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Grotto vigil honors missing students

| Thursday, November 20, 2014

More than 100 Notre Dame students, faculty and South Bend community members gathered at the Grotto on Thursday night for a remembrance prayer vigil to show support for the 43 missing students from Ayotzinapa, Mexico.

In September, students from the Rural Teachers College of Ayotzinapa were abducted during a peaceful protest. Since then, the protest movement in Mexico has spread around the world and continues to gain momentum as people turn the spotlight on the country to demand justice for the more than 20,000 people who have disappeared since 2006.

20141120, 20141120, Ayotzinapa Notre Dame Vigil, By Michael Yu, Grotto, Mexico, Prayer ServiceMichael Yu
Ph.D. student César Leon Soto, president of the Latino Graduate Association at Notre Dame (LGAND), planned the vigil as a vehicle to bring the global movement directly to the Notre Dame community, reminding students that young adults similar to themselves were severely punished for standing up for their beliefs.

Forty-three empty chairs stood around the grotto as a reminder of the missing students. In the tradition of Latin American protest movements, each student’s name was called as a candle was lit on their chair.

“This serves as a symbolic gesture indicating that the 43 are not forgotten and that their struggle is now ours,” Soto said.

Marisel Moreno, associate professor of Spanish, said she encourages students to not remain unmoved by such “unimaginable” violence.

“As members of a higher learning institution, it’s unimaginable to think of 43 of our own students victimized for standing up against corruption and oppression,” she said. “These students are the latest victims of a highly corrupt system that is working in tandem with drug cartels and benefits from impunity. … We are all implicated, and it ultimately affects us all.”

According to Soto, there are various ways for students to get involved in the movement. By clicking on hashtags such as #FightingForAyotzinapa, #WeAreAyotzinapa and #Ayotzinapa, students can stay up-to-date on the movement.

Soto said he calls all Notre Dame students to become aware of the problems in Mexico and to work toward restoring the image of Notre Dame as “a champion of human rights” and more than just a “football school.”

“Ultimately, we can show our support by putting pressure on the Mexican government, by writing letters to the Mexican consulate expressing our dismay,” he said.

According to Kellogg visiting fellow Sandra Ley Gutiérrez, student movements are important in creating change and providing energy and strength to the demands for truth and justice. Gutiérrez ended the prayer service by challenging students to become informed, spread the word, show support and reject all forms of violence.

“Lastly, never forget, and never let others forget about this massacre,” she said. “We are counting on you.”

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