A project by Forensic Architecture in collaboration with Centro Prodh, EAAF, and MUAC for the families of the disappeared.
An interactive cartographic platform visualizes, for the first time, the attacks on the night of 26-27 September 2014 that led to the disappearance of the 43 students from the Rural Normal School of Ayotzinapa in the town of Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico.
Using interactive maps and 3D reconstructions, the platforms reveals:
- The progression, escalation and geographic spread of the violence during the attacks
- The level of coordination and collusion between state agencies and organized crime
- The extent of the disruption and distortion of evidence by state agencies
Mexico City / London, 7 September 2017 – The case of the 43 disappeared students from Ayotzinapa, Mexico has been comprehensively reconstructed, for the first time, showing the entirety of the known events that took place on the night of 26-27 September 2014 in and around the town of Iguala, in Guerrero, based on the findings of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) and investigative journalism.
The interactive platform, including 3D models and videos, is meant to help the families and friends of the disappeared as well as the general public make sense of the different narratives of the event.
It also aims to provide a forensic tool for investigators to research this uniquely haunting story of violence, obscuration and collusion.
As the three-year anniversary of this brutal attack on students from the Rural Normal School of Ayotzinapa in Iguala of 26th-27th of September 2014 approaches, there remains no trace of the students. Their whereabouts are still unknown and their status as ‘disappeared’ remains. Contributing the maintenance of that status, the Mexican state still promotes an inconsistent and fraudulent narrative of the events of that night.
Commissioned by Equipo Argentino de Antropología Forense (EAAF) and the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center (Center Prodh), acting on behalf of the families of the victims, Forensic Architecture, a University of London-based investigative agency specializing in spatial and data analysis, has designed a unique, interactive platform able to map and examine the multiple overlapping and conflicting narratives of that night.
The platform, constructed through the collection, analysis, and cross-referencing of open-source data, available at www.plataforma-ayotzinapa.org, will be part of an exhibition at the University Museum for Contemporary Art (MUAC) from the 9th of September 2017 until January 2018.
Project and methodology
Forensic Architecture is a research agency based at Goldsmiths, University of London. It works with civil society groups worldwide to provide advance spatial and media evidence of human rights violations. Composed of architects, journalists, coders and filmmakers, the group works on behalf of international prosecutors, human rights organisations, as well as political and environmental justice groups. Its evidence files were presented in international and national courts human rights reports, and the United Nations.
The stages of this project included:
Research: Forensic Architecture examined multiple publicly available sources of evidence, including “case documents” and reports produced by the Mexican Federal Prosecutor’s (PGR) controversial investigation in the case, from the two comprehensive reports prepared by the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) and the available work of journalists such as John Gibler.
Data Mining: The text in the above mentioned reports has been converted into thousands of data points that were each classified according to multiple tags, times and places.
Mapping: Forensic Architecture conceived a unique, interactive platform where the different data points are a mapped in time and space. This mapping allows for relations between the multiple bits of evidence to become clear, revealing plenty of contradictions between different accounts, and point to possible collusion between different actors operating on the ground.
Presentation: The publically available products of this work include:
- An interactive map overlaid on a satellite image of the town of Iguala, reconstructing events in time and space, looking at the relation between actors, incidents and two–way communications, throughout that night in and around Iguala.
- Interactive 3D models of three of the crime scenes.
- A series of videos exploring themes and narrative derived from the research.
- An exhibition at the Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC) in Mexico City where this investigation will be presented to the general public and where the public will be instructed on the use of the platform.
Stories that have emerged from the platform
The project gives a minute-by-minute account of the night, and demonstrates spatial patterns between agents and factors of evidence. The analysis of the data has also given rise to several narratives:
- The platform clearly demonstrate the geographical extent of the attacks and its pattern of escalation. This reconstruction demonstrates that the different forces on the scene — municipal police from three different localities, ministerial, state and federal police, the military and members of criminal organisations — were acting in different capacities throughout the night: as perpetrators or observers of violence, or in the obstruction of justice.
- The platform traces the coordination, collusion and omission related to the case: an agent of the military intelligence unit witnessed, for almost an hour, the assaults against a group of students who were subsequently forcibly disappeared near the Palacio de Justicia (Courthouse) in Iguala. This intelligence agent took photographs and videos of the incident, while reporting everything back, in real time, to his superiors. The work produced by Forensic Architecture recreates the field of vision of this military agent, proving that he was able to witness the attacks and the subsequent disappearance of this group of students. This recreation also showed that he was a witness to the detention and harassment of students who arrived at the scene on bus Estrella Roja 3278 bus, also known as the “fifth bus”.
- Patterns in the destruction of evidence: This very attack near the state courthouse of the Palacio de Justicia was captured by the courthouse’s exterior security cameras. The video files were however destroyed by the Judiciary office of Guerrero, citing technical difficulties and explaining that the images on the videos were of no interest. Challenging this claim, Forensic Architecture has reconstructed the field of vision of the security cameras, showing they would have recorded the last moment the students on the Estrella de Oro 1531 bus were driven away alive, before they disappeared, the direction in which the police would have taken the disappeared students.
Exhibition at MUAC
All the material released today will be continuously available to the public not only through the online platform, but by an exhibition at the Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC), as part of a larger exhibition of Forensic Architecture’s work, curated by Rosario Güiraldes. From the time of its opening on Saturday the 9th of September (at 1:00 pm) to its closure, in early January 2018.
The museum will provide a hub for introducing the public into the investigation and guiding people in the use of the platform.