Una cartografía de la violencia
On the night of 26-27 September 2014, students from the Rural Normal School of Ayotzinapa were attacked in the town of Iguala, Guerrero, by local police in collusion with criminal organisations. Numerous other branches of the Mexican security apparatus either participated in or witnessed the events, including state and federal police and the military. Six people were murdered – including three students – forty wounded, and 43 students were forcibly disappeared.
The whereabouts of the students remains unknown, and their status as ‘disappeared’ persists to this day. Instead of attempting to solve this historic crime, the Mexican state has failed the victims, and the rest of Mexican society, by constructing a fraudulent and inconsistent narrative of the events of that night.
Forensic Architecture was commissioned by and worked in collaboration with the Equipo Argentino de Antropologia Forense (EAAF) and Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez (Centro Prodh) to conceive of an interactive cartographic platform to map out and examine the different narratives of this event. The project aims to reconstruct, for the first time, the entirety of the known events that took place that night in and around Iguala and to provide a forensic tool for researchers to further the investigation.
The data on which the platform is based draws from publicly available investigations, videos, media stories, photographs and phone logs. We transposed the accounts presented across these sources into thousands of data points, each of which has been located in space and time and plotted within the platform in order to map the incidents and the complex relationships between them. This demonstrates, in a clear graphic and cartographic form, the level of collusion and coordination between state agencies and organised crime throughout the night.
In 2014, 43 students were massacred. Can digital forensics help solve the crime?
The project relied on information compiled by the two reports of the International Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) and oral accounts recorded a month after the attack by investigative journalist John Gibler. “What is important is that we have not necessarily found new information. We have visualised the reports, which were actually incredibly inaccessible to anyone who doesn’t have six months to read through it, break it down and understand it,” Laxness says.
“What you start to see immediately is that attacks happen at different parts of town at the same time and the act of forced disappearing actually happens at two different parts of town with a half an hour window, so almost identical, and the thing is being able to see that movement and see the data points on a map. The platform makes clear that all government forces are communicating by central communication system, everybody is either there perpetuating violence or an observer of violence.”
THREE YEARS AFTER 43 STUDENTS DISAPPEARED IN MEXICO, A NEW VISUALIZATION REVEALS THE CRACKS IN THE GOVERNMENT’S STORY
THE MEXICAN GOVERNMENT’S story goes like this: On the night of September 26, 2014, roughly 100 students from Ayotzinapa, a rural teaching college, clashed with municipal police in the city of Iguala, in the southern state of Guerrero. Rocks were thrown, shots were fired, and 43 students were snatched up by the authorities and handed over to a local drug gang. The students were then driven to a garbage dump where they were murdered, burned to ash, and tossed into a river, never to be seen again. This, Mexico’s attorney general once said, was “the historical truth.”
Horrific as it sounds, this “truth” is a hollow and misleading narrative, which has been debunked and exploded by independent inquiries. With the third anniversary of the tragedy approaching, a new project by an international team of investigators has taken the most damning of those inquiries and visualized them, offering a means of seeing the night of September 26 for what it truly was: a coordinated, lethal assault on the students involving Mexican security forces at every level, and grave violations of international law.
The interactive platform, constructed by the research agency Forensic Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London, and shared with The Intercept in advance of its public release, pulls from a voluminous body of investigations into the crime. In addition to utilizing the most credible evidence available to illustrate how the night unfolded, the platform highlights inconsistencies in the government’s account of the events and tracks individual actors throughout the ordeal.