Mexican families took to WhatsApp to quietly spread the word about the demonstration they were planning.
They met on Sunday, May 15th, in Mexico City, gathering at a roundabout on Paseo de la Reforma, the capital’s signature boulevard.
A tree that had stood in the traffic circle, the Glorieta de la Palma, for a century had recently been removed. Soon the soil was studded with dozens of portraits.
They were the faces of some of Mexico’s “disappeared,” people who walked out of their houses or offices one day to go about their lives and were never seen again.
The number officially listed as missing hit 100,000 this week. Families of the disappeared say the magnitude of the crisis and the lingering perception that many victims were involved in the crime has made the public numb to the issue.
“It’s easy to say 100,000 and so what?” said Grace Fernández, a spokesperson for a national umbrella group representing families of the disappeared. “Apart from us, who are part of the 100,000, no one else cares.”
Her brother, Dan Jeremeel, went missing in 2008 in Coahuila state at age 34 after he failed to show up to pick up his daughter from a friend’s house.
“Roundabout of the disappeared,” a banner announced to passing drivers, some of whom honked in support.
“You need to scream it, you need to talk about it,” said one demonstrator, Rosaisela Guzman Milla, who doesn’t leave her house without fliers bearing pictures of her son Luis Angel, who was kidnapped at his home in 2018 at age 25.
The day after the demonstration, authorities cleared the area and later installed blue metal barriers. But the families kept returning to tape photographs of the missing on the fence. Civil groups across Mexico urged officials to respect the families’ claim to the public space.
The country’s national registry of the disappeared goes back to 1964. Among the cases during the first couple of decades were hundreds of people on the political left whose disappearances were later tied to the Mexican army.