A growing number of activists, protesters and critics are calling on the U.S. media to play a more responsible role in covering the unfolding tragedy in Mexico and raising awareness about the U.S. government’s responsibility in the matter.
On Wednesday, people gathered in 43 cities across the United States to show their solidarity with Mexico and protest the U.S. government's perceived role in creating the mess there — similar to what happened during the Central American wars in the 1980s.
"It's not just the 43 students. It's a lot of people.” — Raquel, 43, Virginia resident, Yucatan Peninsula native
Roberto Lovato, co-founder of activist group UStired2 , which helped coordinate yesterday's solidarity marches across the United States, told Fusion that the Ayotzinapa tragedy in Mexico has been “resonating throughout the entire U.S., but the media here has kept everyone in the dark.”
His goal, he said, is to “break the silence” and raise awareness about “the U.S.' role in Mexico.”
UStired2, a nod to the Mexican hashtag #YaMeCanse (I'm tired of this) is helping to gather tens of thousands of petitions to ask Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Commission, to take action on Mexico.
“We are going to ask him to cut aid and exert pressure on the Peña Nieto government to stop human-rights violations,” Lovato said.
León Krauze, anchor of Univision’s L.A. newscast, believes Ayotzinapa is resonating loudly among Mexican intellectuals, academics and students who live in the United States, as well as activist organizations across different parts of the country.
He says he doesn’t understand why the issue hasn't drawn more media attention in the United States. “It’s a mystery to me why the U.S. media has not extensively covered Ayotzinapa,” Krauze said. “Why do they cover events that are taking place halfway around the world but not what is happening immediately south of the border?”
Krauze says that if Canada were experiencing just “3 percent” of the horrors in Mexico, the media would be going nuts. “Just look at how they covered the shooting incident in Ottawa,” he said.
"I just wanted to show solidarity. I was wondering why not a lot of people were talking about this. I don't think it's gotten the coverage I expected." — Randhal Tabb, 27, DC resident
Journalist Julio Ricardo Varela, founder of the blog Latino Rebels, thinks English-language media coverage on Mexico has presented a picture of a country corrupted by "Mexicans behaving badly.” That narrative, he says, doesn't explain the full story, including the influence of U.S. drug-war policy.
“I think the digital community is aware that what is happening in Mexico is a continuation of what has happened in the past in Latin America," Varela said. "People are starting to connect the dots. Young people see the hypocrisy and bicultural kids know the personal stories of those tragedies."
Varela and others think the emerging Mexico solidarity movement could be the start of something on the scale of the U.S. demonstrations against U.S. policy towards Central America in the 1980s.
"It's a basic lack of respect for people of color around the world… I definitely want to be in solidarity with other oppressed people. We've got to send resources to each other." — Salim Adofo, 30, D.C. resident comparing Ayotzinapa to Ferguson protests.
Arturo Viscarra, advocacy coordinator for the School of Americas Watch, a group founded to protest the U.S.' training of some of Latin America's most abusive military officers over the years, told Fusion that the Ayotzinapa protests in the U.S. could grow into a bigger movement.
Viscarra leads the protest in D.C.
“I’m a Salvadoran who came to this country because of the war. Many of the people here protesting [Ayotzinapa] are immigrants who came here as a direct consequence of U.S. policies in Central America,” Viscarra said. He argues the hand of the U.S. is guiding Mexico's devastating drug war.
“President Calderon doesn’t do it without Bush, and Peña Nieto doesn’t do it without Obama,” he said. "The war on drugs is good for them, good for business… all the families are just collateral damage for them."
Overall, the rhetoric was powerful but the turnouts were low in the various protest marches. In Washington, only 75-100 people turned up for the march, including a few Ferguson protesters thrown in the mix for good measure.
For now, it remains to be seen whether the security crisis in Mexico will become the moment that reawakens Latin American solidarity for this generation.
Photographs by Geneva Sands
Emily DeRuy contributed to this report