Reception: June 11, 2020
Acceptance: August 26, 2020
This text presents a review of the investigation and production of the documentary Abriendo Senderos de Justicia (Opening Paths of Justice. The Ayotzinapa Sentence and Commission). It shows the analytical perspectives and narrative approaches taken in the different stages of its creation. In this sense, it tries to show the researchers and filmmakers in the Ayotzinapa Movement’s process of subjective involvement or political and ethical commitment. Additionally, it explains the importance of an unprecedented and uplifting sentence for this movement due to its legal creativity in the field of the struggle for human rights in our country, as well as of a commission that recovers said creativity during the government of López Obrador, beyond the difficulties it has faced.
Where do we stand to shoot opening paths of justice. the sentence and commission of ayotzinapa?
This text presents a review of the investigation and production of the documentary Abriendo Senderos de Justicia (Opening Paths of Justice. The Ayotzinapa Sentence and Commission). It shows the analytical perspectives and narrative approaches taken in the different stages of its creation. In this sense, it tries to show the researchers and filmmakers in the Ayotzinapa Movement's process of subjective involvement or political and ethical commitment. Additionally, it explains the importance of an unprecedented and uplifting sentence for this movement due to its legal creativity in the field of the struggle for human rights in our country, as well as of a commission that recovers said creativity during the government of López Obrador, beyond the difficulties it has faced.
Keywords: Ayotzinapa, Ayotzinapa sentence, Ayotzinapa commission, Parents of the 43, anthropological reflexivity, political commitment.
Lhe way in which researchers, analysts and videographers are involved in the topics we analyze and document is increasingly recognized as an enlightening element of the process of gestation of social knowledge. In this text I briefly review some passages of the trajectory that I have traveled alongside and within the Ayotzinapa Movement, which led me to investigate it, as well as direct and produce the documentary together with other colleagues and students Opening paths of justice. Ayotzinapa's sentence and commission. The focus of attention will, above all, have an unpublished sentence due to its great legal imagination in the field of human rights struggle in our country, as well as a commission that recovers that imagination in the current situation, beyond its vicissitudes. Reviewing these passages requires me to recover subjective aspects of the entire trajectory, in a 180-degree turn, to look back and reflect on the place where I was placing myself in this process of almost six years of struggle of the Ayotzinapa Movement; this turn requires making explicit to myself and in front of a reader the political positions and analytical perspectives adopted in the research process. It also forces us to recognize the narrative approaches, angles of video recording and cinematographic editing that the entire research and production team were problematizing together, which generated particular perspectives that I was assuming as director in a more conscious way, although not without concern and contradictions in this walk.
In this sense, this text is a brief exercise in reflexivity (Guber, 2012) that tries to show this process of research and documentary creation as a situated, concrete knowledge, far from any pretense of universality, neutrality and affective, political or methodological asepsis. (Haraway, 1988; Cruz et al., 2012), marked by our subjectivity and that of our permanent interlocutors in the Movement. It tries to look at certain conditions of all production / exhibition of social knowledge, to its partiality, with the idea that assuming it seeks scientific and ethical rigor (Clifford, 1986).
A few weeks after the start of the great mobilization against the forced disappearance of 43 normalista students from the rural school of Ayotzinapa and the murder of 6 people on September 26 and 27, 2014 in Iguala, Guerrero, I began to participate in it. The increase in cases of enforced disappearance in Mexico that have remained unpunished in recent decades was a source of political concern for me. To that it contributed that it was soon learned that it had been the police who had kidnapped the students, which woke me up, as well as the mobilized citizens, gigantic indignation and rage. This rage was shared worldwide in the streets and in socio-digital networks (Rovira, 2015).
The movement generated a political community or in dispute, in terms of Rancière (1996), a space of unprecedented political enunciation around the issue of forced disappearances in Mexico, corruption and impunity. This community was not only made up of the mothers and fathers of the 43, the movements of the disappeared, of human rights, but of multiple social sectors, students, teachers and colleagues like me, employees, professionals, housewives, among others. which were placed in the place of the disappeared, of their relatives, in the place of a fundamental redress to demand justice.
