Category: Ayotzinapa Mexico

All is Forgotten – Todo está Olvidado

Todo está Olvidado (All is Forgotten) is a subversive cartoon one can properly call satirical. It is currently “trending” on the Mexican twitter-sphere, though I have been unable to ascertain just who created it, aside from its being signed by someone named “Alex.” The Mexican artist alluded to the January 14, 2015 “survivors issue” of Charlie Hebdo published in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on that publication’s Paris headquarters and the heinous murder of its staff.

The provocative cover of the Jan. 2015 survivors issue was drawn by Hebdo staffer Renald “Luz” Luzier, and featured a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad; a single tear falls down his cheek while he holds a sign reading Je Suis Charlie (I am Charlie). The words Tout est Pardonné (All is Forgiven) float above his head.

The Mexican artist Alex mimicked the rough and ready style of the French Luz, but instead of sending a flaming arrow at the heart of Islam and all of its believers, Todo está Olvidado depicts a simple cartoonish Mexican worker, a tear of grief rolling down his cheek. He holds a sign that reads: I am Mexico. Totally standing the Hebdo cover on its head, the text floating over the sombreroed head of the worker reads, All is Forgotten – as in erased, omitted, blotted out, unrecalled… and consigned to oblivion. But what has Mexico and the rest of the world forgotten?

Cartoon - Alex. 2015. "All is Forgotten. I am Mexico. In 2014 Mexico attained sixth place with more journalists assassinated!"

Cartoon - Alex. 2015. "All is Forgotten. I am Mexico. In 2014 Mexico attained sixth place with more journalists assassinated!"

The answer is in the text at the bottom of Alex’s sketch, which translated into English reads, “In 2014 Mexico attained sixth place with more journalists assassinated!”

Contemporary Mexicanos intrinsically understand the mockery, for if there is anything more dangerous to be in Mexico than a student, it is being a journalist.

The artwork Todo está Olvidado is only slightly inaccurate when it comes to Mexico being ranked the sixth most dangerous place for journalists to operate in 2014, otherwise it is based on solid facts.

When eight Mexican journalists were assassinated in Mexico in 2010, and many others were threatened or disappeared, Pen Center USA held an evening of solidarity with Mexican journalists titled, State of Emergency: Censorship by Bullet in Mexico. Things have only gotten much worse since then.

In 2014 the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) located in Brussels, Belgium, released a report that stated 118 journalists and media staff were killed doing their jobs in Pakistan, Syria, Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq, Ukraine, Honduras, and Mexico. Pakistan rated the highest, with 14 journalists killed. Ukraine actually took 6th place for journalists murdered, while Mexico took 8th place… with 5 journalists murdered.

However, Spain’s newspaper of record, El Mundo, reported on July 17, 2014, that since the year 2000, over one hundred journalists and media workers have been assassinated in Mexico… and the list keeps growing. On Jan. 26, 2015, it was reported that the Mayor of Medellin de Bravo, a town in Mexico’s Veracruz state, is under arrest along with several corrupt policemen for the kidnapping, decapitation, and mutilation of journalist José Moisés Sánchez. Since 2010, 11 journalists have been murdered in Veracruz alone.

Mexico Is a Killing Ground for Journalists is a report from VICE News that quotes Jorge Carrasco, a reporter for the Mexican newspaper Proceso. In 2012 Mr. Carrasco received death threats while investigating the assassination of a fellow Proceso journalist. He put it this way: “Mexico is not a democratic country, because journalists wouldn’t be forced to work in conditions like this if Mexico was a democracy.”

The massacre of 12 cartoonists in Paris (there were 6 other victims as well) by reactionary “Islamic” extremists was rightly condemned, not just by the French, but by people around the world. The attack on Charlie Hebdo was seen as an assault on free expression. As an artist whose works are given to social criticism, I have always been a defender of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. On Jan. 11, 2015, more than a million people took to the streets of Paris to hold a “unity march” opposing terrorism. I was moved to see the tools of my profession, the pen and the pencil, held defiantly in raised fists during the protest; suddenly the world was seeing the artist’s pencil as I have always seen and used it… but I am left with some difficult questions, only two of which I will put forward here.

The Paris unity rally was attended by 44 foreign presidents and prime ministers. They linked arms and led the march for the 12 murdered staff members of Charlie Hebdo and the 6 other victims. I cannot help but wonder when these same world leaders will march in Mexico to honor the more than 100 journalists who have been assassinated, and to demand an end to the Narco State masquerading as a government that put them in their graves.

