Being a Student in Mexico: They’re Killing Us

As soon as I heard about Norberto I knew I had to write about it. Even if no one reads this, even if no one really cares. Writing is therapeutic for me, and I need an outlet for all this anger, sadness, fear…

But, in case you want to keep reading and, in order for you to understand my indignation and resentment, I need to give you a little bit of background.

Norberto Ronquillo was a university student that was kidnapped last Tuesday while he was leaving his University in Mexico City. He texted his girlfriend saying he was heading home, but he never made it. A few hours later his kidnappers contacted his family and asked for money. His parents did everything they could, dropped the money and waited for their son where the kidnappers said they’d leave him, but he never showed. He never made it home. This morning, Mexico’s Federal District Attorney’s Office informed us, through their twitter account, that Norberto’s body had been found. He was only 22 years old. He was two days away from his graduation. He had an entire life ahead of him, and in the blink of an eye it was taken away. My hands shake and I hold back my tears as I sit here, writing this and thinking about his parents. How they must be feeling right now. I know because I’ve felt that before. I won’t get into it, but I had a loved one taken away from me and my family a few years ago too. He was a grown man, but he had kids and a wife, and he was a good person. And I know what something like this can do to a family. Mine is broken, and it’s going to stay broken forever. I can tell you what the waiting and the desperation of not knowing where your loved one is can do to your mind. I can tell you that the hours can turn into days and that it feels like forever. I can tell you that in a situation like that, you hold on to every little piece of faith that still remains inside you, even though you know that after a few hours of not finding a kidnapped person the chances of bringing them back home become slimmer and slimmer. I know the feeling of your heart dropping to your stomach when they tell you they’ve found their body. I know the anger of seeing it all over the news. And I know that when the governor and even the President of the country stands in front of everyone and gives his condolences to the family, and promises that they’ll make justice, it feels like a joke. Like they’re making fun of your pain and laughing, spitting at your face. So I feel for his parents, and his girlfriend and his classmates who instead of taking a graduation picture are out there protesting, asking the government to bring justice for Norberto’s family.

Norberto’s classmates protest days before their graduation. Their sign reads: “We’re missing one. We’re missing Norberto”

But this isn’t the first time that something like this happens in Mexico. Last year, three film students went missing in Guadalajara, Jalisco (the same state I live in). After a month of protests that put pressure into the government, the truth was finally out. You see, in a country like Mexico, the only way you can get justice (and even then it’s not guaranteed) is by making a lot of noise.

The three students had been confused by a drug Cartel that runs the state (and the entire country). They thought one of them was an enemy they had, or that maybe they knew where he was. The only mistake those three ever made was being in the wrong place at the wrong time. They took them, tortured them to get information from them (that they obviously didn’t have), they killed them and then dissolved their bodies in acid. One of them was 25 years old, the other two were only 20.

It was also last year when a kid, who was only 17 years old was kidnapped and killed by his “best friend” who was 18; his accomplice was his own bodyguard, who was also an ex Federal Police Agent. They said they were going out, they never made it back. A few hours later someone called the family asking for money. Days later they found the kid, with a shot to the head. When the news about this came out, and I saw the picture of a young boy wearing glasses, smiling from ear to ear, and I saw all his medals and trophies from school and sports, I couldn’t help but feel sad. How can someone take advantage of such a sweet boy? How can someone eat and sleep at their home and then kill those people’s joy? But the question that I constantly think about is: why is it that the authority don’t care? Why is our government doing nothing to stop those criminals? Not too long ago a girl was killed INSIDE a University and about a month ago a woman that ran to Casa Jalisco for protection (House Jalisco, the place where the governor lives and it’s full of security) was killed right there. Something a lot bigger than just random murders is happening in my country, and it’s making me question everything.


A kid protests with a sign that says: “In Mexico being a student is more dangerous than being a drug lord”

If you’re not from Mexico, you’re probably not familiar with our history. Yes, we have heros that gave us our independence from Spain, we have traitors that “sold” part of our territory to the United States; and we learn all about it in school. But, what they don’t teach us in school is the dark side of our history; not the one about heroes and villains, but the one about innocent people dying in the hands of the people in the power. The untouchables.

On October 2nd, 1968, a massacre in the middle of Mexico City forced the nation the finally open their eyes.  

People had gathered to protest, pacifically and unarmed. Most of those people were students. Quickly, people started to notice the army and the police moving in.  Then, a helicopter flying over them. Some of them noticed a green light being dropped from the helicopter; they had no idea that was a signal for “attack”. That’s when the shooting started. When people started running towards the exits they realized the army was blocking them. They were unarmed, being shot at by snipers that were somewhere up in the buildings surrounding the “plaza” (square), and the army was blocking the exits. One of the survivors describes the scene years later as “a symphony of cries, screams, horror, curses…”

Another survivor remembers his traumatic experience: “It was horrible. People running everywhere. People dying all around us. People stumbling over corpses. I ended up right there” he says as he points at the place where he ended up falling “My legs failed me and I couldn’t get up. A boy grabbed me and said: let’s go professor, if they see you, you’re dead. Then, the boy stood in front of me and a bullet struck him in the head. I don’t know if the bullet came from there or there, but this is where the boy fell” he recalls as he’s standing in the same place where he watched the boy die, and then he breaks down, crying, “that was the worst day of my life”.

Some of the survivors ran to the buildings; they (people living in the buildings) had no light, no phone line, nothing. They hid there, but the army went knocking on doors, barging in without warrants, looking for students.

There were so many bodies, women and kids included, that it is said they used excavators and trailers to remove all of them. The next day the square was full of blood, which is why there is a movie called “Rojo Amanecer” (red dawn), based on that day. Until this day, the number of deaths remains a mystery.

Short video with real footage and real testimonies about the massacre that took place on October 2nd, 1968

And then, back in 2014, 43 young men that were studying to be teachers, were kidnapped and disappeared forever. They were on their way to Mexico city, to a protest that they do every year in memory of the students killed on October, 1968. One of the buses carrying 43 students went missing. It’s a long and confusing case, but if you really want to know what happened and how the government was involved, I strongly recommend you watch the Netflix documentary called “The 43”.

Short video explaining what happened the night that 43 students went missing

And I could go on and on about the insecurity we have to face day by day. It scares me how we’ve been normalizing these events. People are being kidnapped all the time, students are being killed all around us and we don’t even bother anymore. I love this country, it is my home and it’s beautiful, but I’ve already lived in denial for as long as I could. I always said it wasn’t as bad as the news said it was. You want to know what I think now? That the news are sugarcoating what is going on here. Parents are out there either looking for their kids or mourning them. Sisters missing their brothers, and brothers seeking justice for their sisters.

I live in a broken country, full of broken people. I live in a country flooded with blood, and with a government that far from protecting us, is killing us. And I just hope that one day, history can stop repeating itself.

2 thoughts on “Being a Student in Mexico: They’re Killing Us

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