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Javier and María del Tránsito

HRDs, Teachers

Javier and María del Tránsito, teachers and human rights defenders from Salvatierra, Guanajuato, Mexico, had dedicated their lives to teaching. When the crisis of disappearances – a widespread phenomenon in Mexico whereby people are taken/disappear without warning – increased in their area, and personally affected them, they shifted their time and energy to activism on the issue of disappearances.

According to data from the National Search Commission (CNB), this year 372 people have been reported as disappeared in the state of Guanajuato. On 29 February 2020, Maria and Javier’s daughter Guadalupe, also a teacher, went missing. In February 2021, thanks to the work of the Barajas family and the collective work of other families also searching for their loved ones, Guadalupe's body was identified in a clandestine grave along with 80 other bodies1. This highlighted the crisis of disappearances in the state that the government had failed to adequately address.

After finding their daughter; Javier, Mária Tránsito and Javier's son (Javier Junior) continued searching for other disappeared persons in the state, meeting members of other collectives and advancing the search for truth and justice with the authorities. Javier Barajas Junior joined the State Search Commission to support other families and relatives of missing persons. Unfortunately, this led to Javier being killed on 29 May 2021 by individuals linked to the disappearance of his sister1. This tragedy caused Javier and María del Tránsito to leave the state to protect themselves.

Despite the pain of having lost their son and daughter, and the threats and risks they faced in trying to find the disappeared, Javier and María del Tránsito have continued to demand truth and justice for the disappearance and murder of their children and for the thousands of other families who have lost loved ones with no answers or action from authorities. They continue to work with collectives searching for the disappeared, and have tried to spread their message further by sharing their circumstances and situation with international bodies such as the CED Committee, embassies and other authorities. They have promoted actions to make visible the plight of the families of the disappeared and the need for justice, the consequences of the illegal flow of arms from the USA, and the risks faced by defenders who continue to demand truth and justice.

Human rights defenders (HRDs) and journalists in Mexico are subject to intimidation, legal harassment, arbitrary detention, death threats, acts of physical aggression, enforced disappearances and killings as a result of their activities in defence of human rights and the exercise of freedom of expression and journalism.

Disappearances are endemic in Mexico, often happening with collusion from the state. HRDs working on the issue face serious risk, up to and including death. HRDs working in the defence of territory, particularly indigenous territory, face a similar level of risk. They are criminalised, imprisoned, defamed, and often killed. Journalists working on any of these issues, or issues related to the drugs trade and the government's complicity in this, also run the risk of losing their lives.