When will the international corporate press popularize the phrase… Je suis Ayotzinapa.

“Silent Night, Holy Night”

This post is part of my notionally annual, but in point of fact, irregular attempt at spreading Christmas cheer on my web log. This year, when I heard the old Christmas standard Silent Night, I began to think of current events in Mexico, for reasons that will be apparent if you read this yuletide message in its entirety.

In 1963 Leonard Bernstein conducted the New York Philharmonic in a rendition of Silent Night, showing why the 1818 composition by Austrians Franz Xaver Gruber (1787-1863) and Joseph Mohr (1792-1848) remains eternal around the world. Mohr, a Catholic priest and writer at St Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, Salzburg, had written a six-stanza poem on the birth of Jesus titled Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht (Silent Night, Holy Night). Mohr asked Gruber, the organist and choirmaster at St Nicholas, to write a melody around the poetic message of peace. Mohr and Gruber first performed the song at St Nicholas Church on Christmas Eve, 1818. In 2011 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared the song a part of the “Intangible Cultural Heritage” of the human race. Over the years the song was translated into English and shortened to three-stanzas, but it still retains its original message;

“Silent night! Holy night! Which brought salvation to the world, from Heaven’s golden heights, mercy’s abundance was made visible to us: Jesus in human form, Jesus in human form.”

Here I should mention that moment during World War I, the night before Christmas in December of 1914 to be exact, when German and British soldiers stopped fighting, climbed out of their muddy trenches, and defied their orders to kill one another by fraternizing in the no-man’s land. It started with the sound of German soldiers singing Stille Nacht, the melody wafting over the bomb scarred wasteland. British troops responded by singing Silent Night, and soon the two armies were exchanging handshakes, gifts, and playing soccer on the killing field. What united the two antagonists was a song with meaning and significance understood by both parties… something to be remembered in the war-mad present.

Most Americans remain blissfully unaware that Gruber and Mohr’s Silent Night is a Christmas standard in the Spanish speaking world as well. Known as Noche de paz (Night of peace), it differs from the English language version only in that each stanza begins with the words, Noche de paz, Noche de Amor. But the words “Silent Night, Holy Night” take on new meaning during the Christmas Season in today’s crisis shattered Mexico.

Screenshot of the Ayotzinapa Christmas tree at the Benito Juárez monument from a video by the Guardian.

Screenshot of the Ayotzinapa Christmas tree at the Benito Juárez monument from a video by the Guardian.

In the weeks just prior to Christmas, religious and political activists raised a Christmas tree decorated with artworks depicting the 43 missing students of Ayotzinapa kidnapped by government forces on Sept. 26, 2014.

The tree was erected in Mexico City’s Alameda Park at the Neoclassical monument dedicated to President Benito Juárez. The group, Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir (Catholics for a Free Choice), invited the public to come light the tree “For truth, justice, and peace in Ayotzinapa,” and also to “call for solidarity and accompany the families of those who have been victims of state violence, because if their families are not complete, then as a society, neither are we.” On Dec. 16th, the tree was consecrated in an evening ceremony before hundreds of people.

Affixed to the top of the Christmas tree was a Star of Bethlehem ornament that read, Justicia (Justice). The gathered crowd said a prayer for the eradication of corruption and government impunity. Hymns were sung and candles lit while 43 white balloons representing the missing students were released into the night sky. Photos of the event went viral, and that árbol de Navidad para Ayotzinapa was seen all over the world.

On Dec 22, the parents and relatives of the 43 missing Ayotzinapa students delivered a Christmas message to the world in the form of a short video, “We wish you a Merry Christmas, and ask that you don’t forget about us.”

But in truth what actually got me thinking of Mexico when I heard Silent Night, Holy Night, was the announcement that dozens of organizations and activists had called for a huge Marcha Silenciosa (Silent March) to be held in Mexico City the day after Christmas. Starting at the capital’s Ángel de la Independencia statue that memorializes those that died in the 1810-1821 war of Independence against Spain, the silent throng will converge on another symbolic site, the Monumento a la Revolución, which commemorates the revolution of 1910. The idea of an immense but silent multitude dressed in black and carrying candles representing the people’s fallen, a determined crowd that through their silence demands justice and liberty, no doubt terrifies the country’s vampiric ruling class.

