#Ayotzinapa: Supporters of missing Mexican students use their nude bodies as protest art

“In our society, it’s more alarming to see a naked body, than to see a charred cadaver in column 8 of the newspaper.” Contains nude images.

While covering the story of the missing 43 Ayotzinapa students, I saw a lot of protest photos on social media that expressed how people from around the world felt about the situation in Mexico.

None took me by surprised more than the 14 “human billboard” nude protest photos that were released on Tumblr on Monday, Jan. 26, titled, “Poner el Cuerpo, Sacar la Voz” loosely translated to, “Using the Body, Expressing our Voice.” The release of the photos taken by photographer Édgar Olguín, marked the four-month anniversary of the student’s disappearance.

The photography is shocking. I actually even debating writing about it. Was it adding to the dialogue? Was it too sensational?

Alejandra Díaz, human billboard, her body sign reading, “Four months, Impunity” Photo by Édgar Olguín

As quoted in La Jornada, a leading Mexico City daily newspaper, Claudia Híjar, a member of the collective who created the human billboard protests stated, “We have decided to use the naked body and play with the space to give birth to these human billboards, who are screaming to our society that seems to have fainted [fallen asleep] in light of the situations that we have to live through as a country.”

Édgar Olguín, the photographer behind the project said,

“In our society, it’s more alarming to see a naked body, than to see a charred cadaver in column 8 of the newspaper.”

Karen Yasmín, Victor G, Alejandra Díaz as human billboards in Colonia Roma, an artsy, upper middle class neighborhood in Mexico City. Their bodies reflect the names of other cities in Mexico that have experienced masacres and dissapearences. Photo by Édgar Olguín
Sara Juárez, human billboard. Her sign reads, “The State is the Assassin” Photo by Édgar Olguín

Because nudity is not allowed on many social media sites like Facebook or Instagram, the group found space on Tumblr.

The photography for the human billboards were all done around the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Metro carts, entrances for the Metro and bus lines, public bridges and public sidewalks.

Karen Yasmín, human billboard. Her body sign reading, “It was the Military” Photo by Édgar Olguín

Sara Juárez, an actress and student of dramatic literature and theatre told La Jornada that the most impactful moment she experienced while doing this protest was on the Metro line where she removed her clothes in front of passengers. She said the silence became heavy and overwhelming. In other occasions, there was nervous laughter, cold stares, insults, some cried out for censorhisp and mothers would cover their children’s eyes.

Yet, despite the negative reactions, many expressed support of the peculiar protest — an unexpected twist for organizers.

Sara Juárez, human billboard on Metro with commuters. Her sign reads, #YaMeCanse, “#IAmTired,”a popular hashtag for the movement.Photo by Édgar Olguín

On Tuesday, Jan. 27, the day after the release of the project and a global day of action for justice, the Mexican government declared that the missing 43 students were dead and pointed fingers towards the cartel, Guerreros Unidos.

Jesús Murillo Karam, attorney general of Mexico stated in a press conference, “The evidence allows us to determine that the students were kidnapped, killed, burned and thrown into the river.”

Parents of the missing students, those following the disappearance of the 43 in question, as well as other disappearances in general, believe that it’s not only the cartels, but the government that is involved at the highest levels.

The project has goals to continue to grow, not stay quiet, and continue protesting injustice with their bodies.

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