Featured image above: #AccionGlobalPorAyotzinapa en Pachuca (photo by Andrés Tonini, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
By Sarahy Sigie
On September 26th, 2014, 43 first–year students from the Escuela Normal Rural Raul Isidro Burgos teachers college of Ayotzinapa in the southern state of Guerrero, Mexico, went missing after returning home from a protest. Kidnapped by uniformed men who fired automatic weapons from their police trucks, the students have not been seen alive since. The kidnappings have added to an environment of fear—an environment caused by increasingly alarming levels of violence—an environment in which extortion, kidnappings and organized crime occur with impunity.
Using the Exposure Visual Storytelling Platform
The government’s lack of adequate response to the kidnappings sparked outrage and generated an enormous wave of protests around Mexico and worldwide, amplified by social media. I wanted to help keep the memory of the students of Ayotzinapa alive by demonstrating support to their parents. To do this, I used the visual storytelling platform Exposure to create the site Te sigo buscando Abel: Una carta de tu madre (y de todos nosotros) para ti #Ayotzinapasomostodos. Translated, this title reads: “I am still looking for you, Abel: A letter from your mother (and from all of us) for you #WeAreAllAyotzinapa.”
I decided to use Exposure to create the site because the platform allows you to easily create and edit stories that are based on images. You can quickly arrange images by dragging and organizing them in a template. Although you can also use text and videos to complement your story, ultimately images guide the story. It’s also easy to share a story. Exposure includes links to share stories with your connections by using the platform itself or through social media. New users, called members, can create and publish three stories free of charge.
A Mother Tells Her Story
Because authenticity is key when raising awareness for social issues, I wanted to let the parents of the missing students tell the story. To this end, I focused the site content around a letter that was written by the mother of one missing student, Abel García Hernández, after his disappearance. The text, translated from Mixteco to Spanish, guides the storyline, which calls for us to visualize Abel and to keep looking for him.
Following is the text of the letter from Abel’s mother, translated to English, which accompanies the images on the site:
“This day that you are not with me I have an unbearable pain that I can’t explain with words, I think that my heart it’s becoming smaller, little by little I feel how it is tearing inside me.
I remembered the happiness in your face when you left to study at the rural school Raúl Isidro Burgos of Ayotzinapa, so you can fulfill your dream of giving us, your parents, a better life.
Since the day you left, I am still waiting for you son, and I know that these tears that I cry at the end will be the price to pay so I can have you back son, so I can see you eat your favorite meal ‘cocolmeca’, that you use to climb the hill to get it so I could cook it for you.
Since you are not here, your father has been restlessly looking for you, and he keeps demanding you to return alive.
I would like to know where you are so I can run towards you, and save your life. I don’t mind losing mine in the process. Son, I want to tell you that your town is looking for you. Your town is demanding your return; we live with the hope to see you again.”
Raising Awareness and Motivating Change
The search is ongoing for the 43 missing students and more than 23,000 people registered missing in Mexico in the last 10 years. It’s vital not just to keep their memories alive, but to continue raising awareness about all such events, which result from differences and hate and generate sadness and anger. Let’s take advantage of the digital tools that are available to us to create and participate in a more caring, better society. Let’s use these tools to continue raising awareness and motivating change.
Editor’s note: From April 16 to April 18, Seattle will be the host city for the Caravan 43 group, which includes family members of the 43 students who disappeared, and students from Ayotzinapa. The stop in Seattle is part of a larger United States tour designed to raise awareness of the disappearances and call for action.