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date: 07 October 2022

The Mexican Student Movement of 1968locked

The Mexican Student Movement of 1968locked

  • Eugenia Allier-MontañoEugenia Allier-MontañoUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de México

Summary

At the end of July 1968, a skirmish between students from rival schools in central Mexico City led to police intervention. The repression of young people was so energetic that students organized to demonstrate against government violence. They were once again repressed: from the afternoon of July 26 to the early morning of July 30, the city center was the scene of multiple battles between students and police.

In the following days, an unprecedented movement formed in the country and had strong support from the rector of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Javier Barros Sierra, who, with his call to march on August 1, gave legitimacy to the movement. On August 7, the National Strike Council (CNH) was formed, which included representatives of all higher education institutions (public and private) participating in the movement. For more than two months, the students toured the city, obtained the support of different social sectors (housewives, workers, neighborhood groups, and young professionals), and used ingenious methods (brigades, lightning rallies, flyers) to face the intense government campaign (always supported by businessmen, the media, the anticommunist right, and the high clergy) against them.

The students’ demands were specified in six points in the CNH petition: freedom for political prisoners, dismissal of the military considered responsible for the repression, disbanding of the Corps of Grenadiers, repeal of the crime of social dissolution, compensation to the families of the dead and wounded, as well as the delineation of responsibilities for acts of repression. However, the main point for the students was to demand that negotiations with the government take place within the framework of a “public dialogue.”

The movement continued until December 6, 1968, when the CNH was dissolved, but its splendor occurred between August and September. It was in those months that the movement showed great strength, particularly in the impressive demonstrations that swept through the capital. But by September 18, the UNAM’s University City was militarily occupied, and on September 24, the army took Zacatenco and Santo Tomás, two educational precincts of the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN).

On October 2, 1968, the students held a rally in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco. The government of Gustavo Díaz Ordaz implemented a massacre against them: hundreds of wounded, thousands of detainees, and around 40 dead were the results of the operation, whose main objectives were to scare the population with unleashed violence and to detain the members of the CNH.

Ten days after October 2, President Díaz Ordaz inaugurated the XIX Olympics. However, state violence did not stop. At least until February 1969, the government sought out and arrested political and social activists linked to the mobilization. As a result, some 200 men and four women were kept in prison and sentenced to long sentences. With the new government of Luis Echeverría in 1970, the students were released. However, for a group of sixteen students and teachers, the only option for release was political exile.

Subjects

  • History of Mexico
  • Cultural History
  • Social History
  • Revolutions and Rebellions

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