The convoy of gunmen fanned out across the southern Mexico municipality of Cocula before dawn. Some carried names and blasted their way into homes. Others simply swept up whoever crossed their paths.
Seventeen people vanished from Cocula on that single day, July 1, 2013 — more than a year before the disappearance of 43 college students in the nearby city of Iguala would draw the world's eyes to the mountains of northern Guerrero and to the issue of Mexico's disappeared. The disappearance of the students from the Rural Normal School of Ayotzinapa on Sept. 26, 2014, gave hundreds of other families who had loved ones vanish the courage to come forward, many for the first time, to report the crimes.
The world, and even most of Mexico, paid little attention to Iguala until 43 students from a rural teachers’ college disappeared. Two months after the students disappeared, many other families in the area began looking for clandestine graves and have come forward to tell their stories, emboldened by the international attention focused on the missing students. Their message was simple: there are many more missing. They are “the other disappeared.”
Leading up to the one-year anniversary of the student's disappearance, Dario Lopez-Mills, Associated Press chief photographer for Mexico and Central America, shared his body of work "Mexico’s Other Disappeared" on our Instagram feed.
Carmen Arce Pineda
Carmen Arce Pineda weeps as she talks about her two missing daughters while waiting to submit a DNA sample in order to help her search for her daughters in Iguala, Mexico. Her daughters, Karla Sany and Blanca Azucena Aragon Arce were kidnapped on July 3, 2013.
Young Relatives Search for the Missing
In this April 22, 2015 photo, Guillermina Sotelo, left, and Bertha Moreno Garcia help each other as they walk up a hill after ending their day's search for clandestine graves on the outskirts of Iguala, Mexico. A group of relatives of missing persons in the region has banded together to search for their missing relatives. Since the government began excavating suspected graves found by this group scouring the surrounding mountains looking for their loved ones late last year, more than 100 bodies have been exhumed though most still await identification.
An Altar for Victor
In this June 1, 2015 photo, a framed photo of disappeared Victor Albarran Varela is surrounded by religious icons on a makeshift altar, in his home in Cocula, Mexico. On July 1, 2013 the explosion of gunfire echoed from the center of this town in the predawn stillness. A convoy of armed men had arrived in town and once they had left, 17 residents including Victor, had disappeared, never to be seen again. They are among the 25,000 Mexicans who have disappeared since 2007, according to the government’s count. Victor was 15 years old when he was taken.
The Day Ends in Iguala
In this Aug. 18, 2015 photo, the day ends in Iguala, located in a poor region of the southern Mexican state of Guerrero. The city was thrust into the national and international limelight when three students were killed and 43 others disappeared. At least 292 people have been added to the list of missing from the area since the 43 disappeared there on Sept. 26, 2014.
Two Crosses Painted on the Ground
In this Aug. 19, 2015 photo, two crosses painted on the ground mark the site where two students were killed and 43 others were taken away in Iguala, Mexico on Sept. 26, 2014. According to a federal investigation, the students were taken by police and then handed over to a local drug gang who allegedly killed them and burned the bodies. The incident cast national and international attention on Iguala emboldening hundreds of local families to come forward and speak up about their own missing relatives.
Relatives Look at a Photo of the Missing
In this June 1, 2015 photo, relatives of Victor Albarran Varela look at a photo of him at his home in Cocula, Mexico. On July 1, 2013 the explosion of gunfire echoed from the center of this town in the predawn stillness. A convoy of armed men had arrived in town and once they had left, 17 residents including Albarran, had disappeared, never to be seen again. They are among the 25,000 Mexicans who have disappeared since 2007, according to the government’s count. Albarran was 15 when he was taken.
Julio Wilber Ulises Cano Bahena
In this Tuesday, April 21, 2015 photo, Yuridia Anahi Cano Bahena holds up a photo of her missing brother, Julio Wilber Ulises Cano Bahena in Iguala, Mexico. Her brother, a lawyer, was 35 years old when armed men dragged him from his office on Jan. 10, 2010.
Ivette Melissa Flores Roman
In this June 2, 2015 photo, Sandra Luz Roman Jaimes holds up her mobile phone showing a photo of her missing daughter, Ivette Melissa Flores Roman in Iguala, Mexico. Her daughter was 18 when she disappeared on Oct. 24, 2012. Sandra did not want to show her face for fear of reprisals.
Adolfo Ocampo Marino
In this May 12, 2015 photo, Cirenio Ocampo de Jesus holds up a photo of his son, Adolfo Ocampo Marino in Iguala, Mexico. His son, a mason, was 35 years old when he was taken by armed men while working with his father on July 3, 2014.
Yolanda Mata Mendoza
In this June 2, 2015 photo, Alicia Mendoza Aviles holds up a photo of her missing daughter, Yolanda Mata Mendoza in Iguala, Mexico. Her daughter was 32 years old on July 1, 2013 when armed men burst into her home and took her away in front of her children.
Alejandro Conde Lopez
In this May 31, 2015 photo, Wendy Rangel Arcos holds up a photo of her missing husband, Alejandro Conde Lopez, in Iguala, Mexico. Her husband was 38 years old when he disappeared on June 13, 2008. He left home one morning to buy medicine and never came back.
Margarito Fermin Ramirez
Matias Fermin Montano, left, and Agustina Ramirez Nemesio hold up a photo of their son, Margarito Fermin Ramirez in Iguala, Mexico, June 30, 2015. Their son, a cabdriver, was 42 years old when he disappeared on Dec. 2, 2012. He left to drive his taxi that night and never returned. The car was later found abandoned.
See the interactive project: http://interactives.ap.org/2015/mexico-disappeared/?locale=en
Text from the AP news story, Thousands of Mexican families mourn the 'other disappeared', by Christopher Sherman.
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