Ciudad Juárez mourns assassinated activist academic

The legacy of Dr. Manuel Arroyo Galvan was remembered in a large rally and march held June 3 in Ciudad Juárez. The 44-year-old sociology and education professor for the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez (UACJ) was shot to death in broad daylight in a May 29 killing that outraged a city practically numbed by more than 2,200 murders during the last 17 months.

Departing from the giant Mexican flag that overlooks the Rio Grande dividing Mexico from the US, an estimated 2,000 students, academics and community members marched through Ciudad Juárez’s bloodied streets demanding justice. They also demanded a halt to the militarization of their city, clarification of other murders and disappearances of UACJ students and faculty, an end to femicide, and a halt to threats against members of the university community.

Arroyo was well-respected as a scholar and activist who collaborated with community groups like the Independent Popular Organization and the Citizens Social Development Council. The son of a migrant family from the state of Durango, Arroyo worked in Ciudad Juárez’s maquiladora industry before embarking on an academic and community service career.

“He was someone who was committed to analysis and the social problematic of Ciudad Juárez,” said 32-year-old graduate student Luis Lara. “This will remain for some time.”

Felix Pérez, a founder of the Rio Bravo Environmentalist Alliance and an activist with the ALDEA community development organization, earlier offered a similar assessment of Arroyo’s life in comments to Frontera NorteSur news agency. Pérez studied under Arroyo for a master’s degree.

“It’s a huge loss because we know he was a person who gave a lot. He was a very good researcher, very studious and also socially committed,” Pérez said. “We think that not only was the life of a person in Ciudad Juárez extinguished, but also one of a very important person in the academic and research field. An important part of the university was destroyed.”

Arroyo was earlier honored at a June 1 ceremony held on the UACJ campus where the song “Rolling Stones” by the classic Mexican rock group Tri was played.

As with countless other slayings in Ciudad Juárez, no suspects are in custody for Arroyo’s murder and it is unclear why he was targeted. Theories include revenge for a legal complaint Arroyo reportedly filed over a stolen truck, the victim’s stumbling across sensitive information in the course of his research, and a case of mistaken identity. At the time of his murder, Arroyo was reportedly writing a book about social movements and doing research on violence in Ciudad Juárez.

“The climate of violence generated in more and more cities of our country is an inviting stew for the powers interested in silencing voices like those of Dr. Arroyo and which might act and commit unpunished acts like this one,” said a statement from faculty affiliated with El Colegio del Norte.

In addition to Arroyo, UACJ professor Gerardo González and student Jaime Alejandro Irigoyen were murdered in recent months. Two young students, Lidia Ramos Mancha and Monica Yaneth Alanis Esparza, are missing.

Arroyo’s slaying occurred at the beginning of an especially bloody weekend that reaped dozens of murders in Ciudad Juárez, most thought to be connected to the war that continues to rage between rival drug cartels. The sound of ambulances punctuates the city on a regular basis.

Ciudad Juárez’s Internet news site proclaimed, “Rivers of Blood Irrigate the State.”

The violence is escalating in spite of the deployment of nearly 10,000 Mexican soldiers and federal police. Partly acting as US border inspectors, Mexican troops conduct random searches of people entering and exiting Ciudad Juárez, and heavily-armed units of federal police are visible careening through the streets.

“The murders don’t stop,” said a newspaper vendor who would only identify himself as Carlos. “It’s worse every day. The authorities are unable to halt the violence.”

The killing of Dr. Manuel Arroyo Galvan touched many people. Yolanda Saenz, who attended the June 3 memorial and protest march for the community scholar said her daughter went missing last July 22 and her son was murdered on Nov. 22. “This is too much,” Saenz said. “I came to demand justice, because nobody is doing anything.”

Hugo Almada, UACJ researcher and personal friend of Arroyo, also attended the June 3 event. Shedding tears, Almada said the “seed” planted by his slain colleague had been a great one. “I want a place for you in heaven together with the women and men who struggled for others, for a more just and humane world,” Almada said. (Frontera NorteSur, June 4)

See our last posts on Mexico’s narco wars and Ciudad Juárez

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