A few months later, in January 2015, the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic (pgr) fabricated a version of events. It noted that the 43 students were detained by the local police and handed over to an organized crime group and concluded that the students were executed and burned in the Cocula garbage dump and then dumped in the San Juan River. The version was called by the Attorney Murillo Karam himself "historical truth", to cancel any doubts. This narrative limited the incident to one city and blamed mainly local organized crime and local authorities. It did not recognize the participation of other state, federal, or military police. It was a kidnapping and not forced disappearance.
The mothers and fathers of the students rejected it immediately due to lack of evidence, and the Argentine Forensic Anthropology team also confirmed that the 43 were not cremated in that garbage dump. Multiple national and international human rights organizations questioned the inquiries by the Attorney General's Office, from the National Human Rights Commission to the giei (Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts) of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. These organizations also confirmed that there was intervention of the state and federal police in the forced disappearance, as well as military presence or participation.
During all that period the mobilizations in the streets and in the socio-digital networks did not stop. A few months after that movement was constituted and that great community of which I felt part, it was a kind of ritual for me to go approximately every 26th of each month to the march that left the Angel of Independence to the Hemicycle to Juárez and sometimes even the Zócalo, to demand justice for the 43 missing students. Before going to the marches, I spoke to my father: he expressed his joy that I was going, as if that way he could also accompany me and thus directly support the struggle of the 43. That fight became something of his own: ¿¿ from what place?
I never joined the university contingents, which clearly would have fit because of my secondment as a university professor. I went through the march from the beginning to the end, as if I were a kind of reporter or researcher looking for an object of study, I took photos of the contingents, of the canvases, reproducing what I had done in other investigations of other movements that I had studied. : that of Atenco (Front of Peoples in Defense of the Land) and that of the appo (Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca), in which he investigated the symbols they carried, the names of the marching contingents, their slogans, among others (Zires, 2006 and 2017). I seldom uploaded the photos to social networks like other colleagues, given my inability, although I passed them on to friends, since it seemed important to help make the movement visible.
The Ayotzinapa case was and still seems to me emblematic for what it allowed and allows us to see: the intimate network of interests between the State and organized crime. A motto with its repetitive phrases that had emerged from the beginning of the movement, I made them my own: "It is a crime of the State", "It was the State." The struggle of the mothers and fathers of the 43 who led the Ayotzinapa movement touched me and challenged me from multiple places: as part, albeit minimal, of this global activism, as a student of social movements and as an analyst since the nineties of the appropriation of the Guadalupano symbol in different cultural settings and contexts of social struggle, as a teacher of students close in her age to those of Ayotzinapa, as a mother of three children and grandmother of grandchildren who would not want them to live in a political environment where disappearance tends to be normalized given its almost total impunity. Being there at the marches was good for me. It was not for me an act of solidarity with the parents, but rather an act of gratitude to them for standing up for all Mexicans who do not agree that this social order of impunity is extended further.
Shortly after attending the marches of the mothers and fathers of the 43, I was struck by not finding religious symbols, knowing that many of them were Catholic. However, I soon learned that there was a less obvious link between the political struggle of the parents of the 43 and the Guadalupano symbol by stories of other people who had been in the Ayotzinapa Rural Normal School itself: there was an altar with religious symbols and with the image of the Guadalupana and some candles in the schoolyard, which spoke of religious practices carried out in front of it, of which the mothers and fathers themselves spoke to me. In addition, as of December 26, 2014, the march began every December 26 from the Peralvillo roundabout to the Basilica of Guadalupe, in a kind of ritual that mixed protest and procession, a ritual that they have been performing until 2019. To those marches-processions then I began to go from 2015 on a more investigative plan.
I was getting in touch with them, with their spokespersons; I started to be a recognizable face for some. This brought a certain change in my relationship with the parent movement. My interest in conducting an investigation from my first involvement took more momentum and led me to establish a demand to some of the mothers and fathers: to talk about the history of their religiosity and the use of some religious symbols in the struggle, the existence of some collective religious rituals during their long struggle.
