José Ángel Navarrete González


Yo, Jan Nimmo, Glasgow, Escocia, quiero saber dónde está José Ángel Navarrete González. Digital Collage: Jan Nimmo ©

Emiliano Navarrete Victoriano was working away in the US when his son, José Ángel Navarrete González was born. He remembers the phone call from his wife back in Mexico. He describes the birth of his son as the best day of his life.

José Ángel, or “Pepe” likes playing football but his dad instilled in him that it was important to study too. His parents didn’t have money to send him to a private school so their only option was to get him a place in a Normalista School so he went to study in Ayotzinapa.

His father recalls an exchange with his son, two days before he disappeared, “I gave him a big hug and told him that I loved him. I said – I’m so proud of you son, I like the way you conduct yourself. Wherever you are I will always be there for you. I have no idea I why I said that to him when I did. Believe me when I say that what has happened hurts so much but I’m going to find him and one day I’ll bring him back”.

From an interview on TeleSur 17/03/15

I don’t have to add anything to this, do I?

Jan Nimmo 10th April 2015


Miguel Ángel Mendoza Zacarias


Yo, Jan Nimmo, Glasgow, Escocia, quiero saber dónde está Miguel Ángel Mendoza Zacarias. Digital Collage: Jan Nimmo ©

I made this portrait of Miguel Ángel Mendoza Zacarias today (part of the series of the 43 students who were studying in Ayotzinapa), with some urgency as I have been invited to collaborate with an event in Eugene, Oregon, USA on the 11th April 2015, as part of the Caravana 43 tour of the USA. The event will have contributions from two parents of the disappeared students, Blanca Luz Nava Vélez, mother of Jorge Alvarez Nava, y Estanislao Mendoza Chocolate, father of Miguel Ángel Mendoza Zacarias. They will be speaking to raise awareness of their situation and that of the other parents and families of the disappeared Normalista students.

Margarita remembers Miguel Ángel as a good, much loved boy. He is quiet and well liked by the townsfolk in his native Apango, Mártir de Cuilapa. He enjoyed playing basketball and he took a course in the local church so that he could become a barber.
His mother recalls that the week before the students were victims of the attack in which her son disappeared, he left his house to cut hair so that he could earn money to buy books for his studies. Before becoming a student at the Normalista School “Raúl Isidro Burgos” in Ayotzinapa, he had gone to study medicine at Universidad Autónoma Latinoamericana Caribeña de Ciencias y Artes but was unable to continue due to a change in government policy. Margarita says that he loves to study but that he also helps out on his father’s land.

Miguel Ángel is known locally by a couple of nicknames, “El Miclo” because when he was little he broke his right foot and he has a metal plate inserted, He is also known as “Botita” because his brother is nicknamed El Bota.

He is well liked and being older than many of the other students in Ayotzinapa, looked out for the younger ones and gave them advice. A fellow student describes him as a good guy and recalls the night of the 26th September 2014, “We were travelling on the same seat on the bus  and we had agreed not to wake each other up but then the bullets started coming we got off the bus and I ran one way and he ran the other I got back on the bus  but he was arrested by the Iguala police, I escaped and since then I have been searching for him”.

Miguel Ángel’s dad now has to harvest his maize alone, without the help of his son. His mother, who makes and sells atole, a hearty pre-hispanic drink of ground maize, cane sugar and flavoured with cinnamon, just wants her son back at home so that she can make him some. Hi niece, Estrella, who adores Miguel Ángel, misses him very much and struggles to come to terms with the fact that he is no longer around.

Yo, Jan Nimmo, Glasgow,Escocia, quiero saber dónde está Jorge Alvarez Nava. Digital Collage: © Jan Nimmo

Yo, Jan Nimmo, Glasgow,Escocia, quiero saber dónde está Jorge Alvarez Nava. Digital Collage: © Jan Nimmo

Abelardo Vázquez Peniten


Yo, Jan Nimmo, Glasgow, Escocia, quiero saber dónde está Abelardo Vázquez Peniten. Digital Collage: Jan Nimmo ©

Like many small towns in Guerrero that you might Google, you’ll find photos of landscapes, the town square, the church and amazing images of the local fiestas with the tlacololeros ready to do battle with jaguars. But these pictures are regularly punctuated with awful images that are difficult for the viewer; of cadavers, the victims of violence, sometimes sprawled on the ground, alone, or sometimes surrounded by a semi-circle of speechless townsfolk. I don’t pretend to know much of the circumstances of these random images that haunt me but I know that it is the context in which many ordinary campesino families live; indigenous campesino people whose life is a struggle to survive from day one. They are people who will no doubt dream of their children’s lot being better than theirs. So this is why the Normalista Rural Schools are so important. They are training young people from these small towns who will then, in turn, go back to teach in their own communities. Often they will become bilingual teachers. As educators these students are a threat to corrupt authorities, the police and insidious violent criminal gangs, like Guerreros Unidos, who have influence over the authorities. It is of no interest to any of these parties, or politicians further up the pecking order, to have the poor and the marginalised gaining more power over their lives.

