The disappearance of 43 students who attended a rural teacher’s college in the state of Guerrero is a singular event in Mexican history. The students were taken captive by police and drug gangs on the night of September 26, 2014 in the city of Iguala; they have not been heard from since. It is a national drama, but also a personal and intimate one for the families trying to find the missing.
In southern Mexico, when you ask someone about their community, the answer is often given in terms of the number of families who live there. It is a reflection of the collective system in these decidedly indigenous communities. Around 70 families live in Omeapa, which was home to three of the young men who disappeared. Their families carry a grief that is hard to shutter inside their unassuming houses, which don’t have proper doors, just sheets hung in the entrance, blowing in the hot, dry wind. In Omeapa, as intimacy dissolves, private pain spills silently out of the three houses, runs through the lanes of the village, and the familial quickly becomes communal.
The photos in this essay, which is a companion to Intercept reporter Ryan Devereaux’s two–part investigation of the disappearance of the 43 students, document how these boys had grown into young men before they were taken away. The photos also document the lives of those who are left behind to cry, to cope, to continue the search. The pictures are an attempt to show the intangible qualities — the customs and traditions that have always existed in Omeapa — and new, atypical attributes of sorrow that will undoubtedly change the village and its inhabitants forever.
PHOTOGRAHY BY KEITH DANNEMILLER FOR THE INTERCEPT