What is El Bosque de la Esperanza?
The Bosque de la Esperanza, or "Forest of Hope", is a long-term collaborative project that seeks to facilitate access to the right to memory in various regions of Mexico, proposing physical and virtual connections between spaces of memory for victims of disappearance that protects memory's autonomies, is self-managed, decentralized, dispersed, and accesible. The project seeks to weave together spaces of memory and protest—commonly known as Árboles de la Esperanza, or "Trees of Hope—that since 2015 have been created by family members searching for their missing loved ones.
This is achieved by connecting the collectives, their trees and the ribbons they hang through a collective "forest of hope". The virtual platform is directly co-created by the search collectives and families, who design memory spaces for their relatives. There, they can log memories with texts, photos, videos, sound and other media. A central objective of the memorial is to strengthen spaces of memory, mourning, and resistance built by the victims' families, companions, and solidary communities.
On the other hand, the project seeks to promote processes of rehumanization-triggering empathy for non-affected audiences so that they effectively initiate and sustain forms of accompaniment to search collectives in their efforts and demands to find their disappeared and missing relatives.
Who is a part of El Bosque de la Esperanza?
For the time being, the following collectives in 3 Mexican states are part of this first start of the Bosque de la Esperanza:
In Baja California: Siguiendo tus pasos (Ensenada), Madres Unidas y Fuertes (Mexicali), and Una Nación Buscandote (Tijuana)
In Guanajuato: Hasta Encontrarte, who has adopted trees in the cities of Irapuato, Pénjamo and Silao.
In Veracruz: Colectivo Solecito de Veracruz, who adopted a tree in the Port of Veracruz
All of them are people who are searching for their "treasures"—as they name their disappeared loved ones—, or who have already found them—oftentimes not alive—, and who have been denied their rights to truth, justice, reparation and non-repetition. That is why they resort to exercising their right to memory as a form of resistance and to place their struggles to make visible, stop and resolve the humanitarian crisis of disappearances that has affected more than 110,000 people in Mexico.
How was El Bosque de la Esperanza started?
The Forest of Hope is a project born from many places: on the one hand, it originates from the adoption of the first Tree of Hope on August 30, 2015 in Torreón, Coahuila, by the FUUNDEC-M collective. Since then, there have been other resignifications of trees in public spaces to make visible the memory of missing persons in Guanajuato, Veracruz, Baja California, Mexico City, Puebla and Sinaloa, among many other places and times.
It also arises from the experience gathered by people who accompany, investigate and have advised victims in memory projects in response to the violence perpetrated by the Mexican State. On the one hand, in January 2022, the Hasta Encontrarte collective in Guanajuato approached one of the collaborators of the Memorial Disperso (The Dispersed Memorial), Sergio Beltrán-García, with the proposal to interconnect three trees and create a forest.
On the other hand, Aline Wani, who has worked with various search collectives in Mexico, was supported by the Mercator Fellowship 2022/23 to build a virtual and immersive memorial for victims of enforced disappearance in Mexico. Aline, together with Maevia Griffiths, co-founded the Visibility for Transformation Lab (VIFT), an independent Swiss NGO focusing on decentralizing memories through transdisciplinary aesthetics. In 2022, more collectives from Baja California and Veracruz joined in so that, together with Hasta Encontrarte, VIFT and The Dispersed Memorial, they collectively initiated the Bosque de la Esperanza.
Where are the Trees of the Bosque?
There are about 30 trees that have been taken throughout the country to commemorate the missing persons. In this map we show some of the trees we have identified, and mark which ones are already part of El Bosque de la Esperanza.
How is the project financed?
El Bosque de la Esperanza is a non-profit project, and until April 1, 2023 has received a first seed funding from the organization ELEMENTA DDHH, where 90% of the donation will be invested in the construction of the digital and physical components of the memorial, 8% in travel and materials for workshops and only 2% in fees. Currently, the core memorial team is seeking funding from other organizations in Mexico and funders in Europe. Given VIFT's access—as a Swiss-based NGO—to completely independent funding sources, the absence of conflicts of interest with the project's objectives is guaranteed.
There are hundreds of people behind the creation of El Bosque de la Esperanza, but we think it is important for you to meet the small team that coordinates the efforts of all the different collectives and organizations that make up El Bosque. .
THE DISPERSED MEMORIAL, Sergio Beltrán-García, design lead, is an architect who shifts between activism, art and research to work closely with victims of human rights violations, their defenders and communities in political, cultural and legal forums to strengthen access to the right to memory.
VIFT, Aline Wani, research lead, VIFT Co-Founder and Co-Director, is a Mercator Fellow focusing on transdisciplinary methods for violence prevention and memorialization whereby she collaborates with swisspeace, International Crisis Group, and ICRC on security and humanitarian issues linked to enforced disappearance. Aline has a background in International Affairs and Development Studies.
VIFT, Maevia Griffiths, documentation lead, Co-Founder and Co-Director of VIFT, is a Copenhagen University PhD candidate in Political Sciences. Merging filmmaking and social science research, her transdisciplinary approach mobilises visual methods to address social (in)visibilities, violence, memory and human rights.
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