In 2015 I visited Escuela Normal Rural Miguel Hidalgo in Atequiza, Mexico.
This town is several hours west from yesterday’s shootout in Tanhuato. I don’t pretend to understand what I am seeing, the problems and priorities, the history and those who are involved. But I know this school is the same kind of school as the 43 Disappeared attended.
This was as close to getting a glimpse of the 43 missing I would get. I had a lump in my throat for most of the visit. These “Rural Normal” schools were born out of Mexico’s revolution. The one we visited was celebrating it’s 81st anniversary the entire week.
I was told this school system, catering to the underprivileged by teaching young persons from marginalized communities to become teachers, has been under duress for decades. It is suspected that the government wants to rid itself of this troublesome source of social justice activism and is doing so through a long game of attrition.
Examples of these various strategies, I was told, included severe cut backs in funding, extremely stringent academic standards both to enter and to graduate and now a mandatory English test. This test is apparently so difficult, and arguably unnecessary, that most won’t pass. This requirement also prevents these students from all international visits and exchange programs—including with Spanish speaking countries.
This is what I was told.
The campus was in a state of disrepair and makeshift maintenance. Revolutionary themed murals were chipped and fading. Broken panes of glass were replaced with cardboard. Whispers of tension between the students and some in the administration. Courtyards variously cared for with gardens or statues. Some dusty and strewn with various rubble and wispy shadows of weeds and cracks.
This was a unique time and place that was at historic cross roads.
At the Crossroads of Marxism & Neo-Liberalism.