Fifty years after the Mexican Movement of 1968, students continue their march against violence and impunity

Left: a 2018 student-organized anniversary demonstration honoring Mexico City’s “March of Silence.” Right: a student march on Mexico City's main plaza,1968. Photographs by “Cel·lí” (Public Domain) and “ProtoplasmaKid” (published under Creative Commons license: Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International) respectively.

Massive student demonstrations against violence have swept through Mexico City during the month of September 2018. Today's students face similar issues to those who marched fifty years ago with the Mexican Movement of 1968, a series of protests and demonstrations demanding an end to state-sanctioned violence.

Today, the struggle to stop the violence continues as 30,000 university students including those from National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Mexico's largest public university gathered on September 6, 2018, for a massive demonstration:

Thousands and thousands of students from UNAM, IPN, UAM, UACM, ENAH, UPN, regular students (among many others) came to CU with a demand:

Porros out of UNAM!
Porros out of universities!
Long live the students! #FueraPorrosUNAM #NoMasPorrosEnLaUNAM @lhan55

This protest was organized in response to events three days prior when shock groups, also known as “porros”, allegedly attacked students within the College of Sciences and Humanities. The students were peacefully calling for more faculty hires as well as justice for the murder of CCH Oriente student Miranda Mendoza, who was killed in late August 2018.

Protestors’ general demands include increased security within the dozens of UNAM's faculties, schools, centers, and research institutions. They also demand the expulsion of porro groups who allegedly receive political or economic bonuses in exchange for violently attacking student demonstrations and destabilizing university life.

“We are the grandchildren of '68”

Today's demonstrations symbolically mark the 50th anniversary of the Mexican Movement of 1968 whose similar demands included the release of political prisoners, the resignation of the ruling party, and expansion of political liberties as well as democratic changes in efforts to eradicate authoritarianism.

At the time, the government viewed these protests as an attempted coup d'état by communist groups and a threat to national security and responded with aggression and force.

Several marches, sit-ins, demonstrations, and protests ensued in 1968 including the “March of Silence” on September 13, 1968, during which protesters covered their mouths with white bandannas to protest the government's silence about the Movement along with their use of brutal force against students in prior marches that year.

On October 2, 1968, over 10,000 students organized a peaceful march in the Tlatelolco area of Mexico City but their gathering was violently repressed by the Mexican government. Over 300 people were killed and the tragedy is remembered today as “The Massacre of Tlatelolco.”

Today, as the anniversaries of these historical events approach, students felt a solidarity with history and decided to replicate the March of Silence on its anniversary date, September 13, 2018, to honor the people who marched on these same streets for similar causes.

Fifty years later, marches, memorials, and photographs contrasting protests of past and present have been shared through social media with hashtags such as #MarchaDelSilencio and #A50Del68:

General Assemblies in University City.
Top left in 1968, right 2014, and below the rally today in 2018.
Student power!  #UNAMSinViolencia #FueraPorrosUNAM

Animal Político has published a series of chronicles from 1968, released on the same dates as historical marches. Other journalists like Leopoldo Gómez have taken a closer look at the student movement of yesterday and today:

La protesta ya no es por la represión, sino por la incompetencia del gobierno. En el 68 se luchó contra los excesos del gobierno; ahora se exige más, un buen gobierno. A 50 años subsiste un reclamo común: el fin de la impunidad. En 1968, la del propio gobierno, y en 2018, la de los criminales a los que el gobierno no les hace frente.

No longer is the protest about repression, but governmental incompetence. In 1968, protestors fought against governmental excesses; now they demand more, they want a good government. Fifty years later the demand is the same: an end to impunity. In 1968, they wanted to end impunity within the government itself, and in 2018, the call is to end impunity for criminals the government secretly conducts business with.

The endemic violence in Mexico, where more than 70 people are murdered daily, is only partial cause for the protests. This year also marks the fourth anniversary of the 43 missing students of Ayotzinapa, who were each remembered:

In front of the Ayotzinapa anti-monument, protestors honor the 43 students who disappeared in Iguala #MarchaDelSilencio

Historian Octavio Solís notes the symbolic force of the 1968 protests in which “imagination defeated power”:

“El movimiento estudiantil de 1968 condensó el reclamo de muchos sectores que no habían podido encontrar un cauce. […] A cada acto represivo o intento de control surgía una respuesta imaginativa y contundente […] Sólo dos meses duró el movimiento, pero como bien se dice, hay días, semanas, meses que condensan años […] como la apuesta de aquellos jóvenes por el silencio [durante la marcha de ese mismo nombre], que logró poblar el olvido de dignidad; imagen viva que perdura hasta hoy, después de medio siglo.”

“The student movement of 1968 gathered the demands of several social spheres that had been unable to find a way to speak out. […] To each repressive act or attempt at control, an imaginative and forceful response arose […] The movement only lasted two months, but as it is often repeated, there are days, weeks, and months that can contain whole years in themselves […] Like these young people's bet for silence [during the march of the same name] that poured dignity into oblivion: a living image that lasts till today, a half century later.”

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