Academic journal article Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

'Y El Olor De la Sangre Manchaba El Aire': Tlatelolco 1521 and 1968 in José Emilio Pacheco's 'Lectura De Los "Cantares Mexicanos"'

Academic journal article Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

'Y El Olor De la Sangre Manchaba El Aire': Tlatelolco 1521 and 1968 in José Emilio Pacheco's 'Lectura De Los "Cantares Mexicanos"'

Article excerpt

1968 was a year of worldwide turmoil and Mexico was no exception. In preparation for the Olympic Games (their opening was on 12 October in the capital), Mexico found itself amidst student protests and strikes by teachers, university professors, doctors and railway workers. Student protests were particularly detrimental to the plan of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI)1 to present the country as a haven of democracy. Between July and October 1968 there were several serious altercations between students from vocational and preparatory schools and police and army forces in the capital.

On 23 July the granaderos (paramilitary riot forces) entered Vocational School No. 5 in Mexico City, following supposed reports of a gang fight on the school campus (Castillo García 2008). On 26 July, the Instituto Politécnico Nacional (IPN) and the Federación Nacional de Estudiantes Técnicos held a protest march; at the same time, the Central Nacional de Estudiantes Democráticos from the Universidad Autónoma de México marked the fifteenth anniversary of Fidel Castro's attack on the Moncada army barracks. The government considered both events a security threat and granadero troops were once again dispatched to disperse the demonstrations. Following the events of 26 July the government's use of force against students escalated (see Balam 1969; Zolov 1999: 119-31; Meyer, Sherman and Deeds 2007: 583-88).

On 4 August the Consejo Nacional de Huelga (CNH)2 published a statement in response to the government's attack on schools and encroachment on the autonomy of university campuses. The statement contained six demands, which became the student movement's aims from this point onwards:

1. Libertad a los presos políticos. 2. Destitución de los generales Luis Cueto Ramírez y Raúl Mendiolea, así como también del teniente coronel Armando Frías. 3. Extinción del Cuerpo de Granaderos, 'instrumento directo en la represión' y no creación de cuerpos semejantes. 4. Derogación del artículo 145 y 145 bis del Código Penal Federal (delito de Disolución Social), 'instrumentos jurídicos de la agresión.' 5. Indemnización de las familias de los muertos y a los heridos que fueron 'víctimas de la agresión' desde el Viernes 26 de julio en adelante. 6. Deslindamiento de responsabilidades de los 'actos de represión y vandalismo' por parte de las autoridades a través de la policía, granaderos y Ejército. (Qtd in Álvarez Garín 1998: 52)

However, these demands were largely ignored by the government and the invitation to open a dialogue was left unanswered in the fourth presidential report.

On 1 September President Díaz Ordaz delivered his fourth report, in which he talked at length about the importance of the Olympic Games for the country's image, economic development, and position on the world stage. He also explored the 'recientes conflictos' in the capital, the aim of which, he suggested, was to discredit Mexico in the upcoming Olympics. Talking about the students' actions since 23 July, he implied that these actions were inspired by outsiders and that the students were only imitating what was happening elsewhere in the world: 'el ansia de imitación se apoderaba de centenares de jóvenes de manera servil y arrastraba a algunos adultos' (Díaz Ordaz 2006: 255). The plot was supposed to be the work of 'manos no estudiantiles' (2006: 260) and external and internal forces 'que han seguido confluyendo para tratar de agravar el conflicto' (262). Finally, Díaz Ordaz affirmed that he would follow Article 89, Section VI of the Constitution in that he would be obliged to 'disponer de la totalidad de la fuerza armada permanente o sea del ejército [...] para la seguridad interior y la defensa exterior de la Federación' (264).

The standoff between the government and the students continued with the occupation of the UNAM campus on 18-30 September (Long 2010: 128), dispersion of a silent demonstration in Zócalo on 13 September (Williams 2011: 117-20), and finally, the attack on the demonstration in Tlatelolco. …

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