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Hundreds of people attend a march to protest against the number of people who have been murdered or disappeared in Guerrero. Hundreds of people attend a march to protest against the number of people who have been murdered or disappeared in Guerrero. Lexie Harrison-Cripps

LeBaróns join march for peace in beleaguered Guerrero town of Chilapa

'We do not want Chilapa to go on being the center of pain for our country'

Members of the LeBarón family from northern Mexico joined forces with local activists, a senator and around 300 members of the community in Chilapa de Álvarez on Saturday to remember those who had been murdered or abducted in the Guerrero community in recent years.

Leading the walk for “Peace, Justice and Truth” were José Díaz Navarro of the association Siempre Vivos, together with Senator Emilio Álvarez Icaza and the president of the organization Causa en Común, María Elena Morera.

Although not directly connected to Chilapa, members of the LeBarón family attended the march as a show of support and mutual understanding after violence touched their family in November last year. Nine members of the family — three women and six children — were killed while traveling in Sonora; other children were also injured but survived.

Adrián LeBarón and his wife Shalom LeBarón attended the march in memory of their daughter, Rhonita Miller, and their four grandchildren who were killed in the attack. Rhonita’s cousins, Julián and Bryan, were also present. 

The march began with the laying of flowers on a memorial to the disappeared at a spot where five citizens, including two of Díaz Navarro’s brothers, were found decapitated. Throughout the march, attended mostly by women and children, a local band played as people waved flowers and white balloons in a sign of peace.

Before Sunday's march, a woman places flowers on the crosses that represent those who have disappeared.
Before Sunday’s march in Chilapa, a woman places flowers on the crosses that represent those who have disappeared. Lexie Harrison-Cripps

Many people marched with images of their missing family members. One woman, Beatriz, cried as she recounted the night that men entered her home and took her husband, who has now been missing for more than four years. 

In the past seven years more than 243 people have gone missing in Chilapa and more than 452 people have been assassinated, confirmed Morera in her speech in the central square at the end of the march. Álvarez Icaza went on to say, “It is important to raise our voice. We do not want Chilapa to go on being the center of pain for our country.”

Although the LeBarón family had received messages of support suggesting that over a thousand people would attend the march, local cartels broadcast threats beforehand that anyone attending the march would be killed and put up a roadblock on the day of the event, confirmed Bryan LeBarón. 

Chilapa is currently regarded as a particularly dangerous area of Guerrero as two cartels, Los Rojos and Los Ardillos, fight for territory. Despite this danger the march ended peacefully, likely due to the dozens of police who also accompanied the procession.   

Following the march, the LeBarón family and Navarro visited houses that had been abandoned after family members had been targeted and ultimately abducted. “Seeing the abandoned houses made a huge impact on me,” said Bryan LeBarón after the visit. 

When asked about the purpose of the march, he said, “I don’t see [Guerrero] as how everyone describes it, as an unconquerable situation that is losing control with no hope. I think that even with limited resources and attention from the government, it could make a huge impact. It could save lives.”

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