But this issue, although it was very relevant to me in my past, present and surely future investigations, went to the background before the emergence of an innovative sentence that revolutionized the way of approaching cases of forced disappearance in our country.
At the end of May 2018, some magistrates of a Tamaulipas Court (First Collegiate Circuit Court of the Nineteenth Circuit)2 issued an unprecedented sentence in relation to the Ayotzinapa case that ordered the creation of a Commission for the Investigation of Truth and Justice, due to an injunction requested by some defendants claiming to have confessed to being guilty under torture. Shortly before, in March 2018, the United Nations High Commissioner had also denounced torture precisely in the case of Ayotzinapa. I was very excited, but above all surprised. I could not believe it. I immediately spread it to a group of Whatsapp of solidarity for "Ayotzi" to ask if it was true or false news. Some members were positively shocked, but showed doubts.
It was clear that the magistrates did not confine themselves to the case of torture and pointed out that there were too many irregularities in the entire investigation process; The investigation, according to them, had not been immediate, effective, independent, or impartial, which led them to question the official version and order the creation of this commission of the Investigation of Truth and Justice that should be made up of 1) the families and representatives of the families of the 43; 2) the National Human Rights Commission; 3) international human rights organizations, and 4) the Public Ministry that had to deal with the proposals for
research lines of the other instances. It was placed in the center
of the commission to the victims and their defenders. This transformed the way human rights violations should be treated.
The sentence was based on the Constitution and the International Human Rights Treaties signed by Mexico. It was revolutionary, we were still under the regime of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, of the government of President Peña Nieto, in which this infamy of the 43 was committed, but a possible victory for the candidate López Obrador was already in sight, a window to another horizon. I considered at that time and still consider now that this context contributed to its possibility, to be in an interregnum.
It should also be emphasized that this Commission is not only for Truth, like those that have existed in other regions in Latin America such as the emblematic commissions of the Southern Cone or the more recent ones such as that of Colombia after the 2016 Peace Accords (Doran, 2020 : 54-55) and that were being proposed by authorities of the elected government in Mexico in 2018 (which are not necessarily linked to justice). The Commission proposed by the Tamaulipas Court Sentence is a Truth and Justice Investigation Commission, therefore, it has criminal legal implications.
When discussing it with a friend who is a specialist in truth commissions in Latin America, Marie-Christine Doran (professor and researcher at the University of Ottawa), she immediately celebrated it. It was clear that the sentence could have great power for Mexico by generating jurisprudence for other cases of serious human rights violations in the country and other Latin American countries. Marie-Christine and I became interested in making it an object of academic study.
However, the ruling immediately generated multiple challenges from the Peña Nieto regime, approximately 200 appeals against him (from the Attorney General's Office (pgr), of the Executive, Legislative, Armed Forces, etc.) raising its unconstitutionality and impossibility of execution or compliance. Among one of the strongest reasons they argued was that the monopoly of criminal investigation was taken away from the Public Ministry (Animal
Political, 2018)3. This appeal against is taken up by the Third Unitary Court of Tamaulipas, which, although of a lower hierarchy, indicates that the sentence cannot be carried out. However, many of the appeals against the ruling are clarified and dismissed by the First Collegiate Court, which once again ratified and expanded said ruling in September 2018, stating that it can be complied with and is not unconstitutional. However, the pgr Again he appealed the sentence and for this reason it was turned to the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation, which is still reviewing the case until the publication of this article.
In this context, the Movement of the Fathers of 43 is immediately in favor of the Tamaulipas ruling so that the Investigation Commission for Truth and Justice is formed at the beginning of June 2018, as they also declare in their speeches publics and rallies in their subsequent marches, on the 26th of each month. Vidulfo Morales, lawyer from the Tlachinollan Mountain Human Rights Center and defender of the movement, accompanied by one of the parents, Emiliano Navarrete, calls the students and academics in a campus of the uam Xochimilco on September 27, 2018 to show solidarity: “We repeat, we are going to retake that Truth Commission, and that Investigation Commission for Truth and Justice is important to us, we ask that you can accompany us to parents, to promote and push this Truth Commission ”.
