60,000 dead. 10,000 kidnapped. 160,000 internally displaced.
These are the numbers and statistics that the War on Drugs has produced since 2006.
Here’s another one: Only 2% of all crimes committed in Mexico are investigated and solved.
Behind these numbers are actual people. Mothers. Fathers. Brothers. Sisters. Neighbors. Friends. All united by tragedy afflicted by the drug war. But, out of these tragedies the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity seeks to bring “consolation, justice, and the path toward peace.”
The story of the Peace Caravan started with the loss of a loved one. In March of 2011, Javier Sicilia’s 24 year old son was killed by drug traffickers in Mexico. Sicilia describes him as “an athlete and professional who never tried drugs” that became an innocent victim in this “imbecilic war.” And it was with this loss that Javier Sicilia started the organization Movimiento por la Paz (Movement for Peace) to give a name and face to those that died and also giving a voice to the families of the victims.
Now traveling in two buses on the Caravan for Peace are 40 family members with their individual stories about their loved ones and one common goal to show the real costs of the drug war. Here are some of their stories:
Aracely Rodríguez – Mother of Luis Ángel León Rodríguez. In November of 2009, her son, a federal police officer was kidnapped and killed when he and his fellow officers refused to cooperate with a drug cartel in the state of Michoacán. She was told that they cut up their bodies with a chain saw and tossed their body parts in corrosive chemicals so the bodies would never be found. She is on the Caravan to “speak about the nightmare we are suffering in Mexico.” Read the profile on her in the Los Angeles Times.
Maria Ignacia Gonzalez Vela – Mother of Andrés Ascención González, disappeared on March 27, 2011 in the city of Matamoros, Tamaulipas. She was on the phone with him when she suddenly heard him tell someone to drive faster. It was later found out that drug dealers had took her son.
Maria Guadalupe Guzman Romo and Maria Guadalupe Muñoz – Mother and sister of Miguel Orlando Muñoz, victim of forced disappearance in Ciudad Juárez on May 8, 1993. He was in the military, and reports show that he had stood up against his superior military personnel who had links to drug-trafficking operations in the area.
Dora Elvia Aguirre and Rosa Pérez Triana – Mothers of Guadalupe Coral Pérez Triana and Judith Ceja Aguirre, disappeared on July 24, 2011 along with Juanita Alemán, Almirsa Janet de León, Cinthia Lozano y Alma Mónica Ãlvarez García, when they where going from Reynosa, Tamaulipas to Monterrey, Nuevo León. Both mothers are part of the NGO Citizens in Support for Human Rights AC (CADHAC), which has documented hundreds of disappearances in the state of Nuevo León.
Guadalupe Aguilar – Mother of José Luis Arana Aguilar, disappeared in Tonalá, Jalisco, on January 17, 2011. It is suspected that the police in Tonalá were involved with this disappearance.
Benito Paredes – Benito comes as a representative for the Peoples of Morelos Council where there are more than 85 indigenous communities are experiencing problems with aggression, kidnappings, and murders.
Santos de la Cruz Carrillo – He is here representing the Wixárika people. The Mexican government is trying to give away 6,000 acres of their sacred land to a mining company. The mining operations would pollute and dry out their holy springs.
Sacario Hernández – He was wrongfully accused of murder, put in jail for five years and 51 days, and after a 35 day hunger strike, he was released and later exonerated. In his words, “I come to accompany the Caravan to demand justice for the victims who have suffered and to demand freedom for Profesor Alberto Patishtan Gómez as a political and conscience prisoner, who is a tzotzil indígena from Chiapas…. “In Mexico, guns are not only used for killing us each other, but for criminalizing Human Rights Defenders and mainly to the indigenous and outcast people from Mexico and Chiapas where they got us dying in jails.”
Gabino Israel Anzurez – Gabino is on the Caravan as representative of the Frente de Pueblos en Defensa da le Tierray al Agua (Peoples Front in Defense of the Land and Water). A thermoelectric plants is being built in his town without the communities permission, which would affect their surrounding environment, water reserves, and ultimately their lives.
