Father Jenkins to present Notre Dame Award in Mexico to Colectivo Solecito
A grassroots group of mothers searching for their missing loved ones in Mexico’s Gulf state of Veracruz will be honored Tuesday (Oct. 16) by the University of Notre Dame for tireless work on behalf of victims of drug violence and for dedication to seeking truth.
The University’s president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., will present the Colectivo Solecito with the 2018 Notre Dame Award at a breakfast ceremony in Mexico City as a group emblematic of Mexican civil society’s demands that authorities, some in collusion with or coerced by criminal groups, act against violence and corruption.
On Monday, Father Jenkins is scheduled to visit the port city of Veracruz, where the Colectivo was founded, and to celebrate Mass at Colinas de Santa Fe, one of the largest sites of mass graves in Mexico. He will honor the families of the victims and bless the souls of the anonymous dead.
In selecting the Colectivo, Father Jenkins praised them for “heroic witness to human dignity and service to the noble cause of justice itself.” It is the first time the international award will be presented to a Mexican individual or group.
“The Colectivo has made a marked difference for all Mexicans and for humankind at large in our universal thirst for justice.”
Previous recipients of the Notre Dame Award have included Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter; St. (Mother) Theresa of Calcutta; John Hume of Northern Ireland; Cardinal Vinko Puljić, Archbishop of Sarajevo; and most recently, Judge Sergio Moro of Brazil.
“The previous recipients, each in their own way, have been pillars of conscience and integrity,” Father Jenkins said. “Notre Dame recognizes that the Colectivo’s courageous work has drawn needed attention to victims’ disappearances, and has helped to relieve some of the suffering visited upon the families of the victims of such intolerable violence. The Colectivo has made a marked difference for all Mexicans and for humankind at large in our universal thirst for justice.”
Solecito Colectivo de Veracruz started as a group of eight mothers in 2014 who decided to dig in areas rumored to be mass graves in search of human remains. They raise their own money to pay for the searches and initially received no help or recognition from the state government or justice system in Veracruz.
Then in 2016, the group received a huge tip from an anonymous source: a map depicting the exact locations of more than 120 clandestine graves at Colinas de Santa Fe. The group’s search so far has led to nearly 300 bodies and thousands of fragments of remains. They now have the help of state and federal authorities, but identification of those remains has been slow. There are many such groups of families around the country searching for their loved ones in the face of an absent state.
“We recognize the Colectivo’s steadfast faith and tenacity. It inspires our students to engage the world as forces for good when confronted with injustice and suffering.”
“We recognize the Colectivo’s steadfast faith and tenacity,” Father Jenkins said. “It inspires our students to engage the world as forces for good when confronted with injustice and suffering.”
The award will be presented during a one-day conference on “The Challenges of Transitional Justice in Mexico” organized by Notre Dame in Mexico City. Convening a group of international practitioners, members from the incoming Mexican government, groups of victims and their families, international and Mexican scholars and members of Mexican civil society, the conference will explore how a process of truth, justice and reconciliation for the victims of the country’s 12-year drug war may be implemented.
Casualties include over 130,000 homicides related to criminal conflicts, more than 30,000 disappearances and more than 320,000 displaced people to date.
The Notre Dame Award was first presented in 1992 and recently was revived to honor the “women and men whose life and deeds have shown exemplary dedication to the ideals for which the University stands: faith, inquiry, education, justice, public service, peace and care for the most vulnerable.”