Utilizing social media and art to bring awareness to the disappeared and to memorialize their lives

Mexican citizen and journalist, Epigmenio Ibarra, created tumblr blog #IllustradoresConAyotzinapa which combines social media and artistic illustrations of 43 disappeared college students to sustain awareness of their disappearances and to memorialize their individual lives.

On the night of September 26th of 2014, 43 Mexican college students protesting the need for education reforms in the city of Iguala Mexico were detained by municipal police. The students disappeared and community members, friends and family members began protesting and argued police were responsible for the disappearances. Outrage over the disappearance of the 43 students spread across the country alongside increasing allegations of state and federal complicity. A social movement called Ayotzinapa 43 emerged. Protests across the country and activity on social media continue.

Mexican journalist Epigmenio Ibarra noticed that protest organizers would read a roll call of the disappeared names to prompt protestors to think about their lives and histories. Protestors would eventually become tired at the end of the process. He wanted to see how to mitigate the effects of fatigue and rote repetition that could limit reflection around the individual lives of protesters. Ibarra also wondered how the movement could incorporate a broader swath of the Mexican public.

Ibarra decided to create a digital roll call through twitter to mitigate these challenges. He created hashtag #pasedelista1al43. At 10pm Mexico standard time, he tweets the names of each of the disappeared to elicit conversation and reflection about their lives. Ibarra’s tactic caught the attention of #IllustradoresConAyotzinapa a Tumblr blog that arose out of the movement to allow Mexican citizens to share illustrations inspired by the photos of the disappeared also with the end of bringing attention to their stories. Ibarra and the creators of the blog collaborated and Ibarra began tweeting the names and illustrations of the disappeared.

When analyzing this tactic it is important to note that the use of a digital roll call and memorialization through art expanded participation in the movement from protestors to include the wider Mexican public. It also evidences the opportunities to integrate citizen mobilization via the internet with artistic methods of awareness building. As a result, user created illustrations of the faces of the disappeared increased. In some cases attention towards human rights abuses diminishes in the public square because of lessening media coverage and the progressive disengagement of the public. This tactic seeks to combat forgetting the disappearance of the 43 students.






New Tactics in Human Rights does not advocate for or endorse specific tactics, policies or issues.

What we can learn from this tactic: 

Social media has emerged as a space to facilitate memorialization and remembrance of victims. This tactic encouraged remembrance through social media which then sparked the inclusion of art as a way for people to call attention to an issue and stay connected to others experiencing similar situations. Art provides a creative outlet for people to express their emotions and aid in the healing process. Social media campaigns can foster online communities, which can serve as a support group. Intersecting art with social media expanded the movement and increased participation by encouraging others to upload their own artwork. This served as a way to raise awareness of the issue with people outside of the community, and raised the calls of accountability of local authorities for their corruption. Combatting corruption is a difficult issue to tackle and requires knowledge of national and international laws to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.

This kind of tactic can be effective in conjunction with off-line actions or in contexts where off-line activism is very dangerous. Consider how your organization can build a social media plan in collaboration with other tactics that promote off-line activism.