The Ayotzinapa Case

The Ayotzinapa Case

A Cartography of Violence

In collaboration with Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez (Centro Prodh), Equipo Argentino de Antropología Forense (EAAF), and Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC) for the families of the victims.

On the night of 26-27 September 2014, students from the Rural Normal School of Ayotzinapa were attacked in the town of Iguala, Guerrero, by local police in collusion with criminal organisations. Numerous other branches of the Mexican security apparatus either participated in or witnessed the events, including state and federal police and the military. Six people were murdered, including three students. Forty more were wounded, and forty-three students were forcibly disappeared.

The whereabouts of the disappeared students remains unknown, and their status as ‘disappeared’ persists to this day. Instead of attempting to solve this historic crime, the Mexican state has failed the victims, and the rest of Mexican society, by constructing a fraudulent and inconsistent narrative of that night’s events.

Forensic Architecture was commissioned by – and worked in collaboration with – the Equipo Argentino de Antropologia Forense (EAAF) and Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez (Centro Prodh) to conceive of an interactive cartographic platform to map out and examine the different narratives of this event. The project aims to reconstruct, for the first time, the entirety of the known events that took place that night in and around Iguala and to provide a forensic tool for researchers to further the investigation.

The data on which the platform is based draws from publicly-available investigations, videos, media stories, photographs and phone logs. We transposed the accounts presented across these sources into thousands of data points, each of which has been located in space and time and plotted within the platform in order to map incidents throughout the night, and the complex relationships between them. This demonstrates, in a clear graphic and cartographic form, the scale of collusion and coordination between state agencies and organised crime throughout the night.

In this way, the project reveals a cartography of violence spanning from the street corner level to the entire state of Guerrero. It describes an act of violence that is no longer a singular event but a prolonged act, which persists to this day in the continued absence of the 43 students.

It also seeks to demonstrate the ways in which collective civil society initiatives, undertaking independent investigations using innovative analytical tools, could help investigate complex crimes and confront criminal impunity and the failures of Mexican law enforcement.

In particular, it reaffirms our commitment to heal the open wound of the Ayotzinapa case and to work until the truth of the night is clarified, and the students’ whereabouts are known.

In addition to the platform, this project will be exhibited as part of Forensic Architecture: Towards an Investigative Aesthetics from 9 September 2017 – 7 January 2018 at the Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC). 

Forensic Architecture Team

Eyal Weizman (Principal Investigator)

Stefan Laxness (Project Coordinator)

Nadia Méndez (Researcher)

Franc Camps Febrer (Design Technology Lead)

Irving Huerta (Researcher)

Theo Resnikoff (Researcher)

Belén Rodríguez (Researcher)

Simone Rowat (Film)

Christina Varvia (Film)

Ariel Caine (Modelling)

Nathan Su (Animation and modeling)

Marina Azahua (Researcher)

Nathalie Tjia (Researcher)

Nicholas Masterton (Researcher)

Sarah Nankivell (Investigation Support)

Robert Trafford (Researcher)

and Anso Studio (3D development)


Special Thanks

John Gibler

Rosario Güiraldes

Pablo Dominguez

Virginia Vieira

Témoris Grecko

Juan Omar Fierro

Taller cartográfico “Ariles”

Centre for Investigative Journalism (CIJ)

Other Means

Nestor Camilo Vargas

The surviving Ayotzinapa students and the families of the 43 disappeared for their tireless struggle for truth


Digitale Menschenrechtler | Weltspiegel, 14 January 2018

Kidnapping survivor speaks on Ayotzinapa movement | Caller Times (USA Today), 27 October 2017

Forensic Architecture: Habitando maquinarias complejas | Gas TV Mexico, October 2017

Así reconstruyó Forensic Architecture el ataque a los estudiantes de Ayotzinapa | CNN, 28 September 2017

Ayotzinapa three years later: new light, few answers | openDemocracy, 26 September 2017

Parents of the 43 missing students take matters into their own hands | VICE News, 26 September 2017

El caso Ayotzinapa: una cartografía de la violencia | Código, 11 September 2017

La plataforma digital que revela a detalle cómo occurió la desaparición de los 43 de Ayotzinapa | Huffington Post, 8 September 2017

Plataforma Ayotzinapa permite trabajar en nuevas hipótesis | Aristegui en Vivo, 7 September 2017

Three years after 43 students disappeared in Mexico, a new visualization reveals the cracks in the government’s story | The Intercept, 7 September 2017

Ayotzinapa: el mapa interactivo de la tragedia | Proceso, 7 September 2017

The Ayotzinapa Platform: What happened to the 43 disappeared Mexican students? | openDemocracy, 7 September 2017

In 2014, 43 students were massacred. Can digital forensics help solve the crime? | WIRED, 7 September 2017

A tres años de Ayotzinapa, un mural revela los caminos de la violencia | New York Times (Español), 7 September 2017

Desaparición forzada en Iguala: una reconstrucción forense | Aristegui Noticias, 7 September 2017

Los 43 de Ayotzinapa, una cartografía de la violencia en México | El País, 7 September 2017

Ayotzinapa: La inusitada actividad de celulares de policías, delincuentes y estudiantes | Proceso, 7 September 2017

Presentan cartografía caso #Ayotzinapa; muestra minuto a minuto hechos de Iguala | Radio Fórmula, 7 September 2017

Recrean Caso Iguala: culpan al Gobierno por desaparición de 43 | Quadratin, 7 September 2017

Forensic Architecture: Innovative technologies are shedding new light on past crimes | TANK Magazine, September 2017

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