My son decided to leave the community to get ahead in life and at the same time, as a teacher, help out others that could use a little help. In this case he was thinking about the youth of the poorest towns in Guerrero where the children are marginalized and don’t receive the education they deserve as humans. This is his great interest in life: to do his part to help those that need help.
- Nardo Flores Vásquez
“Everyone here has a missing person in their family,” says Isabel Alcaraz, referring to Atoyac de Álvarez, in the Sierra Madre of the state of Guerrero. It is here that Bernardo Flores Alcaraz grew up among his cousins and friends, happy, in spite of the violence and despair his family has endured, simply because they are relatives of Lucio Cabañas Barrientos, “The Tiger of Atoyac,” founder of the Partido de los Pobres (The Party of the Poor), who campaigned for justice and education for the poor. Cabañas’ relatives collectively suffered the wrath of the military and police forces that swept through the area in the counter-insurgency campaigns of the 1970s. The family faced harassment, endured countless threats, were repeatedly robbed, and forced off their land. Several were taken to detention centers at the military base in Pie de la Cuesta or clandestine prisons in Acapulco and Mexico City. One night when Bernardo was seven years old, he and his siblings hid under a bed while state police battled guerrillas of the Popular Revolutionary Army outside his home.
Like Cabañas, Bernardo picked coffee in the mountains on the family’s plantation. He would help his father Don Nardo grow beans and corn in the milpa. (The milpa entails a rotation of annual crops with a series of managed and enriched intermediate stages of short-term perennial shrubs and trees, culminating in the re-establishment of mature closed forest on the once-cultivated parcel. The milpa cycle allows for natural regeneration of vegetation and can be sustained indefinitely.)
Nardo, as they call him in his family, has three brothers. When he was a child he liked to participate in the El Cortés dance, which reproduces the resistance of the indigenous population before the Spanish conquest and is typical of his municipality. At home, he has two dogs and many roosters. If he finds a wounded animal, it is in his nature to care for it until it is healed. Bernardo considered studying veterinary medicine in Coahuila, but it was too far away and he wanted to visit his home more often. Like Cabañas, Bernardo entered the Raul Isidro Burgos Normal Rural in Ayotzinapa and became politically active. A second year student on the night of the attacks in Iguala, he was the organizer of the bus-commandeering activity. Bernardo is named for his grandfather, who is a teacher. His grandmother, mother, and four of her five siblings are teachers. Bernardo’s mother taught many of the people in their village to read and write. Everyone there knows this and appreciates it. That is why Bernardo wants to become a teacher.