On December 21, 2012, there was another silent march in Mexico, it took place in San Cristobal de las Casa, Chiapas when up to 40,000 indigenous supporters of the Ejercito Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (Zapatista Army of National Liberation – EZLN) marched in absolute silence to show the world that they exist and have not succumbed to government threats or intimidation. No speeches were made that day, the people just marched in steely, disciplined silence. It should be noted here that the EZLN has given full support to the families and supporters of the missing Ayotzinapa students.

A number of poster images announcing the 2014 yuletide demonstrations have been circulated in Mexico, three of which illustrate this article.

"Marcha Silenciosa" (Silent March) - Anonymous artist. 2014. Poster announces a mass Silent March in Mexico City the day after Christmas.

"Marcha Silenciosa" (Silent March) - Anonymous artist. 2014. Poster announces a mass Silent March in Mexico City the day after Christmas.

The poster Marcha Silenciosa (Silent March) announces the silent march in Mexico City the day after Christmas; drawings of all 43 disappeared students appear on the poster. The announcement exclaims in the voice of the people that “it has been three months and we are still waiting for them, alive.”

A rather crazed looking militant Santa Claus is featured in the poster, De la Universidad a las calles (The University to the streets), a poster announcing three Holiday Season student activities against the corrupt government of President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Yes, Santa knows if Presidente Nieto has been naughty or nice, and by the look on the face of the irate man in the red suit, Nieto ain’t gettin nuttin’ for Christmas.

Señor Claus’ white fur-lined red suit is unbuttoned to reveal a black t-shirt emblazoned with the words, ¡Fue el Estado! (It was the State!), the popular slogan that charges the government as being responsible for the kidnapping of the Ayotzinapa students. Old Kris Kringle’s suit is also ornamented with patches that read, Ya Me Cansé (I am tired), and 43, the number of kidnapped students.

"De la Universidad a las calles" (The University to the streets) - Anonymous artist. 2014. Poster announcing Holiday season activities in Mexico City to protest the disappearance of 43 Ayotzinapa students.

"De la Universidad a las calles" (The University to the streets) - Anonymous artist. 2014. Poster announcing Holiday season activities in Mexico City to protest the disappearance of 43 Ayotzinapa students.

The placard that Father Christmas holds over head is actually a calendar listing of activities in Mexico City to protest the disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa students. On Dec. 21 there were “Artistic activities and discussion forums at the Palacio de Bellas Artes” (Palace of Fine Arts).

On Dec. 26 Saint Nicholas encourages one and all to participate in “the 6th Global Day for Ayotzinapa,” which includes the massive silent march in downtown Mexico City.

And finally, St. Nick announces that on Jan 4, the Casa del Lago art & media lab at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) will host “arts, discussion forums, social health brigades, and various workshops” related to the Ayotzinapa crisis.

The poster Marcha Silenciosa, No Más Desaparecidos (Silent March, No More Disappeared), was designed by an arts group and announces the Dec. 26 silent march. The poster uses an altered version of the painting The Scream, by the Norwegian expressionist painter Edvard Munch (1863-1944). Munch’s original 1893 oil painting depicts a disturbed individual shrieking in abject terror while standing on a bridge against an undulating backdrop of a bloody red sunset.

"Marcha Silenciosa, No Más Desaparecidos" (Silent March, No More Disappeared) - Anonymous artist. 2014. Poster announcing the Dec. 26 silent march to protest the disappearance of 43 Ayotzinapa students.

"Marcha Silenciosa, No Más Desaparecidos" (Silent March, No More Disappeared) - Anonymous artist. 2014. Poster announcing the Dec. 26 silent march to protest the disappearance of 43 Ayotzinapa students.

The painting has become iconic of modern day angst and trepidation. The artist that created the Marcha Silenciosa poster counted on people recognizing Munch’s vision; the horror portrayed in Munch’s original painting was intensified in the Mexican poster by making the figure absent. That is the dismay and alarm that grips Mexico today.

It is highly unlikely that you will read any authoritative accounts of Mexico City’s post-Christmas Silent March in the pages of the New York Times or other U.S. newspapers, who altogether have barely covered the earth shattering changes washing over Mexico since September 2014; but that is not to say those events never happened.

I am amazed by the artistic and cultural responses to the Ayotzinapa crisis now flowing from cultural workers in Mexico, and their efforts have only just commenced. A powerful new art of social concern is blossoming across Mexico as I write these words, the likes of which have not been seen for decades. I will continue to document, encourage, and participate in that rising tide of artistic resistance.

