‘It is more shocking to see a naked body in this country than a charred cadaver.’
The city of Iguala, Mexico garnered global attention last year when 43 student protesters from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers' College of Ayotzinapa vanished after a protest. This mass disappearance was not the work of a higher supernatural force nor malicious aliens, but rather something depressingly ordinary for the citizens of Mexico – the students were, according to the Mexican attorney general's office, murdered by a drugs cartel.
Authorities say that Iguala mayor Jose Luis Abarca and his wife worked with a cartel called Guerreros Unidos to kidnap the students. Gangs working in tandem with local government is an all too common occurrence in the endemically corrupt country, and the situation sparked widespread protests across the country.
The missing 43 were supposedly confirmed dead in January, but activists continue to remember them and denounce the government's organisation. Edgar Olguín and Sara Yatziri Guerrero Juárez are two Mexicans fighting to make sure that the students are not forgotten. Olguín and Juárez, a photographer and model respectively, are members of an activist group that poses as naked human bilboards in public places to draw attention to the plight of the Ayotzinapa 43.
Their project, Poner el Cuerpo, Sacar la Voz (roughly translated as "Using the Body, Expressing Our Voice"), photographs protesters with slogans daubed on their bodies, such as "Ya Me Canse" (I Am Tired) – a message that has come to embody the anti-corruption movement and the frustrations of ordinary Mexicans with the government. Others write messages blaming the military for the disappearance of the 43 students.
Olguín says that the nudity in his campaign isn't for titillation. "In our society, it’s more alarming to see a naked body, than to see a charred cadaver in column 8 of the newspaper," he explains.
Juárez describes murder in Mexico "as part of everyday life" and says that her participation comes about from "a need to share a silence in a country that sees six femicides a day and where the government disappears students". She wants to cause reflection, break prejudices and speak out against corruption, although even she admits she knows "how dangerous it is to express oneself".
According to Juárez, the 43 students were "disappeared" because they attended a school that encouraged freedom of thought.
"The fight of Ayotzinapa's students' families speaks by itself and is undoubtedly an example for all of us," she said. "My family too is well aware of the project and they're very proud of the courage this kind of expression takes. My parents are the ones who taught me these ideals and strengths."
Their battle is not over yet and the group has many more protests planned in the form of artistic expression such as film, more "human signs" and larger performances in public places. Mexico needs their voice and presence. Just two days ago, 60 bodies were found in an abandoned crematorium near Acapulco in Western Mexico. Despite a culture of protest and defiance sweeping the country, it would seem that the heavily-armed and money-rich cartels are still running Mexico.
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