As a result of this request, some of the student organizers of that event (Aldo Cicardi, Estefanía Galicia, Jennifer Nieves and Arturo Vázquez), as well as Marie-Christine Doran and I, interpreted this request as a political urgency that committed and excited us. in two senses: to carry out an academic investigation and a documentary of wide diffusion to publicize this unpublished sentence. We then decided to do an investigation about it, about the commission it proposed, the context in which it had arisen, the reactions it had generated, the meaning and interpretation given to it by mothers and fathers, as well as the way in which they appropriated it. in their fight.
On the other hand, the organizing students of the event were in the last phase of their career in the Bachelor of Social Communication with a renowned independent videodocumentalist colleague, Cristian Calónico, with Diego Vargas and myself. In addition, they were performing their social service with Cristian producing audiovisuals. At the request of the parents' lawyer, they were very interested in participating in the production, recording and editing of the documentary. They felt committed to the cause.
Teachers could obtain the production material from the Communication Workshops of the uam-x, but still all of us (students and teachers) could collaborate by lending our own cameras and audiovisual creation media when necessary, as it happened. It was a horizontal production team, in which, although I assumed its direction and the most expensive production and editing expenses, that direction was not vertical, but the result of dialogue and shared responsibility; I shared some expenses with Marie-Christine, and others, although apparently minor, were absorbed by the students, which showed their involvement; the graduates (Cyntia Kent and Erik Medina) who later joined me reduced their budgets also because of their commitment. In this sense, the project for them became a combative act, a small support for the immense struggle led by mothers, fathers and defenders.
We immediately made contact with the Agustín Pro Human Rights Center, who also handled the case of the 43 together with the Tlachinollan Center and knew the sentence in detail. We interviewed its director, at that time Mario Patron, and many of the fathers and mothers. They all showed enthusiasm. Knowing that one of their defenders, Vidulfo, had publicly expressed his interest in us supporting them in their fight to have the sentence ratified and the commission to be created gave them confidence in us. We did broad interviews with a small group of mothers and fathers and shorter interviews that were videotaped with a larger group of 22 mothers and fathers for the documentary, where they talked about the importance of the sentence.
We also interviewed one of the surviving students from the rural school (Omar García) and the speaking Magistrate from Tamaulipas who created the sentence (Mauricio Fernández de la Mora), who also showed enthusiasm. The idea was to explain the sentence, its importance, the attacks it had suffered and the hopes it held from the voices and words of those involved, avoiding the voice in off or omniscient voice, as far as possible.
One of the most important senses of the video was focused on pressing the ratification of the sentence by making it known. We considered that it was convenient to use a conventional narrative strategy, where the marks of the production and the producers of the documentary were erased, following the traditional pattern of stories that seem to tell themselves. In a few weeks we had a large part of the material recorded; However, we did not know how to finalize it, since we were a few weeks before the new López Obrador government took office and we did not know if it was going to accelerate the ratification of the sentence, which could be taken up again in the same video.
This process of research and dissemination action placed us in another place: it placed me as part of both an academic team, together with Marie-Christine, as part of a production team together with students and colleagues from the university, in a closest relationship to the struggle of the 43. What did it mean?
The “object of study” is transformed, it is expanded. In lengthy interviews turned into long conversations with mothers and fathers, both Marie-Christine and I returned to our thematic concerns that went beyond sentencing: the criminalization of protest and the religiosity of mothers and fathers, their visits to the Basilica, the role of different sectors of the Church and its movement, together with the proper and permanent themes of mothers and fathers; his pain and suffering, his doubts about the road traveled, his hopes for the sentence, in a climate of greater dialogue than the one I had established before. The relationship became more horizontal: their names appear not only in my list of telephone contacts as I do in his, and a more affective exchange began with some of them: Cristina, Mario, María, María de Jesús, Hilda and Hilda , Felipe, Melitón, Emiliano and other names.