– // –

UPDATES 12/27/2014

On the YouTube video channel for Ruptly TV you can view a brief video that documents Mexico’s Silent March of December 26, 2014.

"Monumento a la Revolución." Dec. 26, 2014. Photo courtesy of www.webcamsdemexico.com

"Monumento a la Revolución." - Photo of protestors massing at the Monument to the Revolution in downtown Mexico City, at the end of the Dec. 26, 2014 Silent March. Photo courtesy of www.webcamsdemexico.com

"Marcha Silenciosa" - Anonymous photographer. December 26, 2014.

"Marcha Silenciosa" - Anonymous photographer. December 26, 2014.

The Marcha Silenciosa photo shows a banner of the Virgen de Guadalupe carried by the crowd. Mexico’s Catholics believe that Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe), is the protector of the poor and downtrodden. It is said that she appeared to an Aztec/Mexica peasant named Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin on Dec. 9, 1531 on the Hill of Tepeyac, an ancient place of worship for the Aztec Earth Mother goddess, Tonantzin. Speaking to Juan Diego in the indigenous language of Nahuatl, the Virgen asked that a Church be built on the spot of her miraculous appearance. Today that church, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in México City, is the most visited Catholic site in the world.

But the Guadalupe is also a battle emblem of Mexico’s insurgents. On Sept. 16, 1810, the Catholic priest Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla issued his famous Grito de Dolores (Shout of Dolores), a call that marks the beginning of Mexico’s War of Independence against the colonial power of Spain. Hidalgo led an army of 90,000 poorly armed indigenous soldiers under the banner of the Virgen de Guadalupe. This is beautifully depicted in a detail from the mural La Independencia de México by the great Mexican muralist Juan O’Gorman that hangs in Mexico City’s museum at Chapultepec Castle.

With the banner of the Virgen of Guadalupe leading the way, the triumphant rebel armies of Emiliano Zapata and Francisco Villa entered Mexico City in 1914 during the Mexican Revolution. Even today’s Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (Zapatista Army of National Liberation – EZLN), has adopted the Guadalupe, as evidenced by this EZLN poster announcing their First World Festival of Dignified Rage, held in Mexico City in December of 2008.

"Santa Claus did not bring me the 43" - Screenshot from a Euronews video on the Dec. 26, Silent March.

"Santa Claus did not bring me the 43" - Screenshot from a Euronews video on the Dec. 26, Silent March.

Ayotzinapa; Between pain and hope

Carlos Lorenzo Hernández Muñoz - Poster of the missing 19-year old Ayotzinapa student created by Laila Cohen.

"Carlos Lorenzo Hernández Muñoz" - Poster of the missing 19-year old Ayotzinapa student created by Laila Cohen. José Guadalupe Posada's famous La Calavera Catrina can be seen over the student's shoulder along with the Virgen de Guadalupe.

El Día de la Revolución is celebrated every year in Mexico on the 20th of November. The occasion this year marks the 104th anniversary of the 1910 revolution that overthrew the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz. This year however will be different. The government has cancelled the annual military parade that ordinarily fills the capital’s streets. Instead, the Mexican people will participate in a nationwide protest and a general strike on Nov. 20, 2014. They will continue the protests against the government kidnapping and probable murder of 43 students that has outraged Mexico for almost two months.

Leonel Castro Abarca - Poster of the missing 18-year old Ayotzinapa student created by Bodox.

"Leonel Castro Abarca" - Poster of the missing 18-year old Ayotzinapa student created by Bodox.

This essay is about the Mexican citizens and artists that are playing a role in that uprising. The posters in this essay came from Mexican artists who created portraits of the 43 missing students disappeared by state “authorities” in Guerrero, Mexico. But before talking about the posters, here is some background on the story.

On Sept. 26, 2014 the police in the town of Iguala, located in the Mexican state of Guerrero, attacked students from the all male “Escuela Normal Raúl Isidro Burgos” teacher’s college in the town of Ayotzinapa. The students were preparing to protest against unfair government hiring practices in education. The officers killed 3 of the Ayotzinapa students in Iguala, wounded 25 others, and also killed 3 bystanders.

The police then rounded up 43 surviving students and handed them over to Guerreros Unidos (United Warriors), one of the criminal drug cartels plaguing the country. It is presumed the drug gang murdered their captives on behalf of the corrupt police.

