In a context of human rights violations and impunity, enforced disappearances in Mexico have reached unprecedented levels: numbers are higher than ever, with well over 30.000 cases in this last decade. Regarding the perpetrators, state authorities and organized crime often cannot be distinguished from each other.

For decades, the relatives of those disappeared have taken the streets and walked long paths paved with memory and resistance. They have marched to public prosecutors and to mass graves, to meetings and in protests. Longing for justice, they demand to know the truth: where are their loved ones?

In this endless search they often find that the circumstances surrounding the disappearances are not disconnected but are part and parcel of a failing rule of law in Mexico.

The exhibition

The shoes displayed belong to mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, wives, husbands, and grandsons of the disappeared. They are true witnesses of the ongoing impunity in Mexico and their demand for justice and accountability. These shoes are not only a piece of footwear, an accessory: they represent the collective memory of those that have walked to find their loved ones; they are the steps that together are tracing a path that leads to justice.

Context programme

22 November at Het Nutshuis, The Hague
Start: 20:00

Tempestad: A documentary by Tatiana Huezo
Mexico, 2016

On a normal day on her way to work, Miriam is arrested on suspicion of human trafficking. While the government reports that a criminal gang has been rounded up, in reality a group of innocent Mexicans has fallen victim to the vagaries of a corrupt system. Miriam is held for more than a year in a prison run by a drug cartel, and her family has to pay for her protection. In jail, Miriam faces extortion, humiliation and extreme violence, memories that will continue to haunt her for years to come.  The horrific abductions, the unseen civil war between the government and the drug cartels and the ubiquitous fear this brings about are revealed through poetic, meditative images of everyday life in Mexico, with Miriam and Adela providing a voice-over.

With introduction by Lucy Diaz (guest of the Shelter City Project) and Pavel Ramirez (SMX Collective, HIJOS Mexico).

For info and tickets, see here.

10 December at Nutshuis, The Hague
12 December at De Balie, Amsterdam
Start: 20:00

Freedom Lecture
With Anabel Hernandez

Anabel Hernandez will give the 20th Freedom Lecture in De Balie and The Nutshuis. Hernandez is a journalist and writer, who had an international breakthrough with the book Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and their Godfathers. On December 12, Anabel Hernandez will speak in De Balie on the importance of freedom of press, the way in which drugs cartels operate and the many sacrifices she had to make in order to be free and safe and to continue her work as a journalist.

For info and tickets of the lecture in The Nutshuis, see here.
For info and tickets of the lecture in De Balie, see here.

Enforced disappearance epidemic in Mexico

According to the UN, the disappeared are the persons who:

are arrested, detained or abducted against their will or otherwise deprived of their liberty by officials of different branches or levels of government, or by organized groups or private individuals acting on behalf of, or with the support, direct or indirect, consent or acquiescence of the government, followed by a refusal to disclose the fate or whereabouts of the persons concerned or a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of their liberty, which places such persons outside the protection of the law.

According to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed at any civilian population, enforced disappearance qualifies as a crime against humanity and therefore it falls into a broader jurisdiction that concerns the international community.

Some facts

  • First disappeared-1969
  • Disappeared people in the last decade- more than 30,000
  • According to NGO’s, only 1 out of 5 cases is reported
  • The Mexican State and authorities have been unable and unwilling to solve all these cases

The artist

Alfredo López Casanova joined a demonstration on Mother’s day in Mexico City, where hundreds of people marched denouncing the disappearance of their relatives. The footsteps imprinting streets constituted a powerful image: People walking over days, years and decades of impunity and keeping memory and resistance alive. This image is the starting point of this exhibition, which soon evolved into a collective project including artists, students, activists and relatives to the disappeared, bringing together the memory of people facing the same struggle over different decades and countries.

Footprints of memory

November 13-December 10
Het Nutshuis
The Hague

November 13

The chapter Netherlands of Footprints of Memory is in collaboration with Justice and Peace and Het Nutshuis.
Supported by Fonds 1818.
Footprints is part of the exhibition SHRINKING SPACE – We Are All Human Rights Defenders #2.

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