When more time passes and my father dies, I realize what it meant to me to go every 26th of the month and call my father as part of that ritual. On November 26, 2019, I arrived at the march completely saddened, my father was no longer there to speak to him and "I fell another twenty" from his absence. When Mario González, father of César Manuel González Hernández, asks me how I am, I explain it to him and I let go crying; He hugs me tightly and consoling me with a few words, he made me understand that I could understand it, how I understood what they were going through; I felt an infinite collective embrace, a true reciprocity that I was able to feel again when I was writing these words. After the meeting, I also asked Cristina Bautista, Hilda Legideño and María Martínez for other arms, who sealed that first hug. I returned home, without a doubt, with more peace. I realized that it was not only the horizon of the struggle and the search for another justice that linked me to them. Beyond our very different socio-economic and cultural realities there was something emotional, warm that is difficult to describe and that I did not calculate to communicate here when I began this writing.
Three days after the new government took office, President López Obrador decreed the creation of a commission, which is installed on January 15, 2019, entitled Commission for Truth and Access to Justice in the Ayotzinapa case, chaired by Alejandro Encinas, Undersecretary of Human Rights of the Ministry of the Interior, whose composition is similar to that decreed by the Tamaulipas ruling. It also places the victims, the parents of the 43, at the center of the commission, and their defenders, the human rights centers that have accompanied them, and proposes that a commission of international experts linked to the case return. The Secretaries of Finance and Foreign Relations also participate. It is proposed from its installation that all lines of investigation proposed by international organizations of independent experts and those that had been truncated by the judiciary will be followed.
In that sense, Encinas' statement was forceful: “We do not want to marry the historical truth. We started from an idea, the only truth is that there is no truth about the Ayotzinapa case, and you have to discover it, you have to know what the facts were and what happened to the boys, and in that sense, all the lines are again open ”.
However, the commission, having a presidential origin, did not have the same criminal powers, the Public Ministry did not participate. Its installation mentions the need for a specialized prosecutor's office to be created in the case that would depend on the new Attorney General's Office, which takes six months to establish. Despite this, it should be recognized that a prosecutor is selected considered by the Interior and public opinion as someone very suitable for the position due to his deep knowledge of the same case, having been working with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (cidh): Omar Trejo.
During all that time, some mothers and fathers show signs of impatience, they make known in their marches and in talks with me that the arrival of international experts4 it was taking too long and in general the presidential commission made very little progress. For this reason, nine months after it was installed and five years after the tragedy of the disappearance of their children occurred, a strong despair is noted in them, alternated with the positive feeling of feeling heard by the President in some meetings with him. , and by the Secretary of the Interior.
The focus of attack on mothers and fathers in their rallies becomes the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic, with clear demands to speed up the investigations, to arrest those who obstructed the investigations in the previous government and produced "the historical truth ”; for the Army to provide the information it knows about what happened on September 26 and 27, 2014; to investigate the connection of some elements of the 27th Battalion with the hierarchy of Guerreros Unidos, among other issues.
In all that time, the Tamaulipas sentence and the search for its ratification remained in a kind of limbo. In March 2019, the members of the Commission meet with the president of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation, Arturo Zaldívar, and it is proposed that the Presidency and the General Prosecutor's Office could withdraw from the appeals they had filed against the sentence to allow its execution5. But this possibility is not mentioned again, neither in the media, nor by mothers and fathers at rallies. According to the same rapporteur Magistrate, there has been no withdrawal until June 2020.
