Six months ago, 43 students from a rural teachers college in Guerrero province, Mexico, were “disappeared,” in an alleged collusion between provincial police and a local cartel.
The male students were part of a leftist-leaning school in the town of Ayotzinapa. Hours after they boarded buses, en route to protest against a conference hosted by the Guerrero governor’s wife, police officers stopped them in Iguala.
After a violent altercation, which left six dead and more than 20 wounded, police forced 43 of the students out and loaded them aboard police vehicles. The police then handed them over to the Guerror Unidos cartel.
Omar Garcia Velazquez was one of the students there the night of the kidnappings. To this day he doesn’t understand what would provoke the police into wanting them killed.
“Many thousands of people around the country do what we were doing that night,” Velazquez says.
Now, the 42 students are presumed dead, with one student’s remains confirmed by Austrian scientists. Outrage following their “disappearance” has seen Guerrero’s governor and his wife indicted on charges that they orchestrated the kidnappings.
Velazquez says he was able to escape because the provincial police didn’t have enough vehicles to transport all of the nearly 100 students involved aboard the buses. Velazquez, along with Maria de Jesus Tlatempa, the mother of one of the missing students, are traveling across Texas, looking to raise international awareness and help.
Despite the government of Mexico’s official declaration that the students are dead, Tlatempa says she refuses to give up hope.
“My heart tells me that they’re alive,” Tlatempa says. “Other people have come forth with testimony saying that they’ve seen them in several places.”
Tlatempa hopes that by coming to Texas she can shed light on a different story than the one being told by Mexican government officials.
“For us this case is not closed. This case is open – and we want to keep it open until we find answers.”