Friday, March 27, 2015

Reyna Grande Receives the Caravana 43 at LAX

Guest Post by Reyna Grande

This past weekend, Los Angeles was honored to have been one of the stops of the Caravana 43, a USA Tour of students, teachers, and families from Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, who are touring the country to raise awareness about the 43 students who were forcibly disappeared by local police in my hometown of Iguala, Guerrero on September 26, 2014. When I heard of this tour I knew it was going to be a historical event.  The 43 missing students from Ayotzinapa have united the people of Mexico with U.S.-Mexicans (and many other ethnic groups) in a joint cause: to fight for justice and end government corruption, to raise awareness of the thousands who have gone missing and who’d been killed since the “war on drugs” began in Mexico, a war funded by the U.S.  

The Caravana 43 is composed of three groups, each traveling to the Pacific, Central, and Atlantic regions of the U.S.  The caravan visiting us in Los Angeles included Angel Neri de la Cruz, a student survivor of the September 26, 2014 attack in Iguala; Josimar de la Cruz, student of the Ayotzinapa rural college and brother of Angel, Blanca Luz Nava Velez, mother of Jorge Alvarez Nava, disappeared on September 26; Estanislao Mendoza Chocolate, father of Miguel Angel Mendoza Zacarias, disappeared on September 26, and Cruz Bautista Salvador, bilingual teacher at the rural college. Los Angeles was one of the 40 stops. The three groups will meet up in New York next month, after six weeks of traveling and speaking to students, teachers, and the general public.
Reyna Grande and Cruz Bautista Salvador
The weekend events in Los Angeles started on Thursday, March 19th, with the arrival of Angel de la Cruz and Cruz Bautista Salvador. The two spoke at CSUN to a room full of people, young and old, who were there to offer their support in their fight for justice. On Friday, Josimar, Estanislao and Blanca Luz arrived, where they were escorted to Animo Leadership High School to speak to students, parents, and staff, and then to La Feria Restaurant in Inglewood to speak to the general public and the media.

Though I didn’t attend the CSUN event due to a book presentation at LBCC, I did attend the Friday events, beginning at LAX to welcome our visitors. It really warmed my heart to see all those young high school students eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Ayotzinapa visitors, and upon spotting them, rushing to encircle them and welcome them to the city.

Since the high school event was closed to the public, I went to La Feria Restaurant to wait for the afternoon presentation. There, I had a chance to speak to some of the organizers of the Caravana 43 and offered my assistance with anything our visitors needed. I’ve already done some things, such as fundraising and spreading the word about the Caravana, but I wanted to do more. Once our visitors arrived, the presentation began with statements from each visitor, followed by a question and answer session. I must say that I for one was deeply impressed by the two students from the rural college, brothers Angel and Josimar. It was clear to me, at hearing them speak with passion, eloquence, logic and reasoning, that the rural school in Ayotzinapa knows what it's doing. It made me think about the 43 missing students, and I felt the loss of their potential. Mexico needs young people like these students. Smart, passionate, optimistic but realistic, perceptive, and above all, grounded in who they are and what they want: justice, reform, an end to impunity and government corruption. They want a Mexico that belongs to the people, not to politicians who are simply the puppets of those who are more powerful.  
Reyna Grande and Blanca Luz Nava Velez
 I was also deeply moved by Blanca Luz, mother of Jorge Alvarez Nava, one of the disappeared students. I was expecting a quiet spoken woman, somewhat like my mother, simple (sensilla), humble (humilde), and shy, and maybe even prone to tears, like my mother can often be. But Blanca Luz was none of that. Though I was expecting her to cry, it was me who almost started crying at witnessing the fierce love that she has for her son, and her unrelenting determination to find him. She spoke loud and clear: she was going to find her son and get justice for him and the other disappeared, “caiga quien caiga”, even the president of Mexico himself. If all the other Ayotzinapa mothers are like her, well, Peña-Nieto—and everyone else who stands in their way—better watch out!

I was sorry that the Caravana 43 tour stop unfortunately coincided with my seven day trip to the east coast, where I had to do several presentations in the DC-Maryland area. I was not able to attend the Saturday and Sunday’s events at Placita Olvera, where the Ayotzinapa visitors spoke to huge crowds and led the people on a march from the Plaza to the Mexican Consulate. I have participated in a Mega March in Iguala, Guerrero, and I was looking forward to participating in the one here in Los Angeles.

I was lucky that at least for that one day, on Friday, where I got to spend a few hours with our inspiring guests, I was able to witness with my own eyes history in the making. 

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