|"They Wanted to Bury Us, But They Didn't Know that We Were Seeds." ---|
a banner in the city of Iguala where the 43 students were "disappeared" in September 2014
I don’t know if I am getting older and therefore I just seem to be always busy and a little tired, or (more likely) that more and more people are becoming aware that Mission Mexico is a trusted partner in working for new life in the mountains of Mexico. But definitely every day seems to be filled with experiences involving the struggle for transformation and justice and life in this impoverished, indigenous mountain region.
|Some of the mothers of the 43 disappeared students from the teachers college in Ayotzinapa—|
seventeen months of searching and hoping
The most unforgettable experiences for me are those involving the families of the 43 teaching students who were “disappeared” in September of 2014. The mothers and fathers and family members continue to try to find clues to their whereabouts. Many people—government reps, business people, even church people—suggest that this search for answers should be abandoned, that their search often disrupts “normal” life for others. Three of the church people who tirelessly support these families are my good friends, Fathers Eugenio and Juan and Vicente. It is always an honor to accompany them when they interact with these noble families.
|Father Eugenio with two mothers whose sons were among the 43 disappeared seventeen months ago|
And last week was “exam week” for hundreds of poor students in the mountains who hope to study junior high school and high school at boarding schools run by a religious congregation called Sisters of Mary. These sisters educate 3,000 female students a year at their school in Chalco, State of Mexico, and 2,000 male students a year at their school in Guadalajara, Jalisco. This education is completely free. I drove two Sisters of Mary to several remote areas of the mountains, where they offered a simple written examination to interested children and interviewed the children and their parent(s). The Sisters have been involved in this educational effort in Mexico since 1991, and graduates of their schools are playing a transformative role in many villages of the mountains.
|Sisters Areli and Marcelina during their trip to the mountains|
When in any village, it is always an honor to be invited by a family to accompany them when they bury a family member. Last week twenty-year-old Teodoro Nava Cayetano was buried in Xochitepec. He had left the village to work at a job delivering tortillas by motorcycle in the coastal city of Acapulco, but he was struck by a car and killed. All the “usual” customs were followed: placing his belongings and food in the casket for his journey to new life, leaving a small chick at the grave site so that the chick might guide Teodoro to water sources during his journey, etc. Candles and flowers and incense are especially important.
|Leo Tolstoy said it well, in Ana Karenina: "All happy families are alike; |
each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
Another experience the past while has been participation in preparing a group of fifteen young people from Tlapa (where I live) to go to three different isolated mountain villages during Holy Week. I will bring them deep into the mountains on Saturday. It is a challenging week for these youth, but something that marks them deeply. They will interact with children, youth, and adults. The young people from Tlapa are aware that they are going to these areas to learn; they know that their presence is the best witness to their faith; and they know that the quality of any interaction with the indigenous poor is more important than the quantity of activities carried out. It will be interesting to afterward evaluate with them their experiences.
|Family members of the disappeared 43 during an outdoor Mass on March 3|
May Holy Week be a special time of new life for all. May you share in the love and strength of the mothers and fathers of the 43 disappeared young men from the teachers college in Ayotzinapa. Alive they were taken away; alive we want them back!
|Teodoro's mother preparing all of Teodoro's belongings so that they can|
be buried with him as he moves on to his new life