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MU’S Hispanic American Leadership Organization Honors 43 Missing Students

COLUMBIA- New DNA evidence led to renewed worldwide protests including a candlelight vigil coordinated by MU’s Hispanic American Leadership Organization.

HALO began planning the candlelight vigil two weeks ago.  According to HALO’s president, Andrew Abarca, the goals were to honor the identity of the 43 missing students, raise awareness of the injustice, and to make a change.  People who came together for the vigil held candles or posters.

The 43 students who disappeared in Mexico were detained by police and then suspected to have been turned over to the Guerreros Unidos cartel.  The cartel is suspected of then killing the students. 

Jessica Cruz Banuelos, a member of HALO, says she has lost faith in the Mexican government but emphasized the importance of peaceful protest.

“I know a lot of people are protesting Mike Brown and all the violence that’s going on here but I think people have to open their eyes and realize it’s all over the world and it’s getting worse and worse because we’re letting it,” Banuelos said.

HALO members and advocates who joined the vigil read the names of the missing students along with statements from the victims’ families.

During the vigil there was four minutes of silence. A HALO member explained the number four represented the number of hours it took for Mexican citizens to realize the students were missing.

“I’m here because it’s really emotional for me,” Banuelos said.  “I’ve lost family members from the drug wars.  So to see 43 students actually get taken handed over to the cartels by the government is just really sad for me.”

President of HALO, Andrew Abarca says his grandfather grew up in Guerrero before coming to the United States. He says that Mexican citizens do not know who to trust because the government is corrupt.

“This is meant to be a movement this is meant to change the Mexican government because people are tired and sick of it,” Abarca said.   Living in constant fear in Mexico, I can’t imagine being a citizen there.”

It is frustrating for Banuelos to not be able to protest in Mexico due to school.

“It’s scary because my family does go to Mexico and its scary to go over there and to think that even the government can betray you.”

Banuelos says it is not about just Hispanics fighting for Mexico or Black people fighting for Mike Brown because, “we’re fighting essentially for the same cause.”

“Don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable. Be in the rain, be cold.  That’s what’s gonna make a difference not being safe in your house.”

HALO is the first Latino organization at MU that started in 1991to create a family experience for students and for students to understand diversity and inclusivity.  Part of its mission is to advocate for Latino issues around the world.

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