The Department of sociology and anthropology and the Mexico, the Americas and Spain program sponsored a teach-in event on Friday, Nov. 21, in order to inform students of the disappearance of 43 college students in Iguala, Mexico, following a confrontation with local police. A number of professors spoke at the event, and alumna Roxana Rojas was available to answer questions and contribute to the conversation at the event via a Skype call from Guadalajara.
“There is a real human rights crisis in Mexico,” said David Spener chair of sociology and anthropology. “A lot of people [are] disappearing and there is not a lot of media coverage.”
The event was conceptualized and organized by Rosana Blanco-Cano assistant professor of modern languages and literatures, Arturo Madrid ,professor of modern languages and literatures, Katsuo Nishikawa, associate professor of political science, Aaron Navarro, associate professor of history and David Spener, chair of sociology and anthropology. The teach-in concept dates back to the 1960s and originally involved events in which students and professors would organize open events on subjects that were not being addressed in courses. As Spener explains, current events often capture the attention of professors but are not appropriate for their syllabus and course material, which led to the rise of teach-ins.
“With media the way it is now, no one outlet dedicates more than a few seconds to issues like this,” Nishikawa said. “This is very complicated and nuanced, and we wanted to show that.”
The event was attended by about 60 students, and in addition to the information presented by professors who had organized the event, an alumna was available on Skype as well. Roxana Rojas currently lives in Guadalajara, and she related her experiences with protesting the disappearances and poor media coverage as well. The lack of coverage of the event is in part, said Spener, due to the misconception that these disappearances took place due to the students’s involvement with the drug trade.
The Mexican drug trade, Spener says, is largely supported by the demand provided by the United States. On the other side, however, the United States government interacts with the Mexican government, training members of their government and police forces to respond to the drug trade and aid in the war on drugs.
The impact of events like these disappearances are not isolated from Mexican- Americans, though it has received coverage from the media. He explains that this is a mistaken assumption, and that many people only tangentially related to the drug trade. After the deaths of six students, major demonstrations were held around Mexico, calling for state officials to be held accountable for their involvement.
“It is disappointing to me that this has not been adequately addressed,” Spener said. “Issues in Mexico are not always addressed in earnest.”
Recent developments have seen American citizens take to the streets in protest, holding various vigils and rallies to help address the issue further. Organizers have taken to social media as well, trending campaigns using the USTired2 hashtag to raise awaraness of the incident. A recent CNN report stated that the remains of some of the students may have been found following the abduction by their gang killers, although the attorney general noted that conclusions would be held until DNA tests were confirmed.