He has always told me that I am everything to him, and as my youngest son, I also told him, 'Son, you are everything to me'
- Carmelita Cruz Mendoza
Jorge Aníbal Cruz Mendoza grew up with his older brother and younger sister in the community of Xalpatláhuac, municipality of Tecoanapa, in the Costa Chica region of Guerrero. Jorge Anibal is quiet, dedicated and intelligent, with the nickname of El Chivo (the goat), and sometimes, El Chivo Triste (the sad goat) because he is often serious.
When her children were young, Mari Carmen (Carmelita) Cruz Mendoza became a single mother one day when her husband did not return home. Unable to earn a living to care for her family on her own, Carmelita left Guerrero for Seattle, Washington. There she worked two shifts in fast food chains, twelve hours a day, six days a week. For two hours before work each morning she studied and practiced English. Carmelita maintained this routine for five years, sending home money, clothes, and shoes for her children who were left in the care of her sister and mother. In return, her children sent letters and drawings, and painted flowers for Carmelita’s birthdays that she spent alone. For her, the sadness of separation was worth giving her children a better life.
When Carmelita returned home to Xalpatláhuac to work as a preschool class assistant, “Jorgito” was 14 years old. While she was away he had discovered a love for the jaripeo (bull riding,) and found an accomplice in his uncle Edelberto, who would secretly accompany him to competitions. Carmelita found out when her brother proudly texted her a picture of her son in chaps, boots, and spurs, up on a bull. She quickly put an end to her son’s pass-time. Every year Jorge Aníbal trained his white horse to race in the Festival of San Juan Bautista, the patron saint of Xalpatláhuac.
After finishing high school Jorge Aníbal entered the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College but did not make it through the testing week, the decision to leave one that he would later regret. He spent the next year working as a waiter in Mexico City, in order to save money to support his studies, spending only his tips, he managed to save 20 thousand pesos, and offered the wages to his mother: “Mommy, what is mine is for you."
Carmelita wanted her son to stay in Mexico City and study at UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico,) but Jorge Aníbal had always wanted to be at Ayotzinapa. This time, just as he had prepared for the races, he prepared himself for the entrance exams and entry period. Although he was strong because he played in the local soccer team, he started an exercise routine with his cousin Carlos. At six in the morning they ran from Xalpatláhuac to the town of Saucito and back, about two hours. During the afternoon they repeated the itinerary having fun discussing what music to listen to. Jorge Aníbal easily passed the exams of the rural normal and entered the school again, this time completing the initial period alongside his cousins, the brothers, Doriam and Jorge Luis González Parral who were also disappeared the night of September 26 in Iguala.
Jorge Aníbal Cruz Mendoza is the normalista who demolished the government’s “historical truth.” On November 7, 2014, then Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam asserted that on the night of September 26, 2014, the 43 forcibly disappeared students were turned over to the Guerreros Unidos organized crime gang and incinerated for fourteen hours, (along with their belongings, including cell phones,) in a garage dump in Cocula, beginning at midnight. At 1:16 on the morning of September 27, 76 minutes after the bonfire allegedly began, Carmelita Cruz Mendoza received a text message from her son asking her to add funds into his cellphone account: “Mom, can you put a recharge on me."
In February 2016, investigators from the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF) rejected the Mexican government’s version of events that the students were incinerated in the Cocula dump, finding nothing to suggest a single fire was ignited there the night of the students’ disappearance.
“Wherever my son is he can be proud of me because I will look for him until I find him, and that he knows that I love him, I really love him. I welcomed him into this world with so much love, with that same love I continue my search for him."