Abelardo Vázquez Peniten, from Atliaca, is one of the Normalista students who dreams of making things better for his community. But he has been missing since the 26th Sept. 14, along with 42 of his fellow students from the Rural School in Ayotzinapa, who were forcibly disappeared by police and gangsters.

Abelardo, “El Abe”, is described by his fellow students as quiet, respectful and serious. He loves books and football. He is bilingual.

He used to help his Dad, who is a builder. His dad says he hopes that Abelardo is ok, that he’ll be home soon, but that the family are tired, sad, desperate, angry and still waiting for answers.

I have used some text in this portrait of Abelardo, from a song called Memories of Atliaca by Héctor Cárdenas Bello. This is a song about homesickness for Altliaca. (My English translation of the excerpt in the collage follows the Spanish). Wherever Abelardo is I’m sure he is missing his family and Atliaca, as his family and hometown miss him.

Recuerdos de Atliaca *

Ese lugarcito que se llama Atliaca,

reposa tranquilo, quietud sin igual,

me gusta es bonito, recuerdos de Atliaca

la paz de su iglesia que huele a copal

Sus calles derechas de viejo empedrado

evocan la historia que la vio nacer,

con casas de adobe, de palma y tejado,

recuerdos de Atliaca, quisiera volver

De mis ojos brota como manantial

el llanto que moja, tristeza es mi mal,

música de viento, canciones de Atliaca,

que triste me siento, quiero retornar

En mi pensamiento tus fiestas tus danzas,

tus viejas costumbres que me hacen llorar,

Pozo de Oztotempan la fe de tu pueblo

milagro de lluvia, ofrenda al creador

Deja que yo sienta el calor de tu suelo,

será mi consuelo cantarte mi amor,

recuerdos de Atliaca, dialecto canción

a la indita guapa de buen corazón

Tus nobles mujeres, todas de rebozo,

fieles al esposo al que saben amar

tus hombres valientes, a veces pacientes

saben defenderse, saben respetar

Esas tejerías de suelo tan rojo,

que mi llanto moja, ya no voy a ver

tus amaneceres que pinta la aurora,

es mi alma que llora que quiere volver

Caminos veredas, adiós ya me voy,

que lejos te quedas, mi canto te doy,

otle many villa, otle ya mi voy

ni mis caliva teva-ye vino canción

* Canción inédita de Héctor Cárdenas Bello

Memories of Atliaca  (extract)

My wet tears gush from my eyes like a spring

I am sad to the core,

Music of the wind, songs of Atliaca,

How sad I am, I want to go back

In my mind I see your fiestas and your dances

your ancient customs, and it brings me to tears

The well  at Oztotempan, the faith of your people

Miracle of rain, shrine to the Creator.

Let me feel the warmth of your soil

It will console me to sing to you, my love.

* Canción inédita de Héctor Cárdenas Bello

Jan Nimmo 9th of April 2015

Emiliano Alen Gaspar de la Cruz


Yo, Jan Nimmo, quiero saber dónde está Emiliano Alen Gaspar de la Cruz. Digital Collage: Jan Nimmo @

This is the nineteenth portrait in a series of the 43 disappeared Normalista students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos teacher training school in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero. Emiliano Alen Gaspar de la Cruz, known to his family as Alen, was given the nickname “Paisa Pilas” by his fellow students because he is quiet, serious and intelligent. He is passionate about becoming a teacher. Before he disappeared he’d help out his father in the milpa, which is an nahuatl word for an ancient Mesoamerican system of agriculture which intercrop maize, beans, chillies and other native crops.

He said to his mother, ” Mum, I’m going to stay and study in Ayotzinapa because that way, when I finish class, I’ll have time to help dad in the milpa“.

“Imagine our anger, our impotence”, says one of Alen’s nephews, “If they were the sons of businessmen, sons of so called important people, they’d be looking for them on land and at sea, right? But because these boys are the sons of campesinos the Government doesn’t give the matter any importance. So we feel anger and frustration, but most of all we feel great pain, but will still maintain the hope that they are alive. We know it and the President has given his version of events, because he is travelling abroad. He cares about business, he cares about investment. But he doesn’t care about the people. Peña Nieto is not going to fool us: they are alive and we are going to find them”.

