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The Unsolved Disappearance of María Esther Aguilar Cansimbe - by Kristina Ronstadt

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    • Kristina Ronstadt at Pima Community College

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    Mexico has a history of murder, imprisonment, and disappearances of journalists. According to Reporters Without Borders, “More than 150 journalists have been murdered in Mexico since 2000.” Unfortunately, many government officials have a history of undermining investigations due to collusion with cartels, and the disappearance of journalist María Esther Aguilar Cansimbe is no different (“Mexico”). Aguilar left her house in Zamora on November 11th of 2009 and was never seen again (“Crime Reporter Missing”).

    María Esther Aguilar Cansimbe wrote for two different dailies, El Diario de Zamora and Cambio de Michoacàn. She was a mother of two, and was married to police chief David Silva. Aguilar frequently wrote about cartels and corruption in the government. She often had to omit her name from the byline of the articles that she wrote because of the risks posed to the well-being of herself and her family if she was associated with the stories. She had recently published both a story about abuse of authority by a local police official and a story about two top members of a local crime organization called The Family. It is suspected that she disappeared as a result of these articles (“María”).

    In the weeks and months following the disappearance of María Esther Aguilar Cansimbe, the investigation had gone nowhere. The Committee to Protect Journalists had contacted local authorities to try to encourage the investigation, but nothing ever came from it. According to the Michoacán State Justice Attorney General’s Office, there were numerous reports written, but Aguilar’s family insists that no one got in touch with them, and they claim that her case file was just being passed from office to office (“One Month”). Since 2009, there haven’t been any updates on the investigation. It’s nearly impossible to find unique information about her case, with a multitude of websites repeating the same information about the mystery of her disappearance, with nothing to add since she first vanished. Her articles that were most likely the cause of her disappearance are nowhere to be found on the internet today, or, if they are available, are untranslated from Spanish. Aguilar was included in Time Magazine’s “10 'Most Urgent' Cases of Threats to Press Freedom” in September of 2020 in order to bring attention to journalists throughout the world who are still missing (TIME).

    As a woman who risked her personal well-being to report on corrupt government and high-profile crime organizations, María Esther Aguilar Cansimbe should be remembered. She saw the need to share information with the world, doing what it takes to bring the corrupt to justice. Unfortunately, even though she took steps to protect herself, she still wasn’t able to avoid the consequences that many journalists throughout the world have faced for their bravery. We can only hope that one day something will come of the investigation into her disappearance, so that her family can have the peace of mind in knowing what happened to her.

    Works Cited

    “Crime Reporter Missing.” PEN America, International PEN, 23 Feb. 2010,

    “María Esther Aguilar Cansimbe.” Committee to Protect Journalists,

    “Mexico.” RSF Reporters Without Borders, Reporters Without Borders, 31 Oct. 2022,

    “One Month after Journalist's Disappearance, Investigation Seems to Go Nowhere.” RSF, Reporters Without Borders, 11 Dec. 2009,

    Staff, TIME. “10 'Most Urgent' Cases of Threats to Press Freedom.” Time, Time, 1 Sept. 2020,