And their chin held high. Behind, a closed car follows, then another one and another one. They are four in total and they make a turn on the small square, surrounded by policemen, also by children,women, and men of the town that reside in an Iguala under siege, epicenter of death, and grief caused by their 43 students missing.
The Gendarmerie arrived at Iguala the day before yesterday during the evening. It is difficult to find a room in downtown hotels: their occupancy is full to the brim. The majority of the reporters and photographers are staying at the Best western, but for the one who arrived late, only Maria Isabel is left,occupied by dozens of federal police. This is how the city sleeps tonight, embraced to a navy blue uniform, enclosed in military green coats.
They, the policemen, stopped their vehicles in hotel parking lots and side streets.They move around downtown, they are at the entries and exits points of the city. At the checkpoints, they stop one in every two drivers they see pass by.
“Where do you come from? Where are you headed?”, They say.”Thanks for your cooperation”.
” Yes I am afraid, I am afraid of going out with my children” I am afraid of them, too many policemen”,says Guadalupe Mendoza, a 21 year-old girl that waits for public transport near one of the checkpoints located at the exit free-toll road to Chilpancingo.
Guadalupe lives in Valle Dorado neighborhood and has two children. A three year-old girl and an eight months old baby boy. She carries the boy in her arms and the little girl cries, pulling her mother’s arm.
Valle Dorado is a marginalized neighborhood without paved roads, where the dog with mange runs between branches and cats shake off their fleas. In fact, not even in downtown Iguala splendor is found. Its streets are full of potholes, that display scant investment in public work.
Guadalupe says that the last past days have been difficult for the inhabitants of the city. She has never seen so much movement,vehicles coming and going, uniformed men, and a feeling that something can happen any moment.
Near Valle Dorado, some two kilometers on the road leading to chilpancingo, the Medical Forensic Services(Semefo) are located. An old sign indicates that it’s the place where, until last night, the bodies that were found in pits were kept.
Semefo is not near the city. It’s in the outskirts, along the road, in front of a funeral home. Even though it’s unpopulated, there are a couple of neighbors that live in a wooden or an adobe brick house.
Justina Cuevas, a 50 year old, lives in the wooden house, right beside the Semefo. Two days ago she still was not able to sleep.
“I am very afraid”, she said. “we have never seen so many dead people, only injured ones and one or two troublemakers”.
But never almost 30 corpses, that little by little were brought in by people wearing blue uniforms and masks.
” From time to time the smell would not go away, a strong smell came from there, it wouldn’t go away.I am afraid, because there are a lot of children here, because of the kids”she said.
On that road that leads from Chilpancingo 52 vehicles with 600 community policemen from the United Towns and Guerrero Organizations(UPOEG) come down. They drive trucks, compact cars,and haulage trucks.They are full of brown skinned men, farmers from Costa Chica and the mountains of Guerrero. Farmers that left their lands to pick up machetes, and move to Iguala.
Simplicio Cano Mora comes in that caravan, a man from Tecoanapa, that drives a truck crammed with police from the community.
Simplicio smiles, and says I am sure you come looking for those youngsters. Those 17 students, members of your communities that are among the 43 missing.
“we are not going to leave until we find them. We come with all, with a lot of grief, because some of the parents of these students are in despair”, he says.
The community men and the caravan are inspected at the Gendarmerie checkpoint, by the army and the State Police. Federales are in charge of the inspection, one by one the vehicles are stopped. Raise your hands up, open your legs. They search for weapons, are you carrying your hunting rifles, those you came in with to El Ocotillo in January to free Its residents from organized crime, this time you only carry your machetes, clinging firmly, sheathed, and ready.
“We come in peace, as civilians to search for the missing ones, but if the town wants us to teach them how the community police system works, we are going to do it. They also kidnap here, there’s business extortion, like in Costa Chica”, says Crisoforo Garcia Rodriguez, representative of the UPOEG and other community men congregated at Preparatoria 32.
Outside, Carla and Michel two teenage students that study in that high school, with a curious eye look at hundreds community men enter the building.
“we are in our way because we are not allowed to go outside. One morning, some days ago, a sign was placed at Sam’s that said that if the students didn’t show up, they were going to come and get the students out from the high schools. My mom saw it, and we ask: Why are we going to pay for it, if it’s not our fault? The truth is that all iguala is in fear”says Michel.
Carla smiles and the two young girls walk towards the bus stop. Meanwhile, inside the school, community men are ready to have supper and prepare for a long day, where according to the plan, they are going to out in search for the missing ones, they will go up the hill to the clandestine burial pits, the hidden cemetery where they buried dozens of people. The Original Text in spanish: SinEmbargo.mx