October 13, 2000


Commentary

Tlatelolco Thirty-two years Later

By Enrique Davis-Mazlum

Mexico City - Once again Mexico remembers the sad day of October 2nd, 1968, which took place in La Plaza de las Tres Culturas at Tlatelolco. I was not born yet when this occurred but as a kid I would always here about that tragic day. During one of my trips to Mexico City in 1995 I visited La Plaza de las Tres Culturas (it is called the Plaza of the Cultures, because there are ruins dating back to the early 1500's, a church built by the Spaniards and modern buildings) that is located next to the building of Exterior Relations (Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores). As I walked around I saw a huge stone with the words carved in that said: "On August 13, 1521 heroically defended by Cuauhtecoc Tlatelolco fell under the power of Hernan Cortes. It was not a triumph nor a defeat, it was the painful birth of the Mestizo Pueblo which is the Mexico of today." A second battle took place 447 years later, a battle, which allowed democracy in Mexico to flourish slowly.

Students, workers, administrators of UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico) had been on strike demanding the government six points: disband the granaderos (anti-strike police); fire police chiefs; investigate and punish higher officials responsible for the repression; pay compensation for students killed and injured; repeal laws making "social dissolution"—breaking down of society—a crime (under these laws many independent unionists and communists had been jailed); and free political prisoners, including students arrested in the recent disturbances as well as those seized earlier for social dissolution (Revolutionary Worker #975). What was impressive is that students, workers, administrators, parents were all part of the strike. By late September of 1968 there were marches of over 600,000 people. President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz and Luis Echeverria Alvarez, Secretary of State were under enormous international pressure. The Olympics would take place in Mexico between October 12th and 27th, 1968. Student demonstrations were taking place all over the world (United States, France, Czechoslovakia, Mexico) and the Mexican Government wanted to impress the world.

The world was impressed but not for the right reasons. On October 2nd, 1968 thousands of students marched to La Plaza de las Tres Culturas that is surrounded by buildings and therefore it is considered a mousetrap. There Mexican Army surrounded the students, they were located on the top of the buildings on the sides, basically all over. There were also students, which were wearing white gloves and were able to move around all over. There was a helicopter that passed and through two light flares and one those hit the ground the massacre began. The shooting started around 6:14 PM and lasted more than two hours. There were thousands of students dead, laying on the floor, there was screaming, crying, shouting, and enough blood to make a stream. Luis Echeverria Alvarez, Secretary of State was responsible for the National Security at the time. The archives, the documents and other classified information has not been revealed, there are many questions that we still ask ourselves. Who order the Mexican Army to start shooting? Why? What we do know is that President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz took full responsibility of the incident and said that it was a necessary to avoid a spread of anarchy and instability. This declaration opened the doors for Luis Echeverria Alvarez, Secretary of State to be the Presidential Candidate of the PRI in 1970.

The Mexican Government had full control of all the media and the massacre that took place was not an issue. There is a monument to dedicated to those that were assassinated on October 2nd, 1968, which says at the bottom: "Who? Who? No one the day after, no one. The Plaza was clean; the newspapers published as their head news the weather. And on TV and radio, movie theaters, there was not a single moment in which they mention the massacre and during the banquet there was not a moment of silence, the banquet continued." The massacre of thousands of students did not become news, what did become news is that the Olympic Games of 1968 were boycotted by 32 African nations in protest of South Africa's participation in the games. On the 18th Tommie Smith and John Carlos, US athletes and medallists in the 200-meter dash will further disrupt the games by performing the black power salute during the "Star-Spangled Banner" at their medal ceremony.

Thirty-two years have passed since the massacre of thousands of students took place on October 2nd, 1968, the archives, secret files, testimonies and other documents are still classified. This past October 2nd thousands of students and leaders of the Student Movement marched in Mexico City, those students which were assassinated will always be remembered, lets hope that it does not take thirty more years before the files become public.

Enrique Davis-Mazlum, attends ITAM in Mexico City, studying for his Masters in Public Policy. www.loscandidatos.com davismazlum@hotmail.com

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