They have found many mass graves. Just not the mass grave they have been looking for. The forty-three student activists were disappeared on September 26, after being attacked by police in the town of Iguala, in the Mexican state of Guerrero. A week later, I set up an alert for “fosa clandestina”—Spanish for clandestine grave—on Google News. Here’s what has come back:
On October 4, the state prosecutor of Guerrero announced that twenty-eight bodies were found in five clandestine mass graves. None of them were the missing forty-three.
On October 9, three more graves. None of them contained the missing forty-three. The use of the passive tense on the part of government officials and in news reports is endemic. Graves were discovered. Massacres were committed. But in this case, a grassroots community organization, the Unión de Pueblos y Organizaciones del Estado de Guerrero, searched for and found the burial sites.
By October 16, the number of known clandestine graves in the state of Guerrero had risen to nineteen. Still none of them held the forty-three.
On October 24, the Unión de Pueblos announced that it had found six more clandestine graves in a neighborhood called Monte Hored. Five were filled with human remains: “hair…blood stained clothing,” including “high school uniforms.”
The sixth was empty. It was “new and seemed ready for use,” said a spokesperson for the Unión.
On October 26, in Mexico City at one of the many protests sparked by the disappearances, Elena Poniatowska read the names and provided a short biography of each of the forty-three students. Poniatowska is a journalist perhaps best known for having interviewed witnesses and survivors to the long-denied 1968 massacre in Mexico City’s Tlatelolco Plaza, when the military killed and wounded hundreds of protesters. A lot of what we know about that massacre we know because of Poniatowska.