10 Aug 2015

Miguel Angel Jimenez: reflections on a murdered Mexican activist

Miguel Angel Jimenez, an activist who was shot in the head at the weekend, was one of those guys you rarely meet in Mexico.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, an activist who was shot dead at the weekend, was one of those guys you rarely meet in Mexico. He had no missing relatives himself but was at the forefront of the fight to find those who have disappeared, writes Guillermo Galdos.


Miguel became well-known after the killing of the 43 students in Iguala in the state of Guerrrero last  September. I met him there in a church at a gathering of families who were searching for missing relatives. He was giving instructions, trying to organise DNA samples.

It was normal to see him hugging the mothers, fathers, brothers and sister of those who were desperately looking for answers. He shared their pain.

That is why he started looking for graves himself. In his search he found dozens on the outskirts of Iguala. He thought the students could be there too, but so far almost nothing of them has been found.

I will never forget the day we travelled into the mountains with a groups of mothers looking for their missing husbands and sons.

He had organised officials from the Mexican attorney generals’s office to come with us because he wanted to show them personally the mass graves he had found. When we arrived the grave sites were clearly marked. I couldn’t stop thinking about the number of people who spent their last hours, their last minutes, of life on that mountain.

I saw some empty bottles of liquour on the ground by one of the graves. Miguel looked pained as he told me: “The cartel members bring their victims here and they made them dig their own graves while they watch drinking. This whole hillside is one huge mass grave.”

Minutes later the relatives started digging at the ground with their own hands. The state’s forensic teams shouted at them to stop, and not contaminate the evidence. One of the mothers, crying, shouted back: “We have been waiting for years and you have done nothing and now you are telling  us not to dig?”

The situation was tense. The families were close to attacking the officals. Miguel came in and took control. That was him taking charge. With a clear voice he started saying: “I have been helping you because it’s my duty as a Mexican. I don’t have any missing relatives but I am here.  I also know that I can never feel your pain, but believe me it is still my struggle.” Then he started crying.

I saw on my phone today that I had a message from him from less than a month ago. It simply said: “Guillermo: When are you coming? There is lots to talk about. Good night.  Your friend. Miguel.”

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