‘They are not alone’: a compilation of knowledge to accompany those who seek

A research project brings together the knowledge that seeking mothers across the country have generated in the painful path of finding out the truth about their loved ones. Their experiences, compiled on the portal you are not alonethey can help other women in the country who continue to search for their disappeared

Text: Alejandro Ruiz

Photos: You Are Not Alone

MEXICO CITY. – Angélica Rodríguez Monroy has been looking for her daughter Viridiana Morales Rodríguez for 10 years. Her smile seems from another world, from one where she does not claim justice and truth.

She walks slowly through the lobby of the National School of Jurisprudence of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation, stopping at times to look carefully at the photos of her and her fellow seekers. The reason it is between these corridors, and also why the photos are in this place, is not by chance, because in the framework of the Legal Book Fair, Angélica came to present a project that systematizes her knowledge: you are not alone. The photos are part of an exhibition to make visible the struggle of mothers who are looking for their missing relatives.

“I don’t like how I turned out, but my colleagues look very pretty,” she says, laughing, as we walk through the exhibition. We walk, and recognizing herself in the images, Angélica does not hesitate to express her admiration for the other mothers that appear there.

“They are incredible, their strength, their soul, they are incredible,” he says.

Systematize the knowledge to agree the struggles

They are not alone is a research project coordinated by the editor Marina Álamo, and by the journalists Heriberto Paredes and Rodrigo Caballero, who traveled to different states of the republic to interview the searchers and recover their knowledge and experiences.

“It is a project to accompany their struggles”, says the journalist Heriberto Paredes during the presentation of the project, at the Legal Book Fair.

The aim of the project is to provide information and knowledge on what to do in the event of the disappearance of a loved one, as well as to facilitate contacts for search groups throughout the country in the event that someone is going through this situation.

“It is also a space for the construction of collective memory, to socialize the information that exists in this regard and make visible the serious crisis of disappearance that our country is going through,” adds Heriberto Paredes.

The idea was born in 2020, at the initiative of academics from the University of Berkley, California, in the United States, who were part of the Search Engine Research Unit (BRU, for its acronym in English). In this space, coordinated by Professor Claudio Lomnitz, and made up of the academic Mónica Castillejos and the students Greg Odum and Mónica Trigos, the academics began to assess the problems that the country is going through.

Initially, the objective was to develop theoretical tools that would make it possible to recover the experiences of the searchers, which required field work to interview them and accompany them on the search days. The systematized knowledge would return to the groups of mothers to nourish their struggle.

It is there, where they contact Marina Álamo to carry out the tasks in the field. She, in turn, calls the journalists Rodrigo Caballero and Heriberto Paredes to develop the investigation. However, the space initially seemed insufficient to express everything that was being collected in the research, and so, in 2021, they requested and won a scholarship and support from the Brown Institute (a collaboration between Columbia and Stanford Universities). , and the support of the Center for the Study of Mexico and Central America, as well as the Columbia University Library.

Thus, the original project began to take the form of a tool that would help searchers to systematize their cases and preserve the collective memory that exists around forced disappearance.

All this effort was concentrated on a website, where the testimonies of search groups from almost the entire country are available for consultation, as well as documents and guides on what to do in the event of a disappearance, and contacts of search groups.

“The idea is that this page can be a tool that facilitates communication, since many times those who face a disappearance do not know what to do or who to contact, that is why everything is concentrated there and is easily accessible,” adds the journalist Heriberto Walls.

It is urgent to make these problems visible in the country

The project was echoed by the organizers of the Legal Book Fair of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation, who, within the framework of this event, set up a permanent exhibition at the School of Jurisprudence so that the initiative would be known.

The exhibition was available from November 14 to 18, and in addition to the photographs and capsules that are part of the project, talks were also held where searching mothers shared their experiences with students and the interested public.

Among the speakers were Angélica and Tranquilina, from Morelos, who stressed the importance of making these problems visible in the country and the role that judges have in preventing disappearances in Mexico.

“You must issue exemplary sentences so that those who commit these acts think twice before destroying entire families,” said Angélica.

At the same time, during the inauguration of the exhibition, the minister president of the court, Arturo Zaldívar, expressed a message in which he called on the authorities at all levels not to ignore the demands of the families.

«The Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation has wanted to accommodate this exhibition to make visible the collective tragedy of the disappeared persons in Mexico. This problem must be made visible. Trying to generate empathy, indignation in society”.

At the same time, he concluded his message by expressing that attention to these cases should be a priority issue on the country’s political agenda.

“It seems to me that this cause of the disappeared persons in Mexico, of the thousands of people who have been victims of forced disappearance, should be one of the priority issues on the political agenda of all political actors in this country.”

Although the exhibition concluded on November 18, the promoters of No Están Solas affirm that they will be organizing future presentations of the project together with the search groups that participated in this first stage, and affirmed that the project “is still under construction , we will look for more mothers, families and groups with the aim of making visible, agreeing and accompanying their struggle”.

If you want to consult the page and the materials you can do so at the following link. you are not alone.

Independent journalist based in the city of Querétaro. I believe in stories that open up spaces for reflection, discussion, and collective construction, with the conviction that other worlds are possible if we build them from below.

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