2015 - 16 Days of Activism

Meet Brenda Rangel Ortiz, Mexico

“In August 2013 my husband and I lived in the street for 17 days outside the government offices in Mexico City to demand justice for my brother. We endured the cold, the open air, hunger, rain – all of it – to demand justice for my brother. I was almost five months pregnant. When we returned to Querétaro, armed men came to my house and threatened me. They didn’t want me to keep helping families, to keep telling families of the disappeared to speak up.  I continue this work for my brother.”

Meet Brenda Rangel Ortiz, Mexico

On November 10, 2009 Brenda’s 27-year old brother, Hector Rangel Ortiz, was disappeared in Monclova, Coahuila state, Mexico. Earlier that day, Brenda and her family received a call from Hector. Hector told his family that the police had impounded his car and had requested him to go to the police station in Monclova. After not hearing from Hector again, Brenda and her family became worried. They rushed to Monclova and began inquiring about Hector, to no avail. State police refused to give any information regarding Hector—and the police also warned them to stop looking for him.

Brenda and her family refused to give up the search. They took justice into their own hands, and launched their own investigation.  Eventually they uncovered that a well-known criminal group, Los Zetas, had taken Hector. They informed authorities—who took no action on the case.

Since then Brenda has not stopped in her struggle to find Hector and demand justice for his disappearance. She has become central to the movement of families raising their voices in Mexico and calling for justice in the cases of their disappeared family members. In 2013 Brenda helped form Desaparecidos Justicia CA – a collective of family members that raises awareness about disappearances and calls on Mexican authorities to investigate and bring to justice those responsible. The collective is expanding as the number of disappeared in Mexico also grows.

In August 2014 the Mexican government officially acknowledged that the whereabouts of 22,000 people since 2006 remain unknown. According to an official national registry, over 25,000 people are missing. However, many civil society organizations in Mexico and internationally believe this number to be much higher. Authorities fail to investigate these cases and oftentimes, as in the case of Brenda, threaten those who seek justice.

Brenda is at serious risk for her work to find Hector. State authorities, police and armed men repeatedly threaten her and her family.  Despite these threats, Brenda will not back down from her struggle to uncover the truth and seek justice.


Watch Frío en el Alma, a documentary about Brenda's struggle for justice 

Explore Geografía del Dolor, a multimedia project detailing Hector's disappearance and many others in Mexico 

Learn more about disappearances in Mexico