The situation placed us in a difficult situation: the production team that we had planned to finish the video in four or five months went into a lethargy, in a certain unease when not knowing what was happening with the commission and what was the meaning of the documentary in the new stage. Clearly we couldn't finish the video yet; the focus of investigation and documentation had to be extended from the sentence to the presidential commission, since that was the path taken by the parents' struggle process. The times were lengthening without knowing very well how long. The student cameramen, producers, editors (Aldo, Estefanía, Jennifer and Arturo) had to finish their thesis and other graduates of the University began to work harder in the animation and editing parts (Cyntia Kent), as well as in the sound (Erik Medina). At least we had a first skeleton edited by Aldo. There they began to "dress" the video, as they say, with thousands of details; the documentary had to have a minimum audiovisual language that would give it a unity and fit the meaning we wanted to give it. The image representing mothers and fathers drawn by Jennifer became something of a symbol, animated by Cyntia, along with the articulation curtains for the different sections of the video. To that was added the specific advice of Luis Miguel Carriedo and Primavera Téllez.
The close communication that Marie-Christine and I initially had with the advocates of the 43's parents waned, for multiple reasons, at a certain point in the production, which made me particularly feel very disoriented. On the other hand, in me the uncertainty grew as to whether there was a real possibility of reaching truth and justice with this commission and in this administration, a concern that was derived from perceiving the doubts and despair in some expressions of mothers and fathers when it seemed that nothing happened with the commission for months. That forced us to reflect on the meaning of the video, if the sentence or commission did not achieve its purpose, which would be to know the whereabouts of the boys, know the truth of what happened and that justice be done with the guilty. We concluded that even if this was not achieved, that sentence and commission deserved to be documented: they were unprecedented efforts of legal imagination in Latin America and were related to a struggle that was emblematic in our country and that we wanted to document.
Another concern arose when thinking about the end of the documentary. How should it end, when the fighting process continues and the commission continues to face all kinds of problems until now due to lack of legal inquiries and results on the whereabouts of the boys ?; There we consider that it would be convenient to end with some dramatic shots, where mothers and fathers demand from the Prosecutor's Office everything that is missing in the investigation process, an important climatic point, before the last shots of thanks. This could allow the video to remain current until much of the truth of the case is clarified.
This type of reflections that we made throughout the production of the documentary led us to assume that it did not belong to us at all and that we were not “going it alone” to say what it seemed to us as producers of the video without consulting the mothers and fathers . Although we had made the decision to see how to approach the interviews and we had chosen how to structure the documentary, what to tell more extensively or less, what voices to take up, how to edit the film, it had to receive the approval of the parents and its defenders in the end . Without it, we would not spread it.
It was very reassuring to send some almost final cuts of the video to several of the parents and get their approval; what a relief!; one of the mothers, Hilda Legideño, sent us clear notes of two specific errors. It was also very shocking, at least for me, to hear Hilda Hernández say that she had been shocked to see that entire process of struggle on the screen, with a broken voice, and that her husband after the video was shown on the uam Xochimilco invited us to "do a second part."
For now, the documentary has been translated into three languages and is ready to undertake trips to other horizons and publicize "the new paths of justice" that open the struggles in the case of the 43.
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- (2017). "Religious Imaginaries and Political Action in the Appo: The Holy Child of the Appo and the Virgin of the Barrikadas", in Eva Alcántara, Yissel Arce and Rodrigo Parrini, (comp.), The complex and the transparent. Transdisciplinary research in social sciences. Mexico: Autonomous Metropolitan University-Xochimilco / Imagia Comunicación, pp. 301-340.
Qualification: Opening paths of justice. Ayotzinapa sentence and commission.
Duration: 37 minutes; color; Mexico, 2020.
Address: Margarita Zires Roldán, Autonomous Metropolitan University-Xochimilco.
Research: Marie-Christine Doran, University of Ottawa, Canada and Margarita Zires Roldán, Xochimilco Metropolitan Autonomous University.
Script and collective production: Margarita Zires Roldán, Aldo Cicardi González, Marie-Christine Doran, Cristian Calónico Lucio, Estefanía Galicia Argumedo, Jennifer Nieves García, Diego Vargas Ugalde, Arturo Vázquez Flores, Cyntia Kent Vidaños
Editing: Aldo Cicardi González, Cyntia Kent Vidaños
Graphic design and animation: Cyntia Kent Vidaños.
The documentary was selected to compete in the 2020 Independent Film Festival: XI Edition of Against Silence All Voices