The next day one of the students, 22-year old Julio César Mondragón, was found dumped on a street in Iguala for all to see. Whether he was a victim of the police or the gang is not known, but a medical examination confirmed that Mondragón had been tortured to death – his face and skull had been completely flayed and both his eyes gouged out. A student at Ayotzinapa for only a month before his death, Mondragón is survived by his 24-year old wife and their 3-month old baby daughter.

Giovanni Galindes Guerrero - Poster of the missing 20-year old Ayotzinapa student created by Argel Gómez Concheiro.

"Giovanni Galindes Guerrero" - Poster of the missing 20-year old Ayotzinapa student created by Argel Gómez Concheiro.

After the Iguala story broke, the mayor of Iguala, José Luis Abarca and his wife María de los Ángeles Pineda Villa, went into hiding. They were found in Mexico City and arrested by federal authorities who insist the couple were the “masterminds” behind the attacks on the students.

It is claimed the mayor gave orders to police to apprehend the students before they disrupted a speech to be given by his wife. On Nov. 14, 2014 the government formally charged Abarca for being behind the students’ kidnapping.

Nevertheless, there are far too many open questions regarding the case of the 43 missing students to consider it closed, for instance, where are their bodies?

The Mexican government has unearthed a number of clandestine graves in and around Iguala, but none contain the 43 students. They do however contain remains of dozens of people apparently killed in mass executions. But who were they? Who killed them? Protest signs seen on Mexican streets have some answers – Mexico es una fosa (Mexico is a grave), and Los asesinos están en palacio nacional (the assassins are in the national palace).

At a Nov. 7, 2014 news conference, Mexico’s Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam claimed that three members of Guerreros Unidos confessed to killing the 43 students, incinerating their bodies and placing their remains in garbage bags, then dumping the contents into a river. Karam said authorities have retrieved one such bag and sent its contents to a medical lab in Austria for DNA analysis. Meanwhile, the families of the missing students asked the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF) to investigate the remains found so far. On Nov. 11 the forensic experts reported that the remains did not have “biological kinship” with the missing students.

"Abel García Hernández" - Poster of the missing 21-year old Ayotzinapa student created by Jorge Zapata.

"Abel García Hernández" - Poster of the missing 21-year old Ayotzinapa student created by Jorge Zapata.

What the Ayotzinapa tragedy has revealed about Mexico is that large sectors of the state apparatus – police, armed forces, courts, and politicians – have merged with the deadly drug cartels. This merger is aptly described by the signs now carried in the streets by protestors identifying those that kidnapped the 43 students, Fue El Estado – “It was the state.”

The shadow narco terror state incorporates municipal, state, and federal officials, and spends much of its time in the drug business. A 2012 article by CNN stated that Mexican drug cartels annually move $39 billion worth of cocaine and heroin into the United States. What no one will say is that Mexicans are dying like flies to support America’s drug habit.

The posters displayed in this article came from #IlustradoresConAyotzinapa, a Mexican Tumblr account where over 200 Mexican artists have created portraits of the missing students. The artists began painting the disappeared students to humanize them, to further ingrain them in the public consciousness, and to embolden the Mexican movement for democracy and human rights. The posters on the Tumblr account have been printed out and carried in demonstrations in Mexico and around the world. Some of the posters are produced by amateurs, the majority however are produced by professional artists.

"Alexander Mora Venancio" - Poster of the missing 21-year old Ayotzinapa student created by José Quintero.

"Alexander Mora Venancio" - Poster of the missing 21-year old Ayotzinapa student created by José Quintero.

While digital media plays a large part in the production of the posters, a variety of artistic mediums are employed; drawings done in pencil, chalk, or pen and ink, watercolors, linoleum and woodcut prints, paintings in acrylic or oils. Even sculptural and embroidered works. A number of posters offer serious treatments of the subject matter, others are humorous and fanciful in the Mexican folkloric tradition. All are touching and deeply compassionate.

The artists at the Tumblr account have apparently inspired others; in this video artists in Chilpancingo, the capital of Guerrero, paint portraits of the students in a public square.

The Ayotzinapa posters bring up an important question for artists everywhere. What is the purpose of art? Is it just a commodity for wealthy elites? The Ayotzinapa posters are perfect examples of art springing from the people, the very antithesis of the detached and “apolitical” postmodern art found in today’s museums and galleries. The posters were done for a pure and noble social purpose, they defy the politics of the so-called art world – obsessed as it is with stardom and ostentatious wealth. Those making the Ayotzinapa posters will likely never appear in museums or galleries, but their creations have deeply worked their way into the hearts and minds of the people, expanding and deepening the very definition of Mexican culture.

