Carrying a sign with the face of his missing nephew, Benjamin Bautista Salvador, Cruz Bautista Salvador asked visitors at the Church of the Ascension in north Minneapolis Sunday to pressure the Mexican government for information regarding the 43 students who disappeared in Mexico in September.
“Like any young student, he had dreams,” Cruz Bautista Salvador said in a translated interview.
Benjamin Bautista Salvador is one of 43 college students who were abducted and presumably killed last September in Mexico’s Guerrero State.
The case has led to protests across Mexico, and now the United States.
Salvador is part of Caravana Ayotzinapa 43, a group of a dozen family members of the missing students and survivors of the attacks who are traveling throughout the country to tell their story and garner support.
On Sunday, Salvador was accompanied by Omar García, who survived the attacks in Iguala, and María de Jesús Tlatempa Bello, whose son is among the missing. The three spoke inside the Church of the Ascension to a large group of community members, then later to a smaller group at the church’s gymnasium. The “politically cultured” event at the gymnasium included traditional Aztec dance, as well as presentations from various people and the caravan.
The 43 students attended a rural teacher-training college and were traveling in a convoy of buses and vans from the rural town of Ayotzinapa to a protest of government policies.
In the town of Iguala, south of Mexico City, the students clashed with local police, and police opened fire. Six or seven people were killed, and dozens were wounded. Others were rounded up by police, and 43 of the students haven’t been seen since.
Authorities have told the families the students were turned over to a drug cartel and were murdered and their bodies burned. “The crimes in Iguala were committed by local police in collusion with members of organized crime,” according a statement from the Mexican government.” But many believe some of the students may still be alive.
The Caravana Ayotzinapa wants justice for the students and calls their disappearance “a state crime against humanity.”
At the beginning of Sunday’s cultural event, the names of the 43 students were read as the crowd shouted “presentee,” meaning “here” in Spanish, after every name.
Organizers at Sunday’s event often broke into a chant, shouting with fists in the air: “Vivo se los llevaron, vivo los queremos” (“They were taken alive, we want them back alive”).
“It’s been six months and still no justice,” García said.
Federal authorities in Mexico have “conducted an investigation that is without precedent in terms of its scope and transparency,” according to a statement forwarded from the Mexican Consulate in St. Paul.
García is a second-year student at the rural school of education Raúl Isidro Burgos in Ayotzinapa.
They have pushed and asked for justice in Mexico, but they still don’t have answers, García said. He joined the caravan to educate the country and provoke action among residents. “So it doesn’t happen again, not just to us, but to everyone.”
Staff writer Pat Pheifer contributed to this report.