Mexican Journalist Alma Guillermoprieto Speaks to Human Rights Law Society

On Monday, November 15, The Human Rights Law Society, a student organization at the University of Chicago Law School, welcomed renowned Mexican journalist Alma Guillermoprieto. Ms. Guillermoprieto  spoke about the development of her website, remembering the massacre of 72 Central and South American migrants—58 men and 14 women—in Mexico. The migrants were discovered in August on a ranch 100 miles south of the U.S. border in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. One survivor of the massacre, an Ecuadorean migrant, revealed that the migrants were kidnapped by an armed group that identified themselves as the Zetas, one of the most powerful, ruthless, technologically savvy, and well-armed Mexican cartels. The alleged drug-gang massacre is a horrifying example of the dangers facing migrants making the long and extremely difficult journey to the U.S. Particularly horrifying, as Ms. Guillermoprieto underlined in her talk, was that there is no explanation of why these people were killed. At this time, several of the massacred migrants remain unidentified, and the Mexican government’s investigation has been slow to identify and prosecute alleged perpetrators. 

Ms. Guillermoprieto created the website as an altar to commemorate and honor all of the massacred migrants and their loved ones. The online altar was unveiled on Mexico’s Day of the Dead this November. It features original texts, songs, and images by Mexican thinkers, creators, photographers, and designers. The collaborative composition of the altar is intended to reflect the Mexican and international communities’ distress at and response to the events. Ms. Guillermoprieto encouraged people to show their compassion for victims’ families by pledging a rose on the altar. 

After presenting to her audience at the Law School, Ms. Guillermoprieto addressed students’ questions about the broader problem of the international drug trade. She framed the drug trade as a franchise, in which the same individuals trafficking cocaine and marijuana are involved in human smuggling and pirated DVD and CD sales. Guillermoprieto also expressed concern about the over-legislation of drug crimes and the lack of legislation about migration. 

Ms. Guillermoprieto is a Tinker Visiting Professor in History through the University of Chicago's Center for Latin American Studies. Writing as a journalist for over 30 years, she has published extensively on social and political life in Latin America and on U.S.-Mexico relations. She is a MacArthur Fellow and winner of the George Polk Award for Foreign Reporting. She has written for The Guardian, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, and The New York Review of Books. She was also South America bureau chief for Newsweek. Her books include The Heart That Bleeds, Looking for History, and Dancing with Cuba. She stated in her talk that this was her first time speaking at a law school.