The Long Run: Father of Missing Mexican Student Finishes New York Marathon to Call for Son's Return

November 06, 2015
Web Exclusive

Antonio Tizapa crossed the finish line of the New York City Marathon Sunday holding a poster of his son’s face. Tizapa’s son, Jorge Antonio Tizapa Legideño, is one of the 43 students from Ayotzinapa rural teachers’ college missing from the Mexican state of Guerrero since the night of September 26, 2014, when they were attacked by local police. The Mexican government has claimed the students were killed and incinerated by a local drug gang. But Mexican news reports and an independent investigation have cast doubt on the Mexican government’s account and pointed to the role of the Mexican military and federal police in the students’ disappearance. Amid international protest, the Mexican government has reopened the investigation, and the United States has cut off $5 million in drug war aid to Mexico, a tiny fraction of the billions it has provided.

Along the route of the New York City Marathon, supporters of Antonio Tizapa lined up with posters showing the faces of the 43 missing students and continued to demand they be returned alive. Others ran the marathon alongside Tizapa, including Amado Tlatempa, a cousin of two of the 43 missing students. At the end of the race, Tizapa delivered a message to his son. "I want him to know that I am far away, but I have been fighting to find him," Tizapa said. "I hope that it’s not too far from now that they return them—that they return him and his fellow students."

Special thanks to Igor Moreno, Juan Carlos Dávila, Clara Ibarra, Linda Artola, Clàudia Prat, Elia Gran, Rachael Bongiorno and Hugo Rojas for their work on this report.

Click here to see our previous interview with Antonio Tizapa and Amado Tlatempa.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

MARTÍN TIZAPA: [translated] I am Martín Tizapa, and we’re here supporting my brother, Mr. Antonio Tizapa, in the New York Marathon today, November 1st. We are supporting him because his son is kidnapped by the "narcogovernment" of Mexico. We have many people here. The people are here waiting in order to keep spreading the message and to keep up the support so that they return the boys.

MARÍA SALVADOR: [translated] I am María Salvador. I’m Mexican, and I’m from Puebla. They’re disappearing the young people and the children who are preparing for a better future in Mexico. The Mexican government feels that youth is a threat, and that’s not the case. The young people want to study, they want to prepare themselves. The children of Mexican parents who are here in New York also want to study, they want to better themselves. We want peace. We want our children and our young people free of corruption. And to the athletes, we say that we want them to support our youth, support our children, that they look for the 43 students, that they support us, that they support mothers and fathers who are looking for their children. And as a mother, I can’t imagine my two children disappeared. That’s why I’m supporting this cause.

Vamos México! Vamos Ayotzi! Vamos Ayotzi! Adelante! [Let’s go Mexico! Let’s go Ayotzinapa! Let’s go Ayotzinapa! Keep going!]

RUNNER: Gracias por el apoyo.

PHYLLIS SICKERMAN: My name is Phyllis Sickerman. I think all the people deserve answers, and the Mexican government is not doing anything. And I think it’s a major embarrassment for everybody. And all the families and friends have a right to know. And they just can’t be among the other—just all the other disappeared people in Mexico. They need answers for once. I also think the American government is complicit in everything that’s going on in Mexico. They are encouraging it, supporting it and contributing to it.

ERIK ALMEIDA: [translated] The most important thing is to never forget the crimes that our government has been committing, because that is the intention, after all. We experienced this with 1968. It was an enormous massacre, and it was hidden. The news outlets said that that day was sunny. That was the only thing they said. And Ayotzinapa is something very similar. So the intention is to say, well, here in New York we have a greater freedom to access information, and therefore we have the obligation and responsibility to inform ourselves and be aware and organize groups to create awareness amongst our compatriots and people who are Spanish-speaking, who have greater access to information, and the people of the United States, too, because their taxes are bringing the money for weapons into Mexico, which are the cause of what happened in Ayotzinapa. My name is Erik Almeida. In New York, we are all Ayotzinapa.

AMADO TLATEMPA: [translated] I’m Amado Tlatempa, cousin of two of the missing students. This is my eighth New York marathon and the 15th marathon I’ve run in my life. I’m 35 years old. This marathon is different, because this time I ran for a cause—for the boys. And I’m satisfied for having done it and for bringing a message to more people of other nationalities. So, to wear the T-shirt that says "Ayotzinapa 43" and to carry the message so that more people know what’s happening in Mexico and, more than anything, what has happened with the boys.

ANTONIO TIZAPA: [translated] There were people here that I don’t know, but who have learned about what happened in Ayotzinapa. And when I passed by them running, they shouted, "Ayotzinapa 43!," "Alive, we want them!," things like that. And that is very beautiful. It’s very beautiful because we know the support is alive. First of all, when I started doing this, a few friends saw me and told me, "We have run the marathon, and we have never seen you." In the beginning, it was this that motivated me. But after, with everything that happened with the Ayotzinapa case, this motivated me even more, to 100 percent. I said, "Now, more than ever, I am going to train, and I am going to run the marathon." I know the number of people who come to this marathon. This year we’re almost 73,000 runners, so this is a great opportunity to spread awareness of what is happening to us.

Right now we are meeting up. I think we are about 12 or 15 of us running for Ayotzinapa, and I hope in the future there will be more—20 or 25, whichever quantity is possible. I know that with what we are doing, many runners will unite together with us, with the parents. And more than anything, here in New York, with the silent protests, whether you like it or not, they are having an impact.

More than anything, we want New Yorkers to become aware of what is happening to us, that the U.S. government is sending weapons, that the tiny cut in aid to Mexico which the government made, it’s good to start somewhere. That shows that the protests we are holding are having a positive impact. If we had not been doing these protests, they would not even have made the small cut in aid to Mexico that they did. So we realize that, with the statements of Bolivian President Evo Morales; former Uruguayan President José Mujica also said something, too—one or two words, but he said it. So that means we are causing a ruckus. And we are saying enough is enough, that we want them alive. And I think they are the first public people, and they are important, like all of you, but they draw attention. And logically, eyes are on them, and if they say one, two or three words with respect to the Ayotzinapa case, this is good for us and bad for the Mexican government.

Running the marathon was very emotional, to know that I am doing something so that they return my son. I hope that he sees this video, wherever he might be. I know that maybe the news has reached him, and I think they know we are looking for them. We know they are watching. So, wherever he is, if he manages to see this message, I want him to know that I am far away, but I have been fighting to find him. And I hope that it’s not too far from now that they return them, that they return him and his fellow students.

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