I demand that the government returns the 43 students. A mom becomes desperate when her child doesn’t return home. The sun comes up, the sun goes down without an answer because the government won’t give us one. We have no confidence in the government; they’ve offered us money, and they’ve offered us houses, but as a mother, I just want to see my son.
- Delfina de la Cruz
The Abraján de la Cruz family home in the El Fortín neighborhood of Tixtla sits at the end of a narrow, winding road on a hill overlooking the mountainous landscape. Just a 10-minute drive from Ayotzinapa, many of the students at the teachers college come from this the town of just 40,000 people. In the closely knit neighborhood, people speak of Adán Abraján de la Cruz as a man of principle. The human quality he admires most is humility, and although money runs short in the household, he is more than content with what he values most, his two children.
Bernabé Abraján and Delfina de la Cruz recall that when their son Adán was a child, he was always dancing, and was able to memorize the lyrics to songs after just hearing them once. His ability to memorize was an asset to him in school, even though he didn’t much care for his studies.
Adán met Erica de la Cruz Pascual on the soccer field at Emiliano Zapata High School no. 29 in Tixtla. They were both defenders, and they both fell in love. Adán has always been a quiet romantic, playing corridos on his guitar; he serenaded Erica when they first began dating. When Erica became pregnant they both left high school to prepare for the birth of their son, José Ángel, a dancer and naughty boy like his dad. From Monday to Friday Adán worked to support his family, and on Saturday he went to school. He finished his studies a year later and received his high school certificate.
Six years after Ángel was born, the family welcomed their daughter Allison. After a seven-year interruption in his studies, working to support the family, Adán wanted to study a career. For him it meant the opportunity to give his children a better life, and also to set an example for them. With the full support of his family, in July 2014 he entered the Normal Rural of Ayotzinapa.
Adán always told Erica he would protect her and he worked hard to create a home environment in which she felt safe. After eight years and two children together, Adán asked Erica to marry him. She said yes immediately, and the two were married in a civil ceremony shortly before he left to study in Ayotzinapa. The church ceremony was being planned when Adán disappeared.
Playful and engaging, Adán always continued to play soccer regularly, inspiring Ángel’s own passion. But most of all, Adán loved to pamper his children, surprising his son at school during lunchtime and coming home from Ayotzinapa unannounced.
The last day that Erica saw Adán was Thursday, September 25, 2014. She was not expecting him, and heard the familiar sound of his soccer cleats on the concrete staircase outside. He had finished playing in a little field near the El Fortín neighborhood and took the opportunity to visit his family. He had not seen his children and his wife for two months, because of the strict rules during the test week at Ayotzinapa.
Ángel has cherished memories of his father: when Adán took him to see a bullfight and carried him home after he fell asleep, when he helped his father carry cement to a construction job and when he took him and Allison to Acapulco for a brief holiday. He holds them close until his father returns home and they can build new ones together.
In the absence of Adán, Erica has become mother, father and defender of their children. Adán’s parents have all but abandoned the family’s crops, and exist on a diet of little sleep and exhausting marches. Agustina and Isabel, Adán’s sisters, have kept their heartache bottled up, working odd jobs and taking care of the family.
Don Bernabé feels like time has stood still ever since Adán went missing at the age of 24. “Neither forward nor backward.”