As we celebrate Mexico as Guest Country at VLAFF 2015, we celebrate Mexican artists, especially filmmakers. We celebrate Mexican cinema, but we also remember a country where artists are constantly fighting against injustice with their best weapon: imagination.
This coming September 26, 2015 will be the first anniversary of the mass kidnapping and assassination in Iguala, Guerrero of 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers' College of Ayotzinapa. For many artists, what happened that evening of September 26 and the days following, challenged their consciences as to how to respond to a tragedy of such magnitude. It is certain that over the coming years, more documentaries, books and paintings will come out trying to explain, or simply to express, through the eyes of the artists, the pain and horror felt by the families and by the entire country of what occurred on September 26, 2014.
One of the first artist collectives to create a public response were the Illustrators with Ayotzinapa. They wanted to make sure the world knew the names and faces of the 43 missing students. They invited artists from all over to draw and paint portraits of the missing youths from their student photos and post the illustrations on their site. The illustrations were then shared all over social media with the hashtag #IlustradoresConAyotzinapa. With their permission, we have reproduced here two of the works they created soon after the tragedy.
"I felt such helplessness about what happened to the disappeared students in Mexico. At that time, the news about the disappearance was very fresh. I wanted to gather friends, colleagues, illustrators who were angry and sad like me, and together (I thought to gather 43), we each would create a portrait. We did not know exactly what the purpose was, I just wanted to do something. And so it began. I told my idea to three friends, and a friend of mine, an illustrator, responded immediately—without fear or hindrance she began to draw. While I embroidered. The only requirement was to choose an image of one of the 43 students, re-create it in whatever medium that artist worked in, and upload the image to social media with the phrase: “I (artist’s name) want to know where he (the name of one of the 43 students) is”...with the hashtag #IlustradoresConAyotzinapa.
The initiative spread really quickly and we received more than 400 illustrations. All were different, but all were made from a very emotional, very empathic and very honest place of profound feeling. And so it was. I believe that at times this little movement was even able to generate empathy in people who are usually indifferent to such tragedies.’’ Valeria Gallo
During the months following the tragedy and up until today, #IlustradoresConAyotzinapa images are being widely spread and used by writers, filmmakers and all sorts of public figures, as well as all those who feel that this tragedy has affected them, affected Mexico, in a way never seen before in the country’s contemporary history. The faces of the 43 students have become a rallying cry for change in Mexico, never to be forgotten.