On September 26, 2014, a bus full of student teachers from the Raul Isidro Burgos Normal Rural School of Ayotzinapa, while en route to the city of Iguala in the state of Guerrero, came under vicious attack from local police acting on direct orders from the mayor, known for his close ties to the local drug cartel, Guerreros Unidos. Six students were killed, and 43 disappeared.
In one of the endless cruel twists that contort history in the Americas, the students had been on the way to the state capital to petition for funding that would permit a delegation from the school to attend the annual commemoration of the Oct. 2, 1968, Tlatelolco massacre, when government security forces opened fire on student protesters, killing hundreds.
Disappearance represents one of the most extreme forms of violence in the state of exception. Protestors are not just violently suppressed; they are removed from history, transformed into nonentities — erased. In the absence of protest, the wider public then becomes complicit in a culture of ongoing cleansing, as the dirt of resistance is scrubbed clean from the immaculate narrative of the despotic (or merely criminal) polity.
Yet in this case, the brutal disappearance of the 43 students failed to secure the required silence and intimidation; the mayor and his wife have been forced into hiding, with dozens of local police and other officials arrested as accomplices to murder and other crimes.
Throughout Mexico, many artists have contributed to an online project assuring that the faces of the disappeared are not forgotten. In each gesture of resistance, the caption reads “I (the artist’s name) want to know where (the student’s name) is.” Below, we relay five of these powerful acts of creative resistance: