Who Wins When the State Appropriates Self-Defense Technologies Developed by Communities?

slate.com
6 min read
fairly difficult
The need to track every Mexican for their own protection is as real as Mexicans' mistrust of the trackers.
A Mexican science professor who studies efforts to deploy technology to identify the missing reacts to Andrea Chapela's "The Wait."

If you visit the website of Mexico's National Registry of Disappeared and Missing Persons, you will see a pop-up window that says the information contained there comes from many different sources, which is why it may contain errors or inaccuracies. According to this real-world registry, there are currently more than 90,000 disappeared and missing persons in the country. (Missing is the category used to report people who can't be located, while disappeared means there is evidence that they have been taken by force.) But as the notice clearly indicates, these are tentative numbers. Sources and data are constantly being verified; new cases are registered each week.

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This registry was created in 2018, and it includes disappearances from all the recent violence associated with the nation's drug cartel wars. But it also includes cases that date back to the "dirty war" of the 1960s, when repressive governments ruthlessly targeted and eliminated revolutionary groups that had taken up arms against the state and anyone else whom they considered political threats, all under the auspices of U.S. anti-communist foreign policy.

Regrettably, therefore, the setting of Andrea Chapela's "The Wait"—a short story about a woman waiting indefinitely in a governmental office (the "National Institute of Citizen Registration and Geolocation") for news about Víctor, her missing brother—is painfully familiar to many people in Mexico. And indeed, much like in "The Wait," women are mainly the ones who do the inquiring of authorities or actually do the searching, sometimes as members of highly organized search collectives.

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What distinguishes Chapela's setting as fiction is the existence of a full-blown, hypervigilant surveillance state using technology to track all Mexicans in real time.…
Vivette García-Deister
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