Francisco Goldman in The New Yorker (photo by Macro Ugarte/AP):
On Sunday morning, a heartbreaking headline appeared on the news Web site SinEmbargo, which is based here in Mexico City: “I Know My Son Is Alive and That He Will Be a Teacher.” The speaker was Manuel Martínez, the thirty-five-year-old father of a seventeen-year-old boy named Mario, who has been missing since September 26th, along with many of his classmates at the Ayotzinapa Normal teacher-training school. That night, according to witness testimonies and the confessions of those arrested in the case, six students from the school were murdered by municipal police and other gunmen, and forty-three others were “disappeared” in the small city of Iguala, in the Pacific-coast state of Guerrero.
The Martínezes are indigenous Huave from the impoverished seaside village of San Mateo del Mar, in Oaxaca. Martínez told SinEmbargo’s Humberto Padgett that he’d also studied at Ayotzinapa, twenty years before, and that his son had long dreamed of following in his footsteps. Like many other rural schoolteachers, Martínez built his little school with his own hands, out of planks and zinc sheeting. “All the rural schools are bad,” he said. “Here and in the country, education is in terrible shape. … In my school, we don’t even have electricity. The students live in the same conditions we do, or a little worse, because they live on just corn and beans, and from their tomato and chile harvests. … None of them owns a pair of shoes; they use huaraches or sandals.”
Martínez went on, “The authorities should pay for what they’ve done because they’ve done the very worse that you can do, to the most humble of people.”
The country has been seized by the story of the missing forty-three, though many refuse to believe the worst until it can no longer be denied—my dentist, for example, says that this is all just a student prank that went too far, and that the students will turn up any day now, sheepish and contrite.