This past December I traveled to my hometown of Iguala, Guerrero to host a Christmas Toy Giveaway in the neighborhood where I grew up, a neighborhood filled with children living in extreme poverty. With the support of many wonderful people, I was able to carry out a very nice event on Christmas Eve at the local church.
I purchased over 700 toys (for babies to ten-year-olds), basketballs, so ccer balls, and backpacks, purses, jewelry and hair ornaments. I also gave away shoes and clothes to some of the children (I brought a suitcase full of shoes and another full of clothes for this purpose). I rented tables, chairs, and a huge tent because it was sprinkling all day. I hired a DJ, served dinner (cochinita and beans), and for those who stayed after the Toy giveaway, there was café de olla and pan dulce for a midnight snack. The party ended at 2:00am when the rain started in earnest. Otherwise, I’m sure we would have kept on dancing!
The next day, with the help of my cousins, I went to deliver the leftover toys to the kids who did not attend the Giveaway. We loaded up the boxes on my uncle’s cart and went from house to house, almost like Santa! It really was a special event, and it made me feel so happy to see the children playing with their toys and enjoying their Christmas season. It brought back memories of my childhood growing up in this same neighborhood, often playing with mud and sticks because I didn’t have toys to play with.
I know that things are dire in Mexico, and the people there are dealing with so many tragedies and hardships that what I’m doing might seem trivial, that my Christmas Toy Giveaway isn’t enough. And perhaps it isn’t, but it is a start. One day, my dream is to open a Children’s Center where I can provide all kinds of services to low income children. For now, I plan on continuing the Christmas Toy Giveaway and putting a smile on a child’s face.
I had planned to visit the rural college in Ayotzinapa, almost three hours away, but as luck would have it, the Ayotzinapa students and parents came to Iguala. Two days after the Christmas Toy Giveaway, I attended a mega march held in Iguala exactly three months after the disappearance of the 43 student teachers. The march began at the site where the students were confronted by police, where three students were killed and 43 kidnapped.
Hundreds of people showed up from different areas of Guerrero and elsewhere. We marched along the pereférico all the way to the courtyard of the IgualaCity Hall (which is presently being repaired after it was burned). People shouted “Vivos se los llevaron, vivos los queremos/ You took them alive; we want them alive!” and “Ayotzi vive, la lucha sigue/ Ayotzinapa is alive and the fight continues!” At times, everyone would count from 1-43. It was all so powerful and yet so sad.
I was happy to see so many people turn up at the march. Ever since I had arrived in Iguala, I had been asking various people what their opinion was regarding the Ayotzinapa students, and I hadn’t liked what I was hearing.
One of my aunts called them “Crazy.” One of my cousins said the students had “asked for it.” My seven year old cousin had called them “the bad people fighting with the police.” A cab driver blamed the parents of the students for what had happened. “Why would the parents allow their children to attend such a radical school?” he’d asked. It really saddened me and angered me to hear those kinds of comments. But that day at the march, I was able to see a different side to what I had been hearing so far. Here at the march, every single person present was there to support the families of the Ayotzinapa students. They were proof that though there are some people who don’t understand the situation, there are many more who do and who are willing to do something about it.
Mexico is currently undergoing a transformation, and the way to keep it going is by continuing to support the families of the missing students as they fight for justice, to stay informed about what is happening in Mexico-and to tell others about it. Perhaps the mainstream media isn’t covering the issue as much as they should but that doesn’t mean we can’t pick up the slack.
Finally, my trip concluded with a quick visit to Xalapa and to Mexico City, where I was happy to see some proof that people in those cities are supporting Ayotzinapa and their fight for justice.
In Xalapa, Veracruz
“Because you took them alive, we want them alive.”
In Mexico City’s Alameda
“For the Ayotzinapa students and those from Tlatlaya, for all the dead and disappeared in this country, ENOUGH! We want a peaceful Mexico.”