“Butterflies are nature’s tragic heroes. They live most of their lives being completely ordinary. And then, one day, the unexpected happens. They burst from their cocoons in a blaze of colors and become utterly extraordinary. It is the shortest phase of their lives, but it holds the greatest importance. It shows us how empowering change can be.”
― Kelseyleigh Reber,
― Kelseyleigh Reber,
It’s hard for me to avoid thinking of the title of this note. Yesterday a young girl fell to her death here in Tlapa. Her name, in English, was “Butterfly”; in her native mephaa language, it was “Huipi.”
|Huipi — Butterfly. Thank you, my friend. I will miss you.|
Huipi had just graduated two months ago from the Champagnat High School of the Mountains, the high school run by the Marist Brothers that Mission Mexico has helped to build and to maintain. As the quote above suggests, most of Huipi’s life was “completely ordinary” for the mountainous reality here—her childhood was one of poverty and struggle. Then she did something “unexpected”—something “utterly extraordinary.” She became the first member of her family to go to high school—something that would have been impossible without Mission Mexico. And just last week she did something even more extraordinary: she started classes in the state university. She was going to become a professional.
|Huipi dancing at her school graduation in July|
On the weekend she came to Tlapa to visit her brother and father. She noticed that her brother had a bunch of dirty clothes, so she took them to the flat roof of the house and began to wash them while she was waiting for her father to show up. When she heard a vehicle stop in front of the house, she ran to the edge of the roof to see if it was her father. It was! But Huipi apparently slipped and started to fall. She grabbed some wires running along the street beside the house, but they carried live current, and she was badly electrocuted. She fell to the street below, beside her father who was entering the house. She was rushed to the hospital, but it was too late. Huipi was declared dead upon arrival.
|Mike at the high school with Huipi, Margarita, and Tania|
Huipi’s death has deeply affected not only her family but everyone in her village and in her high school. Her three years advancing toward her dream were—as the quote states—“the shortest phase of [her] life,” but she touched many people with her timid yet generous character. She dreamed of changing things in her village. And I daresay that she will do that, just because of her courage to do everything possible to achieve her dream. Her friends are not going to let her dream die.
|Huipi helping to set up "Alex's Welding Shop" at the high school|
That “dream” that Huipi had is, without a doubt, the same “dream” that the 43 “disappeared” students from the rural teachers college in Ayotzinapa had when they began studying there one year ago. Just yesterday (September 6) an international group of experts belonging to the InterAmerican Human Rights Commission gave a report on the disappearance of those students (on September 26, 2014) that totally contradicts the “official version” that had been given by the Mexican government as it tried to declare “case closed.” For the family members of those 43 students, the case is definitely not closed.
|The candles held by the families of the 43 disappeared students symbolize the families' hope|
It was an honor to be present last week with the family members of those disappeared students. They had come to Tlapa to participate in the twenty-first anniversary of the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center (another project supported by Mission Mexico). The day began with a Mass celebrated by my good friend, Father Juan, for the 43 disappeared students and their families. Perhaps it was appropriate that the feast day being celebrated was the beheading of John the Baptist. It’s not hard to see the parallels between the injustice and impunity present in the death of John the Baptist and the injustice and impunity present in the deaths and disappearances of so many Mexicans who struggle for change.
|The struggle to find the disappeared and learn the truth will continue|
In 1989 I was working in El Salvador with the El Salvadoran Nongovernmental Human Rights Commission (although almost no one knew that was what I was doing, since I had a “cover story” as a journalist with a small U.S. newspaper; but that’s a whole other story…). The emotions I experienced last week—sadness, rage, determination, hope— in the Mass for the 43 disappeared young men here in Guerrero reminded me of the emotions I experienced in the Mass I attended in El Salvador in November of 1989 for the six assassinated Jesuit priests and their two female helpers. There too the government tried to cover up this massacre that had been committed by its own military forces. Hopefully, the international community will not allow such a strategy to work in this Mexican situation.
|The families of the 43 disappeared students were received with cempasuchitl collars; |
these marigold flowers are considered the "flower of the dead" but in a positive sense
that the strong aroma will draw the spirits of the departed to return
As always, the struggle will go on. The family members of the 43 disappeared students call from me the same admiration and respect that Huipi called from me. To end, thinking of the 43 disappeared students and their families, I’d like to rephrase a bit the paragraph that began this blog:
“Impoverished young people are Mexico’s tragic heroes. They live most of their lives being completely ordinary. And then, one day, the unexpected happens. They burst from their cocoons in a blaze of colors and become utterly extraordinary. It is the shortest phase of their lives, but it holds the greatest importance. It shows us how empowering change can be.”
|Two heroic persons struggling for that "empowering change": Abel Barrera, president|
of the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center, and Father Juan Molina, parish priest in Xochitepec
Thank you, Huipi. Thank you, Tlachinollan. Thank you, 43 students. Thank you, family members of those students. Thank you, Mission Mexico, for your solidarity with this “empowering change” that so desires to instill gospel values in the lives of all people here. We shall overcome!