On Sunday, family members, Mexicans and concerned members of the international community observed the seventh month since the disappearance of 43 students from a teaching school in rural Mexico.
A protest said to attract at least 600 people moved through the streets of New York City, winding its way to the United Nations, where families demanded justice. In Mexico, protesters also took to the streets, with some leaving behind a more visible reminder of their presence: a metallic red “anti-monument,” almost 10 feet tall, depicting simply “+43.”
The location of the statue is especially meaningful, placed as it is on Reforma, the capital’s most prominent avenue, lined with numerous other monuments that essentially tell the history of the country. Organizers chose a strategic corner for their installation, close to several powerful Mexican institutions, including offices for the ministries of housing and culture, the Banamex bank and the El Universal newspaper.
Those behind the action are calling the structure an anti-monument “because it’s a transgression and a complaint the State wants to ignore — and wants us to forget! — the terrible reality of daily violence to which we are subjected and which has taken the lives of more than 150,000 people and disappeared an additional 30,000 +43.”
“+43 wants to call attention to people in transit who pass this intersection each day,” organizers said in a press release.
Melitón Ortega, a family member of one of the disappeared students, said the anti-monument “stands for the lives of our 43 boys, stands for the struggle.”
Ortega called upon the Mexico City government to allow the statue to stay where it is, suggesting that if officials chose to remove it, “it would symbolize the relationship that exists between the federal government and that of the city.”
Writing in his regular column for the Mexico City newspaper máspormás, journalist Guillermo Osorno observed the following:
“The first thing to report is that it [the anti-monument] looks as if it’s been there a long time. I don’t know who conceptualized it, but to me it seems very effective. It evokes the works of Robert Indiana, a U.S. artist who used symbols and words from daily life, painted in vivid colors…. Yesterday [Wednesday], I observed dozens of people passing by and taking photos…. Of all the modern sculptures that have been on that corner, I think +43 is the most effective. Its permanence will depend upon local authorities….”
News of the sculpture’s installation spread quickly, picked up as far away as Spain, where it was included in a report in the newspaper El País.
As family members responsible for the sculpture wait to see whether it will be removed or whether it will be permitted to remain, other family members continue their tour of the United States, visiting major cities in an effort to draw international attention and support for their cause.