Postcard from San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico: The Forty-Three

Forty-three. The number calls out from walls throughout downtown San Cristobal de las Casas.

And copies of their photographs leave their faces staring at you blankly as you wander near the zocolo at the heart of the city.

The desaparecidos, the missing students, may be from the State of Guerrero, but the sentiments of many of the young people studying to be teachers in this city appear to be with them.

City hall is heavily patrolled by well-armed soldiers during the day, but they check out for the night. On October 24, while the only guards were the janitors armed with mops, protesters took over city hall for the day. They also assumed control of the toll booths on the highway linking San Cristobal de las Casas and the state capital, Tuxtla Gutierrez.

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Yesterday, the normalistas were back again, occupying city hall to call attention to the plight of their compadres.

The sit-in is peaceful. The protesters are unarmed. The blockade of the government offices is enforced by only a single string encircling the building.

Although the students could easily be overcome by force, the police and soldiers remain a distance away. There is no apparent desire to spark any confrontations. The students were allowed to express their concerns, with the everyday rhythms of the city expected to return today.

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