Searching for Mexico’s Missing

In the absence of a rigorous government‑led approach for investigating the thousands of missing person cases in their country, Mexican citizens are taking matters into their own hands. Rodolfo Franco, MA’06, is helping to coordinate their efforts.

All photos courtesy of Gobernanza Forense Ciudadana AC unless otherwise noted.

“If 43 students can go missing in a town in Guerrero, there’s no reason why 43 students from the university I teach at could not go missing tomorrow,” says Rodolfo Franco, a part‑time faculty member at Tec de Monterrey, as he gravely describes the human rights situation in Mexico. The country is on edge. It has been entrenched in a drug war for nearly a decade, and lately it’s become apparent that anyone could be a kidnapping target.

The 43 young men he’s referring to are the students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers College of Ayotzinapa who disappeared from the town of Iguala last September. The case made international headlines and led to massive street protests in Mexico City and across the country as citizens demanded answers. Although mass kidnappings are not uncommon in Mexico, this case was different for a couple reasons. First, these students were not involved with the area’s drug cartels. And second, from the beginning it was widely suspected that local authorities had played a major role in their disappearance. Although dozens of arrests have been made and at least one student’s charred remains have been identified, many questions still linger. There’s a pervasive feeling that the federal government only investigated the disappearances because the case was receiving so much international attention. The official version of events (that the students were likely killed after being handed over to a drug cartel by corrupt members of local law enforcement) is not fully accepted. The families of the missing men, along with large segments of the Mexican population, still believe the government is hiding something.