The main plaza in Cuernavaca is full of activity: speeches, poems, prayers, heartbreaking testimonies and altars of the victims of the Drug War fill the scene. Today’s event commemorates the first year of an organization that fights against death: the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity (MPJD). Maybe that´s why there are two tiny women that go unseen. Together they breathe a deep sigh. Until they look in each other’s eyes, until they talk, until they tell their stories.
Teresa Vera is stitching on a side street of the Plaza. Alfredo, a member of the Fuentes Rojas (Red Fountains) movement, embroiders cloth. The threads tell of the unidentified body that was found near the University of Cuernavaca March 5, 2012. “In less than a year there have been more than 60 dead in this city alone. The disappeared are even more,” Alfredo says.
He encourages people to stitch a handkerchief, in a sort of collective embroidery to give names to the number of dead. Teresa’s handkerchief is number 826 of the 63,000 planned to be embroidered all over the country. Their quantity echoes the number of fatal victims in this war for the last six years.
“And the gringos come to tell us we don’t even know how many dead we have…it’s fucked up!” Alfredo complains of a story published today in which Leon Panetta, U.S. Defense Secretary has quoted the number of deaths at 150,000.
Teresa keeps embroidering the handkerchief of an unidentified body, although what she wants to talk about is her sister Minerva. Her case is different, as Alfredo explains it: “To have your loved one killed is one thing, that is hard. But at least you can bury a piece of them and mourn. But…a disappeared…that’s fucking hard!”
Teresa’s 60-year-old sister disappeared at age 60 from the Oaxacan municipality of Matías Romero Avedaño on April 29, 2006. Her life, her story would be reduced to her registry number 297/EXT/2006 if Teresa had stopped looking for her six years ago. “It happened in Oaxaca, but I have walked through Guadalajara, Veracruz, Puebla, Morelos, Chihuahua…I go everywhere, talk to every institutions, but they don’t do anything,” Teresa says.
Teresa is accompanied by Francisca Diaz. They both arrived to Cuernavaca from Mexico City and both carry, like the families of all the disappeared, a photocopy with their loved one’s details. Francisca’s son, Genaro Palacios, disappeared nine years ago. No one ever speaks of their disappeared in past tense. “One keeps hope. Until the end,” says Francisca. The pair arrived in Cuernavaca with the MPJD. “Before we were alone, now with the movement it is different. This is very hard, but at least we have met and we help each other out,” Francisca explains while she grabs another handkerchief to embroider. If she chooses the red thread she will be stitching for a dead person, if she chooses green thread she will be giving light and hope to a disappeared.