Vigil and Photo Exhibition Raise Awareness About Missing Mexican Students

Vigil for Missing Mexican Students

Students studying Spanish with Associate Professor Luciano Martinez turned a conversation that motivated them inside the classroom into a campus-wide awareness campaign.

In Martinez’s class, Uriel Medina ’15, Alejandra Barajas ’15, and others were discussing recent state-sponsored violence in Mexico – specifically, the September 26 capture and likely murder by police of 43 Mexican students traveling to an anti-government protest. For these Swarthmore students, the story’s importance in light of larger histories, political relations, and inequalities warranted a conversation that would go beyond one classroom.

With support from Martinez and many members of the Spanish language section, Medina, a political science and Spanish major from McComb, Miss., and Barajas, a political science and educational studies major from Ontario, Calif., launched a multi-faceted public campaign.

They facilitated an active dialogue in Kohlberg Hall that commemorated the missing Mexican students, while also considering America’s implication in such a tragedy and calling on the Swarthmore community to future action. This conversation was accompanied by a visual installation in Kohlberg and Eldridge Commons encompassing photos of the 43 missing students, many from their social media pages.

“This incident spurred a movement to raise awareness and express outrage around the [total] 26,000 missing and/or dead victims of the War on Drugs in Mexico,” Medina and Barajas expressed. “It is part of a larger phenomenon of violence in Mexico, both state-sanctioned and cartel-induced.”

Additionally, Medina and Barajas encouraged all Swatties to wear black in solidarity, an extension of the awareness movement taking place in Mexico.

“We decided to take it upon ourselves to give the issue visibility and decided that the installations would be the best way to achieve that … in an effort to impact students on a personal level.”

Read more about the event in The Phoenix.