Families of the “Other Disappeared”

In the absence of an immediate institutional path in Mexico, there does seem to be, uncertain and shaky, a coming together of many paths of people to support the parents of the disappeared that the state will not, or cannot, provide.


One such group calls themselves the Other Disappeared, Los Otros Desaparecidos. They are the mothers and fathers, the brothers and sisters, of men and women who were taken away in or near Iguala during the years and days before the attacks against the students, and never seen again.


After police and unidentified gunmen killed six people and disappeared 43 Ayotzinapa students on the night of September 26 in Iguala, and after Guerrero state officials revealed mass graves containing 28 bodies that turned out not be the students, the families of the “other disappeared” decided to go out looking for their missing loved ones on their own and underground.

Starting in November 2014, the group gathered every Sunday at the San Gerardo church and went out to look for signs of shallow graves. When they found a likely place, they hammered a pointed iron rod a few feet in the dirt, pulled it back up, and smelled the tip for the scent of death.


In the first seven months of looking, the families found more than 100 bodies in places where state and federal investigators had supposedly searched and found none. They also identified dozens more possible grave sites that still await investigation by federal investigators.


Mayra, a mother of an “other disappeared” said, “If you only knew, there are not only 43 people disappeared. There are so many mothers looking for their children.” Beginning as far back as 2009 and increasing after 2014, there are now collectives of families looking for and finding clandestine graves across the country. 


These "other disappeared" are yet another symptom of political leaders, police and army officers using terror and murder as tools to control their citizens, assert their power, and engage in corruption with little fear of consequences.