On Sept. 26, 43 students training to become teachers went missing in Guerreros, Mexico because they were doing what students do: resisting the reduced funding of their state-funded school. While stories vary slightly from source to source, the general timeline has the students being detained by police at the behest of the local mayor and subsequently handed over to the town’s Guerreros Unidos gang. More than a month and a half later, despite authorities having discovered several graves, which early DNA tests suggest are not the missing students, there is still no closure for the students’ families or the nation as a whole. We grieve with the communities affected and demand justice for the families of the victims, but in the longer term, this tragedy signals the need for cooperation and collaboration between the U.S. and Mexico to alleviate the troubles that span both nations.
Javier Sicilia, a Mexican writer and peace activist, told UT students at an event Monday that Mexico is in a crisis. This abduction revealed to students what the locals already knew about the collusion between local politicians and gangs. But what is almost more disturbing than the mass disappearance is the subsequent unrelated graves found by authorities during their search for the students, suggesting this violence is not isolated.
At the event, Sicilia suggested the violence is fueled in part by the U.S.’s war on drugs. While other factors certainly exist, the sentiment reflects an often-overlooked reality: The fates of the U.S. and Mexico are inextricably linked. We cannot afford to ignore our neighbors to the south. As the world has seen with the Iron Curtain and the contemporary West Bank separation barrier, building a wall, or a fence, in the more local iteration, will not solve conflict; on the contrary, it often fuels it.
It is no surprise that so many flee these situations. Beyond immigration reform, activists should look to solve the problem at its source, which in the case of Mexico lies in its continued and woefully combated drug violence. With no hope of political recourse, just imagine what UT students would do, where they would flee, if they knew the multitude of protests held on campus each year were violently threatened by local police and consequently by local gangs? UT students need to stand in solidarity with their fellows in academic pursuits around the world. The U.S. must aid this state in crisis, because Mexico’s fate is tied to our own.