"Luis Ángel Abarca Carrillo" - Ink drawing. Poster of the missing 18-year old Ayotzinapa student created by Diego Molina.

"Luis Ángel Abarca Carrillo" - Ink drawing. Poster of the missing 18-year old Ayotzinapa student created by Diego Molina.

A caption that appears on each portrait on the Ayotzinapa Tumblr account asks a question regarding the portrayed missing student, “I want to know where” he is. In other words the person depicted is a desaparecido – one who has been made to “disappear.”

Desaparecido is a Spanish word that describes a type of repression I first became familiar with during the October 1968 Summer Olympics held in Mexico’s capital. Ten days before the Olympic games began in Aug. 1968, the county’s student movement assembled in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco to demand democracy and human rights.

President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz ordered the plaza cleared with 8,000 soldiers and dozens of tanks, the result was the army killing upwards of 300 students. The regime destroyed the student movement by making its leaders and supporters disappear – through kidnapping, false imprisonment, and murder by state security forces. No one was ever brought to justice for these crimes.

For those who march in Mexico today, Ni 43, No 68 (Not 43 or 68) is a popular slogan that refers to the slaughter in Tlatelolco. Mexicans have not forgotten that President Ordaz was a member of the PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional), the same authoritarian party of today’s President Enrique Peña Nieto. In fact, the 43 kidnapped Ayotzinapa students intended to join the annual October 2 protest held in Mexico City to commemorate the events of Tlatelolco in 1968.

"Leonel Castro Abarca" - Poster of the missing 18-year old Ayotzinapa student created by Ricardo Peláez Goycochea.

"Leonel Castro Abarca" - Poster of the missing 18-year old Ayotzinapa student created by Ricardo Peláez Goycochea.

The regimes of El Salvador and Guatemala disappeared thousands of their civilians in the 1980s, more than 50,000 in Guatemala and 8,000 in El Salvador. November 16, 2014 marked the 25th anniversary of the U.S. trained Salvadoran Army’s Atlacatl Battalion going onto the campus of the Universidad Centroamericana in San Salvador, and murdering six Jesuit scholars, their housekeeper and her daughter.

Each were shot in the back of the head. Crimes like these became the subject of much of my art during that period. I imagined that Latin America would someday be free of such tyranny – but in today’s Mexico, there are now some 29,000 desaparecidos.

Addressing the disappearance of the 43 students and the wider issue of government corruption and violence, the students and teachers of Mexico’s National School of Dramatic Arts (ENAT), have been doing public performances – interventions if you will – all around the capital. In this amazing YouTube video of one such performance in the courtyard of the Museo Nacional de Arte in Mexico City, the students tell the tale of those gunned down by Iguala police. This is what “performance art” should be all about.

Reading the U.S. media on the current situation in Mexico, one cannot find a single mention that President Enrique Peña Nieto most likely came to power in the 2012 elections due to massive fraud. In poor neighborhoods, the PRI party distributed a purported $8.2 million in pre-paid gift cards for Soriana grocery stores in exchange for votes of Nieto. There were also charges that Nieto and the PRI purchased positive media coverage from Televisa and other media outlets.

"Jorge Aníbal Cruz Mendoza" - Poster of the missing 19-year old Ayotzinapa student created by Gabriel Pacheco.

"Jorge Aníbal Cruz Mendoza" - Poster of the missing 19-year old Ayotzinapa student created by artist Gabriel Pacheco.

Before the 2012 vote count was tallied and announced, Nieto declared himself to be the new president. As hundreds of thousands of Mexicans marched in the streets to oppose his sham election, President Obama called Nieto to congratulate him on his “victory.”

In 1990 the Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa said live on Mexican television, that “Mexico is the perfect dictatorship. The perfect dictatorship is not communism, not the USSR, not Fidel Castro; the perfect dictatorship is Mexico, because it is a camouflaged dictatorship.”

Perhaps Obama never heard of Mr. Llosa or his description of the perfect dictatorship. Interestingly enough, Obama has currently said nothing about the upheaval in Mexico. Secretary of State Kerry has been silent, as have all other members of the Obama administration. The only person to offer a comment was Jennifer Psaki, the spokesperson for the State Department, who on Nov. 13, 2014 simply said “We urge all parties to remain calm through the process.”

