THE BLOG
09/29/2016 01:20 pm ET Updated Sep 30, 2017

Two Years After 43 Students Were Kidnapped In Mexico, We Need To Discuss The Legacy Of Ayotzinapa

PEDRO PARDO via Getty Images

Mexico's history is filled with undying passions and debates that transcend time and appear to be infused with our social DNA, including: The Porfiriato, the oil expropriation, Tlatelolco, the crash of '88, among others. Ours is a history of heroes and villains.

These are episodes that have been ingrained in our memories with a sense of nostalgia. These chapters of our history have been written and reinterpreted over and over, in the process fragmenting the social fabric. As a result, centuries or decades later, some wounds are still open.

Every one of these moments marks the beginning of a significant transformation in the history of Mexico. Anger against the Porfiriato resulted in effective suffrage, and sustained economic development came as a result of the oil expropriation.

Undoubtedly, the night of September 26, 2014 has become part of this list. Since then, a new word has become tattooed on the collective unconscious: Ayotzinapa. It is a noun -- referring to the mass disappearance of 43 Mexican students -- that contains as many meanings as it does emotions.

  Two years after Ayotzinapa, there is widespread discontent, frustration and weariness.

It is perhaps too early to understand, however, what the tragic episode will leave behind. But it is not too early to ask: What will Ayotzinapa's legacy be?

Ayotzinapa is still being treated as an isolated incident. It is not regarded critically, and the conversation is therefore often shortsighted. The debate does not tackle the event's legacy, but rather its immediate consequences. Many are sticking to demanding President Enrique Peña Nieto's resignation.

Two years after Ayotzinapa, there is widespread discontent, frustration and weariness. There is a collective desire to ignore civic responsibility and blame an individual or an institution for everything that has happened to this country.

  If we want Ayotzinapa to have a true legacy, that is, if we want it to instigate positive change, it's time to move forward, and look to the future.

I'm not saying that it is wrong or unfair to blame an individual or an institution, but I do believe it is somewhat shortsighted. As long as our national crises continue to inspire a desire to punish public figures, structural changes will continue to be put off. We don't want to do our homework, we are only interested in dressing our wounds, as we wait for the next tragedy to happen.

If we want Ayotzinapa to have a true legacy, that is, if we want it to instigate positive change, it's time to move forward, and look to the future. Again, I am not suggesting that we abandon the investigations or the victims. What I want is to move the national conversation to a more structural level.

I propose that we analyze these four areas:

First of all, we should think about how to shield state institutions from the outside interests and threats that evidently exist today. Instead of stating firmly that the Mexican state caused this tragedy, we should be asking how to strengthen the Mexican state as a whole. How can we find out the truth? Calls for resignations, or recommendations from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will serve no purpose if we don't solve this dilemma first. Without an autonomous state, there is no rule of law.

Second, we need to put an end to impunity. Mexico has spent eight years transitioning to a new criminal justice system. We must supplement these efforts by recovering the notion of legality as a public value. Structural changes need to start to be accompanied by cultural changes.

Third, we need to push for new human rights reforms. The constitutional reforms of 2011 had a role in placing human rights at the center of the agenda, but today, there are no institutions to guarantee their effective protection. It is necessary to speak of co-responsibility and proactivity from all actors who are directly or indirectly involved in respecting human rights, including the private sector and civil society organizations.

And fourth, we must rethink the accountability of institutions and local actors. I am not debating whether the Army played a role in Ayotzinapa, or what the federal government could have done differently. As a society, we should assess public accountability in a larger sense, and not only with regards to the president.

If these four points are addressed, Ayotzinapa will leave a legacy. Otherwise, it will remain what it is today: A wound that will not heal.

This post first appeared on HuffPost Mexico. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.