The New Yorker:

One night in 2014, a group of young men from a rural teachers’ college vanished. Since then, their families have fought for 

By Alma Guillermoprieto

Last year, I drove south from Mexico City, along the highway toward Apango, a modest hillside town in the state of Guerrero. The highway ends at Acapulco, but there were no palm trees and no glamour where I was going. I turned onto a silent two-lane road, and drove past villages where indigenous languages such as Nahuatl are still spoken. It was the dry season, and the scrub-forest hills had turned every shade of dust and brown, punctuated only by the soft white flowers of the casahuate trees. In Apango, I asked for Estanislao Mendoza Chocolate, or Don Tanis, as he is respectfully known. I had travelled here to ask him about his son, who vanished one night in 2014, along with forty-two other students from a rural teachers’ college, never to be seen again.

When I arrived, Don Tanis was waiting anxiously in his doorway, a round-faced, neatly dressed man in his sixties with a lively manner and eyes so haunted it was hard not to look away. He showed me around his house, a collection of bare cinder-block rooms with a light bulb in the center of each one, which he built in the course of two decades as a seasonal migrant in California. There was a storage room for the year’s supply of corn—to sell, or to grind for the family’s tortillas—and, untouched all this time, the room where his son had lived: a sagging cot, a chair, some fading photographs and posters on the wall. “I wanted a ranch, with animalitos, and he was helping me set it up, but it’s all abandoned now,” Don Tanis said, studiously avoiding his son’s name, as he did throughout our conversation.

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