"Jorge Antonio Tizapa" - Woodcut poster of the missing Ayotzinapa student created by Claus López López.

"Jorge Antonio Tizapa" - Woodcut poster of the missing Ayotzinapa student created by Claus López López.

Maybe President Obama is made uncomfortable by the fact that his administration provides $15 million in military aid to Mexico, up from the $3 million it received in 2009.

Evidently it is difficult for the President to justify his arming a narco terror state while it murders its own people, so it was thought best just to keep quiet.

The Mérida Initiative signed by President Bush in 2008 and since extended by Obama “indefinitely,” provides $2.1 billion to Mexican security forces fighting the so-called drug war. Since 2006 the U.S. government has spent $3 billion on funding the Mexican government’s “war on drugs,” a joke if there ever was one.  The US government is indirectly arming the very drug cartels it says it wants to eradicate.

The 2012 election returned the corrupt PRI to power, the authoritarian party that ran Mexico for 70 years. That reign was broken in 2000 when Vicente Fox of the conservative PAN (Partido Acción Nacional) won the presidency, followed by Felipe Calderón of the PAN, who became president in 2006. Calderón will likely be remembered for Mexico’s bloodiest years since the 1910 revolution. In 2006 he supposedly began a war against the drug cartels then running large swaths of Mexico. By the end of Calderón’s six year term, the cartels were stronger than ever and an estimated 110,000 civilians had perished in the conflict.

"Julio César López Patoltzin" - Poster of the missing Ayotzinapa student created by Rodrigo Padilla López. The artist used digital media to replicate the visual effects of traditional Mexican woodcuts, and used the Aztec Náhuatl language to ask the question "Kampa ka?" (¿Dónde está?)

"Julio César López Patoltzin" - Poster of the missing Ayotzinapa student created by Rodrigo Padilla López. The artist used digital media to replicate the visual effects of traditional Mexican woodcuts, and used the Aztec Náhuatl language to ask the question "Kampa ka?" (¿Dónde está?)

Placing the deaths of so may innocent Mexican citizens in context, it should be remembered that during the approximately 17-year long Vietnam war, some 60,000 U.S. soldiers were killed in combat. Nearly twice that number of Mexican citizens died in just six years of Calderón’s drug war. Since President Nieto took power in 2012, another 29,000 citizens have perished in the war. Then came the disappearance of the 43 students of Ayotzinapa; it took Nieto 11 days before he said a word about the kidnapping.

During his Nov. 7 news conference announcing the apparent killing of the 43, Attorney General Karam tried to stop questions from the press by saying, “Ya me canse” (I’ve had enough). His words became a rallying cry. Mexican filmmaker Natalia Beristan perhaps said it best when she appeared in a YouTube video response to Karam’s statement. Beristan said: “Señor Murillo Karam, I too am tired. I’m tired of vanished Mexicans, of the killing of women, of the dead, of the decapitated, of the bodies hanging from bridges, of broken families, of mothers without children, of children without fathers. I am tired of the political class that has kidnapped my country, and of the class that corrupts, that lies, that kills. I too am tired.”

There are other filmmakers that share Ms. Beristan’s opinion. On Nov. 11, 2014, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City held its annual film benefit, this time a tribute to Mexican filmmaker, Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity, Children of Men, Y Tu Mamá También, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban). Cuaron wrote a collective statement with fellow Mexican filmmakers Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth), and Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman), which was read before the elite audience at MoMA by del Toro. The statement read in part:

“This past September, 43 students were kidnapped by the local police in the state of Guerrero, Mexico. After a period of apathy, the authorities only then were forced to search for them, due to the protestations of citizens across the entire country and the world, and they found the first of many, many mass graves. None of these graves contained the remains of the missing students. The bodies within them were those of other anonymous victims. Last week, the general attorney announced that the 43 students were handed over by the police to members of a drug cartel to be executed and burned in a public dump. But even the identity of those charred remains awaits proper DNA.

The federal government argues that these events are all just local violence — not so. As Human Rights Watch observes, these killings and forced disappearances reflect a much broader pattern of abuse and are largely a consequence of the longstanding failure of the Mexican authorities.

We believe that these crimes are systemic and indicate a much greater evil: the blurred lines between organized crime and the high-ranking officials in the Mexican government. We must demand answers about this and we must do it now. We would like to take this opportunity to ask you all to join us in the pain and indignation felt by the families of the disappeared students and of every civilian in Mexico who is living with this atrocious reality on an every day basis and to at least be aware of this systematic human rights violation taking place so often and so close to you.”