(translated from an article in Animal Político 8/11/14)

Let’s hope he’s right.

Jhosivani Guerrero de la Cruz

Yo, Jan Nimmo,  Glasgow, Escocia, quiero saber dónde está Jhosivani Guerrero de la Cruz. Digital Collage: Jan Nimmo ©

Yo, Jan Nimmo, Glasgow, Escocia, quiero saber dónde está Jhosivani Guerrero de la Cruz. Digital Collage: Jan Nimmo ©

This is a tribute to Jhosivani Guerrero de la Cruz. His mother says he was mischievous as a young boy and that he liked to play with toy cars; he’d dismantle them and put them back together again or use the bits to invent something new. Later, as he grew older, he started to like baseball and football. He helped his parents out with chores such as looking after the hens or pigs and just before he disappeared his parents came home to find that he had cut the grass back. He wants to be a teacher because of the poverty that surrounds him. He wants to help his community. He’d say “I don’t want to be a campesino, I want to study, to get ahead so that I could look after you, Mum”. He wants to study chemistry. He is from Omeapa and is 20 years old.

His nickname is The Korean ( El Coreano) because of his almond eyes.

His sister describes his disappearance as a nightmare and says that the family just want to get back to normal.

Martina, his mother says “I feel bad, not having my son near to me, I love him so much, he knew that and wherever he is, I’m going to search for him. I want him back with me. They took him alive and I want him back alive”.




Saúl Bruno García

SaulGarciaBrunoOf the 43 students who were disappeared in Iguala on 26th September 2014, 8 were from Tecoanapa in the Costa Chica region of Guerrero. Saúl Bruno García was amongst them. Ever since he was a young boy he’d help about the house, in the kitchen and also in the countryside. Of all the children in the family he is the only one to have gone on to study. He wants to help his mum because he sees how hard she works. He wants to get a teaching qualification and to study graphic design to support his family. The other students in Ayotzinapa call him Chicharrón.

Tecoanapa means Tigre en la barranca in Nauatl, or River of the Jaguars. In this piece I have quoted a chilena “Tigre en La Barranca”…

Tecoanapa mi querido Tigre en Barranca/ Tecoanapa, my dear River of the Jaguars,

Donde los amantes cantan/ where lovers sing,

Cuando empieza a amanecer/as day dawns,

Tecoanapa, a mi gente este le dije/ Tecoanapa, this is what I have said to my kin,

Si me muero en la distancia/ If I were to die far away,

Mis restos traigan aquí/ bring my remains here.

(from a recording of Tigre en Barranca sung by Hector Morales).

His family and friends want him to come home to Tecoanapa alive. So do I.



Martín Getsemany Sánchez García

Yo, Jan Nimmo, Glasgow, quiero saber dónde está Martín Getsemany Sánchez García. Digital Collage: Jan Nimmo

Yo, Jan Nimmo, Glasgow, quiero saber dónde está Martín Getsemany Sánchez García. Digital Collage: Jan Nimmo

I am slowing progressing through my portraits of each of the Normalista students who were forcibly disappeared in Iguala last September. The students at the school “Raul Isidro Burgos” in Ayotzinapa come from all over the state of Guerrero and many of them are bilingual. Martín comes from Zumpango del Río, not terribly far from Chilpancingo.

In this piece I wanted to combine imagery from the region’s pre-Columbian past and Martín’s passion for the football team he supported, Deportivo Cruz Azul – “Los Azules”. I have used marigolds or cempazuchitl to decorate the piece because they are used to adorn the hats of the Tlacololeros so typical of his home town. The Tlacololeros or farmers perform a dance where 14 dancers hunt  two other dancers “piteros” dressed as jaguars or Tigres… the story goes that the farmers hunt and kill a jaguar who has been terrorising the community. The dance is performed in honour of Tlaloc, the God of Fertility and water so that he will provide rain to water the farmers’ crops. The dancers are accompanied by a reed flute and drums which to me seems reminiscent of the music of the tambolineros I hear at romerías in the Sierra de Huelva , in Southern Spain. I have  included some lyrics from a son de tarima tlacololeros in this collage.

Traditions such as these are what first attracted me to Guerrero.  The Tigre mask in this collage is one which I took home with me to Scotland and will be familiar to anyone who has visited my home. The mask has eyes made from mirrors so that the enemy would see their own fear reflected back at them. Now when I see the mask I still remember the wonderful masked dances, traditions and music of Guerrero, but the eyes reflect my own fears for the students and their families, whose questions go unanswered.