Volunteers put a human face on Mexico's drug violence

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: Lolita Bosch is an author who was born in Spain but for the past 20 years she's been living in Mexico and in recent years she's been editing a website that catalogues the human toll of Mexico's drug-related violence. The site is called Nuestra Aparente Rendición. Translation: Our apparent surrender. It has a section called Menos Dias Aqui which Bosch explains is dedicated to the notion that every name of the thousands of dead or disappeared in Mexico's drug war is worth remembering.

Lolita Bosch: One of the saddest things of the war is the names that are disappearing. The dead people that last one day.

Werman: When you say that, you mean their names appear in the paper -

Bosch: For one day, just for one day and the next day they disappear. I thought we should keep their names and explain who they were. Week after week, a volunteer counts the dead people in Mexico every night, which is really hard work to do. We keep their names so they cannot say we're making it up because everything was published. We look through local newspapers and reports from police, things like that. It's like a job of two hours every night. That is a website that families use not to look for their relatives, they look there hoping not to find them. We have a lot of people dead but we also have a lot of people who have disappeared. There's no way of counting the people who have disappeared.

Werman: The people who author the section changes from week to week.

Bosch: Yes, because they can't stand it. Normally they start on Monday, so excited, and on Wednesday - every Wednesday they call us crying and it's so hard -

Werman: It's just too painful to do the job?

Bosch: It's too painful, it's really painful.

Werman: A lot of these volunteers who write for Menos Dias Aqui are anonymous for their own security. What about you? How big of a risk do you feel you're taking?

Bosch: I feel being in Mexico it's a risk for all of us, especially if you're against the war. The government feels like we're daring them, it's like we're saying out loud "They're not doing their job," but they're not doing their job so somebody has to say it. Anyone who has something to say or something to ask about the war, they can write us and ask anything. For example, a woman from Monterrey called us and she said her husband has been killed in Sonora, which is almost on the other side of the country, and she had no money to go there and leave a flower in the mass grave where her husband was found. She asked if we could send someone to leave a flower in there and send her a picture. So we did. we sent a friend and we took a picture of the flower and we sent that to the woman. That's the only thing that woman has left.

Werman: I'm curious to know if you describe Nuestra Aparente Rendición as activism or journalism or does that distinction not even really matter in Mexico any more?

Bosch: I think it's the same thing. I think activists, journalists and victims today are the same thing but we won't stop. It's tiring. Emotionally it's very hard, it's hard work. But we feel we're right. That's a strange thing, it's never happened to me before. Not as a writer, for sure. But I think we're right. We're doing what's best for most of us.

Werman: Why do you continue to invest your life there?

Bosch: That's my home. I lost friends, I lost family in that war. That's my home, that's my job. Somebody has to stand up, so we did. I remember I used to live in the states in 1988 and I learned that sentence that I never forgot and maybe here you listen to it a lot but it really changed my life. "A man has to do what a man has to do." That's what I'm doing.

Werman: Writer Lolita Bosch, thanks very much for coming in, great to meet you.

Bosch: Thank you very much.

Werman: Lolita Bosch is the founder of Nuestra Aparente Rendición, a website dedicated to cataloging the human toll of Mexico's drug war. We first heard of her work through our partners at Radio Ambulante.