ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC4) – Dixie State University is honoring the tragic story of 43 Mexican students who went missing in 2014.
In honor of Latino and Hispanic Heritage Month, the university is debuting a new art installation, “Remember the 43 Students.” The exhibit features 43 life-sized silhouettes that will be displayed in nine buildings throughout the Dixie State campus.
Each figure represents one student and will include a short biography about them and some facts surrounding the tragic incident.
“My hope is that our students will look at these 43 strangers and see themselves,” said Stephen Lee, organizer of the installation and dean of Dixie State’s College of Humanities & Social Sciences. “I hope they will engage the complex issues of political violence and economic inequalities with both their heads and their hearts.”
What happened during the incident?
“On the night of September 26, 2014, in the city of Iguala, uniformed police ambushed five buses of students from Rural Teachers College in Ayotzinapa and another bus carrying a professional soccer team,” exhibit officials say. “Together with three unidentified gunmen, they shot and killed six people, wounded more than 20. 43 other students disappeared. One victim’s body was found in a field the next morning.”
To this day, only three bodies have been positively identified, with the rest of the students still missing, seven years later.
“Evidence of collusion between local drug gangs, political leaders at every level of the government, local, state and federal police, and the Mexican army emerged that confirmed the 43 atrocity was a painfully common practice,” exhibit officials explain.
As part of the event, a hosted discussion between Mexico City-based journalist, John Gibler, and Vince Brown, director of DSU’s Institute of Politics will be available to attend on September 23 in the Gardner Center Ballroom.
“The depth and breadth of John Gibler’s knowledge on the subject is astounding,” Brown said. “When police attacked five busses carrying students, six died, 40 were wounded and 43 students were never seen again. Is this something that is distant and unrelatable to our students? No, I don’t think so. To the contrary, the 43 were young people on their way to a protest and I am reminded of a recent trip by some of our students to make their voices heard at the state legislature.”
The installation hopes to raise questions and debates on topics including the use of police force, corruption, freedom of expression, treatment of indigenous people, political and academic freedom at universities, and the U.S. drug war.
“I can see so many reasons why those issues should concern our students. But frankly, it is a human tragedy about which all compassionate people should care,” Brown said. “I hope our students will learn about and stand in solidarity with the 43 disappeared and their families, who continue to seek justice.”
The exhibit will begin on September 17 and will run through October 1. To learn more about the history of the incident and to check out all exhibit details, click here.