The wound is always raw : searching, uncertainty, and collective support in the lives of mothers of disappeared people in contemporary Mexico

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De la O, Moravia

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Mothers of disappeared people are caught at the intersection of two very difficult experiences: actively searching for their daughters and sons and facing the tremendous pain that comes from having a disappeared loved one. Drawing from ten in-depth interviews with mothers of disappeared people in contemporary Mexico, this thesis explores the impacts of both of these challenges and the ways that these mothers navigate them. In particular, uncertainty, the search for their daughters and sons, social isolation, and collective support emerged as key components of the experiences of this group of women. Their experiences highlight the traumatic nature of the uncertainty about the fate and whereabouts of their daughters and sons and the emotional and cognitive flexibility that allows them to simultaneously hold seemingly contradictory beliefs that go beyond the dichotomy of life and death. The State maintains and reproduces uncertainty through the legal-administrative stage of disappearance, rooted in a historically flawed, corrupt, and inefficient bureaucracy. In this way, the uncertainty that characterizes disappearance is not only an individually traumatizing event, but also becomes part of a complex and multidimensional expression of State violence. For many mothers, actively engaging in the search for their disappeared loved one is an important coping mechanism and a source of personal empowerment, but it also creates important challenges in their lives. Although many mothers experience social isolation in the aftermath of the disappearance of their daughters and sons, the various forms of legal-administrative, emotional, and material support that they access through involvement in collectives of relatives of disappeared people are important sources of strength and resilience


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