Leticia Mora Nieto – Leticia is the mother of 22 year old Georgina Ivonne Ramírez Mora, who disappeared on May 30th 2011 on her way to the supermarket to pick up supplies for dinner. She never returned. Leticia is on the Caravan to represent other mothers whose daughters have disappeared.
Arturo Malvido Conway – Arturo is on the Caravan to tell the story of his brother who was killed outside his home in Mexico City on August 11, 1997.
Teresa Vera Alvarado – Teresa comes representing her sister Minerva, a generous woman who often gave food, water, and clothes to passing migrants near the railway where she lived. She went out one day to a beauty parlor near her home, only to never come back.
Lourdes Campos Romo – Mother of Guillermo Gustavo Navarro Campos, murdered on June 16th, 2010. He was an organizer and an activist. Despite the violence that built up in his community he made sure to remind his neighbors to stay united to fight against insecurity in order to achieve change. He fought to create a family welfare program in the community to improve the standard of living for those living in the neighborhood. On June 16th 2012, he was shot five times through his window.
María Salvadora Coronado – María comes to represent her husband, Mauricio Aguilar, a kind and friendly person that loved soccer and always put others before himself. He disappeared from their home in Cordoba, Veracruz on May 27, 2011.
Olga Reyes – Her family are well-known human rights activists from Chihuahua that were able to organize and prevent the installation of a landfill in their community. For this, and for protesting against the growing militarization of their state. six members of her family have been killed and several others are living in exile to avoid the threats by cartels and public servants of the Mexican government.
Melchor Flores – Father of Juan Melchor Flores Hernández, better knwon as “El vaquero galáctico.” His son performed as a human statue on streets and various city squares throughout the country. He was repeatedly detained by police for not having the correct permit to perform. The last time he was detained was in Monterrey, Nuevo León on January 19, 2009. He has not been seen since.
José Carlos Castro – His family disappeared on January 6th 2011. A group of armed men broke into his home and took his wife, Josefina Campillo Carreto the former Mayor of Atocpan, Veracruz. They also took his daughters Joahana Montserrat Castro Campillo an Architecture intern at the University of Veracruz, and 19 year old, Karla Verónica Castro Campillo, a student of Graphic Design, at Getzal University.
Margarita López – She is the mother of 19 year old Yahaira Guadalupe who was taken from her home in Oaxaca by a group of armed men on April 13th, 2011. After faces multiple threats, some from authorities, during her search for answers on the disappearance of her daughter, she found out she was tortured, raped, and then decapitated. “I cannot breathe without thinking about my girl. Help me. Help me to let people know what’s happening.” Read the profile on her in the Los Angeles Times.
María Herrera – She is the mother of four sons that have disappeared. Two of them from Atoyac de Álvarez, Guerrero, and two in Poza Rica, Veracruz. Raul and Jesus went missing in August 2008 and Luis and Gustavo in September 2010, all disappearing without a trace. She is on the Caravan with her 5th son, Juan Carlos Trujillo Herrera. When addressing a crowd in Alamo, TX she explained why she is on the Caravan, “At this time we are not fighting for our own but for each and every one of the children of the people who are here. Their hope is to stop the violence. We do not want more people to go through the pain that we have been going through.” Read the profile on her in the Los Angeles Times.
The peace movement in Mexico has given these families of the victims the courage to step forward and honor their loved ones and demand justice. Despite the reality of fellow peace activists getting killed, the movement continues on.
No matter where we stand on any of the issues that this Caravan is bringing to light, we can all relate to the love we feel for our family and friends and will hopefully take time to reflect on the violence that brought all of this together.
As Javier Sicilia wrote, “Don’t wait until that pain reaches your intimate lives to hear the cry of those of us who cannot keep from uttering it: do not wait until the senseless death that this war has unleashed reaches your lives like it has reached ours, to know that such death exists and that it must be stopped. This is the moment for us to come together and change this policy of war and rescue peace, life and democracy.”
And as the poet does whenever he speaks about the victims, let us join in honoring those lost with a moment of silence.
In El Paso, TX the names of those killed in Mexico’s Drug War were projected on the side of the Annunciation House building, in this act of protest against harmful U.S. policies which fuel these deaths.