"Forty-Three Days 43 Names" -- a project commemorating the disappearance of 43 students who attended the Normal University in Ayotzinapa, a rural school in the state of Guerrero, Mexico -- will be on display in the UNLV Barrick Museum lobby beginning Saturday, Nov. 22. The project will run for 43 consecutive days displaying the names of the 43 missing students on a TV screen along with sound and a floor piece inside of the museum's lobby.
From the artist, Javier Sanchez:
On Sept. 26, 43 students from the Ra?l Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers' College of Ayotzinapa went missing in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico. According to official reports, they had traveled to Iguala that day to hold a protest against what they considered to be discriminatory hiring and funding practices by the Mexican government. During the journey, local police intercepted them and a confrontation ensued. Details of what happened during and after the clash remain unclear, but the official investigation concluded that once the students were in custody, they were handed over to the local drug cartel Guerreros Unidos ("United Warriors") crime syndicate and presumably killed. Mexican authorities believe Iguala's mayor, Jos? Luis Abarca Vel?zquez, and his wife, Mar?a de los ?ngeles Pineda Villa, to be the probable masterminds of the abduction. Both of them fled after the incident, along with the town's police chief, Felipe Flores Vel?squez.
The mass kidnapping of the students arguably became the biggest political and public security scandal Mexican President Enrique Pe?a Nieto had faced during his administration. It led to ongoing nationwide protests, particularly in the state of Guerrero and Mexico City, and international condemnation.
This is not the first, biggest, or most gruesome mass disappearance during Mexico's past eight years of brutal drug violence. More than 106,000 have died in what government data term "executions," "confrontations," and "homicide-aggressions" since former President Felipe Calderon informally declared his war on drugs in 2006. But the tragedy of Ayotzinapa is different. Rarely has the collusion between local authorities and the cartels been so obvious and the consequences so dire.
Unsurprisingly, the events surrounding the case have captivated Mexico and the international community for weeks. From the time the war on drugs started (and) the failure became apparent, there have been protests, marches, and calls for action. This time around, the protests' significance has moved beyond a dull weariness and discontent to raw expressions of pain. This has happened in part because of who the victims are, students from a poor rural town and a university with a strong tradition of activism for social justice. This reputation appears to be why the mayor sent police forces to detain them in the first place. According to Mexican media and citing documents from the investigation, Jos? Luis Abarca ordered the police to "teach them a lesson."
Protests against narco violence and against the government's ineptitude and dishonesty have never been so heated or widespread. They've also never had such a strong presence internationally, including in New York and Paris, aided by social media. In Mexico, the anger is spreading quickly with ongoing and continuous protests against the impunity and the massacre of the 43 students from Ayotzinapa.
The people from Mexico are tired, exhausted. The violence is reaching the limits of normal human experience and of the language people use to describe it. The violence in Mexico cannot tell you that in Mexico every day is the day of the dead, and the day of the disappeared, and the day of the mutilated, and the day of the bereaved. Ayotzinapa and its unique convergence of events, actors, timing, and place speak to this.