When 43 students go missing, you find them.
It seemed that simple to Mario Contreras and yet he found himself staring at a blockade of risen shields.
Glaring right back at him, behind the murky glass, was a soldier shrouded in black. The helmeted officer was indistinguishable between the hundreds of soldiers that he stood shoulder to shoulder with.
Swallowing his nerve, Contreras kept screaming.
Behind the vociferous man was a troop of his own, the parents of the missing 43 for the third time had come to the 27th battalion’s barracks for answers.
Members of the notorious infantry battalion were said to have witnessed the events of the infamous Night of Iguala, the last night Contreras talked to his son.
The events of that night occurred almost two years ago, and still no testimony from any soldiers involved on Sept. 26, 2014 have come forward. Still looking for answers, Mario Contreras, along with his fellow Ayotzinapa representative Felipe de la Cruz, came to Texas A&M University-Kingsville hoping to tap a vein in TAMUK’s long history of activism.
Last Thursday, the two parents participated in a press conference held at the Bailey art gallery, as well as a presentation held in room 251 of Nierman Hall. Other speakers included Dr. Richard Hartwig, a political science professor, and Jose Villarreal, a lecturer of sociology who organized the event.
Mario Contreras first words set the tone for the night.
“It is hard as a parent to stand behind the microphone to provide information about a missing son.”
The man stood in front of the classroom, looked down, tapped his fingers on the table. Above him was a picture of his son, looking down at him. The same fury-ridden father who stood glaring at the hundreds of soldiers who stood in-between him and answers, now stood solemn, detached.
“We have suffered a lot, like you have no idea. We have walked a lot hoping for justice, I know my son deserves it.”
In 2014 students of the Ayotzinapa Normal School, a teacher’s college, decided to commandeer several buses to drive to Mexico City to participate in protests commemorating the Tlatelolco Massacre of 1968. On their way to the event, Mexican law enforcement as well as other unidentified gunmen intercepted the buses and conflict ensued. Local police and gunmen began firing on unarmed students. The night from then on is filled with mixed testimonies, missing tapes, and everything that could cause chaos in an investigation. Some students laid dying in the streets. One student was discovered with a bullet lodged in their jaw, he was unable to receive assistance.
Other students testified that military personnel threatened them and denied medical care to even the most critical; some bodies remained bleeding in the streets for hours.
The most controversial instance of the night is the disappearance and suspected murders of 43 students. After the shooting stopped, eyewitnesses testified that students were rounded up and placed in police vehicles.
According to investigators, the students were taken to a garbage pit and killed, their bodies burned.
The most eye-opening moment of the presentation came during a question-and-answer period, when Contreras was asked, “How did the parents come to find out about the attack?”
Contreras answered without hesitation, “I can tell you how I found out, a friend [of my son] happened to give me a call on the 27th of September at 9:12 in the evening. He told me they were detained, that there were deaths. My wife and I went over there. It was about 11:15 at night. I saw a lot of people coming in and out of a bus. My wife and I stayed within the outskirts, waiting for the trucks to come out, waiting for the students to see if my son would come out.
“Sadly, he did not come out. Since then we have sold everything and we moved. We continue to look for our son.”
Contreras finished, “That’s why the 43 families are everywhere that we can be, that’s why when we are invited by any nation or we’re helped with costs to visit any place by organizations we will be there, telling our stories.”
The two parents asked that when the U.S. is done questioning its presidential candidates this November, it turn our eyes to the president to the south and ask, where are the 43?