In today’s Mexico there is a modern expression that illustrates the country’s agony; Ayotzinapa; Entre el dolor y la esperanza. In English the phrase translates to “Ayotzinapa; Between pain and hope.” The pain emanating from the place is a distillation of Mexico’s entire blood-spattered history, but it is also an anguish recognized by working people no matter where they live. Likewise, the optimism pouring forth from Ayotzinapa, inspires not just Mexicanos but people all across the globe who dream of a better world.

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UPDATES

Videos that document the November 20, 2014 demonstration:
Students of the Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinematográficos at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), created this 4 minute video on the Nov. 20, 2014 march.

The Mexican website Animal Policito made a video of the Nov. 20 march that documents the size of the crowds through the use of drone cameras.

“War Cry” video:
Grito de Guerra is a new song produced by a collective of 30 Mexican recording artists. The video for the composition incorporates images from recent demonstrations along with footage of the song being recorded in the studio. On Nov. 27, 2014, Grito will be released on iTunes and other platforms, with the proceeds going to the parents of the missing students.

Dia de los Muertos – Monoprints

"Ayotzinapa: Faltan 43" - Mark Vallen. Monoprint. 6 x 8 inches. 2014 ©

"Ayotzinapa: Faltan 43" - Mark Vallen. Monoprint. 6 x 8 inches. 2014 ©. Printed on Arches watercolor paper with eleven different oil colors.

To mark the 2014 observance of Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), I have created a suite of twenty monoprints based upon an ancient Aztec glyph representing death. Essentially a printed painting, no two images are alike. The images were painted directly on a sheet of glass in oil paint, and burnished with a wooden spoon; each color was “pulled” separately.

Working with cadmium yellows, oranges, and reds, I printed starting with the lightest warm colors and worked-up to the darker hues like vermillion and rose madder. I added contrasting cool colors – cinnabar green, emerald green and cerulean blue – with a final dark purple pulling all the colors together and giving form to the calaca (skull) glyph. When buying these monoprints, remember that each stand-alone print is unique, and that I cannot guarantee that your purchase will have anything more than a general likeness to those displayed here. However, I curated the prints and found each one suitable for inclusion in the suite. Each print is hand-signed with the artist’s signature, date, and the title of the print – Ayotzinapa: Faltan 43.

And what is the meaning behind the title of the print?

43 male members of the Normal Rural School of Ayotzinapa in the state of Guerrero disappeared on Sept. 26, 2014 after being kidnapped by the police. The cops handed their prisoners to members of the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel, who allegedly murdered them. Since then the people of Mexico have held protests and other activities to place the blame on the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto and his allies in Washington, D.C. While dozens of suspects have been arrested, not one has been charged with any crime, likewise, not a single member of the 43 male students has been found. Other mass graves have been discovered in the area, some 12 large graves, but the students were not found in them. Since 2007, some 100,000 civilians have perished in the so-called “drug war.”

Banners, flyers, street art, and graffiti have appeared across the country, some reading Todos Somos Ayotzinapa (We Are All Ayotzinapa), Fue El Estado (It was the state), and Vivos Los Llevaron, Vivos Los Queremos! (They were taken away alive, we want them back alive!). The popular slogan Ayotzinapa: Faltan 43, is the title of my monotype series. It simply means, “Ayotzinapa, 43 are missing.”

With my Ayotzinapa print I mean to bring attention to the current situation in Mexico; the corruption and collusion of government forces like the courts, ruing elites, and the police and army with the criminal drug gangs that run large areas of the nation; the U.S. government arming and training Mexican security forces as well as the drug gangs, and the Mexican democratic masses themselves, who protest at every opportunity against the depravity of the Mexican state. On October 29, 2014, President Nieto met with relatives of the missing students, promising that they would be found, but the relatives were not impressed.

Ayotzinapa: Faltan 43 represents a new period of print experimentation for me, and in the months to come a number of new monotype prints will appear on this web log.

So on this Día de los Muertos, remain vigilant and do not forget… in Ayotzinapa, 43 are missing.

$100. Ayotzinapa: Faltan 43 – Mark Vallen. Monoprint. 6 x 8 inches. 2014.
Purchase your print here.

Artworks by Mark Vallen ©

Four examples from the print series that show the differences in each print.