The government continues to violate the human rights of indigenous peoples, the poor and now even students. When you’re poor you always think at least you have your family. But here in Mexico, if you’re poor, they take that from you too.
- Hilda Legideño Vargas
Hilda Legideño Vargas says her son Jorge Antonio has a dimple in his left cheek that is not often seen in photographs. His sober expression in most of the pictures she has of him do not reveal the joy he has for life, a happiness not overshadowed by the adverse and violent conditions in which the family has always lived. “He’s a little boy,” Doña Hilda says. He likes music, dancing, parties, and watching cartoons. He is sociable, friendly, considerate, and humorous. "As a child he told me that he was going to arrive with his plane to park it on the roof.”
The Tizapa Legideño family is from Tixtla, Guerrero, near the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College. Jorge Antonio is the middle of three children, between older sister Carol and younger brother Iván. Their father, Antonio Tizapa, has been working in the United States as a plumber since 1999, when Jorge Antonio was five yeas old. When his three children were younger, the family had to make the difficult decision for Don Antonio to emigrate in order to give the children a better life. The poverty and marginalization that has been imposed on them meant that sometimes he and Doña Hilda did not have enough money to feed their children. From New York, Don Antonio kept an eye on his children in Tixtla, with whom he used to talk or write almost every day. The phone calls to his children only shortened the distance momentarily: “When he was seven or eight years old, he would go to bed and I would stay on the line listening to him falling asleep.”
Doña Hilda supplements the household income through her artistry. She designated a space in her home where she works as an artisan, making paper flowers, piñatas and accessories. She initially taught herself by making simple piñatas for her children's birthdays. Later, she enrolled in courses in order to make specialized crafts like papel picado and the curtains for the religious celebrations so frequent in Tixtla.
Jorge Antonio is often followed by children. His nephew, to whom he is very attached, calls him "dad." Those who know him do not doubt that he would become a great elementary teacher. After high school at Emiliano Zapata High School no. 29 in Tixtla, Jorge Antonio suspended his studies for a period of two years in order to support his then-infant daughter Naomy. In 2014, he entered the rural normal in Ayotzinapa and became fully integrated into the agricultural work at the school, growing grains and vegetables because the funds from the state government are not adequate for the 500 students. During this time, he also continued his employment as a public transport driver on the Tixtla-Atliaca route, in order to provide a future for Naomy.
Doña Hilda and her son have always been close. On her birthdays and Mother’s Day, he would give her chocolates, roses, and plenty of hugs. The house he built in anticipation of fatherhood is adjacent to hers. Mother and son would dream about the family's future on opposite sides of the brick wall they shared. Jorge Antonio would often sneak away from school at Ayotzinapa to visit Doña Hilda, returning with food to share with his fellow students. The day before the Ayotzinapa normal admission exam, Jorge Antonio Tizapa Legideño turned 20 years old. Since she knew that she would not see her son in a while, Doña Hilda prepared his favorite dish: Tlixteco cold meat - a combination of three meats and a bittersweet sauce called "agrito" - accompanied by white bread. The dish is usually a luxury the family can only afford during the December holidays.
At Doña Hilda’s house there is a birthday letter for Jorge Antonio, waiting to be read:
“You are the most important thing in my life, you and your siblings are the greatest treasure that God has given me. Son, you really need to be with us, your brothers, your family, your daughter Naomy and I miss you too much. I pray to God every day to see you again, embrace you, kiss you. You know I'm not going to stop looking for you…”
Due to the negligence of state and federal authorities in the investigations after the attacks in Iguala, in January 2015 a series of independent searches for the 43 disappeared students of Ayotzinapa was organized. Hilda Legideño was one of the few women to volunteer for the brigades despite the enormous risk.
On one of these occasions, the search took place in an abandoned mining complex around the city of Iguala, and was expected to be a particularly dangerous expedition. Faced with the refusal for women to join, Doña Hilda waited as the search team gathered their things and boarded the trucks for Iguala. When the engines started, she climbed her way in one of the vehicles to the protests and the astonishment of the men. "They had no choice but to accept that I was there. I showed that I could accompany them. And since then I focused on searches.” From that day, Doña Hilda and other mothers of the disappeared began to be part of the searches.
Since the night of September 26, 2014, Hilda Legideño has not stopped looking for her son. Antonio Tizapa is an unwavering presence at the Mexican Consulate in NY, and has led demonstrations at the United Nations and the Mexican Embassy in Washington, DC. He raises awareness of human rights violations worldwide through his international running club of amateur athletes, Running for Ayotzinapa 43, and demands the return of his son with each step he takes in every race he runs, and with each breath. The parents or Jorge Antonio are burdened by pain but sustained by love, and their hope for justice as they await the return of their son.