Commemorations will take place across Mexico on Tuesday, October 2 as the nation remembers one of its most iniquitous chapters: the Tlatelolco Massacre of 1968.
Although now ingrained in the minds of many as a turning point for democracy in Mexico, the quashing of the dissident student movement 50 years ago in the nation’s capital changed little in the short term and foreshadowed one of the most repressive decades in the nation’s recent history. Throughout the 1970s and part of the 80s, hundreds of young people were detained and many disappeared as the government abused its authority in a relentless bid to extinguish all vestige of what it believed to be a growing Marxist threat in the republic.
The scene for the calamitous events of October 2, 1968, had been set several months earlier, in July, when the anti-riot police unit known as the “granaderos” entered the campus of the private Instituto Politecnico National (IPN) to break up a fight that had broken out between students of that institution and a group from the Isaac Ochoterena high school, incorporated in the public National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). The brutality of the officers’ actions provoked both schools to join forces and demand the dissolution of the polemic police unit. In the ensuing days, several marches were organized, drawing – for the first time – students and faculty from both the public and private sectors. These demonstrations also deteriorated into violence, with the granaderos once again being accused of using excessive force.