Still dealing with grief after the earthquake that hit Mexico on Septembe 19, claiming the lives of over 350 people, Mexicans have come together to face one of the darkest passages in the country’s modern history: the government-orchestrated shooting of hundreds of protesters at Mexico City’s Square of Three Cultures on Oct. 2, 1968.
To remember the tragedy, Comité 68, along with several civil organizations and human rights groups, will be heading a demonstration to take place in Mexico City at 4:00 p.m. The march will take off from the Square of Three Cultures, in Tlatelolco, and will continue all the way to the city’s Zócalo.
¡Hoy marcharemos juntxs por la verdad y la justicia! Saldremos de Tlatelolco a las 4:00pm rumbo al Zocalo. pic.twitter.com/LcvdPri9J3
— Comité 68 (@comite68) 2 de octubre de 2017
A press release posted on Comité 68’s Twitter profile states that the demonstration will not only remind everybody of the government’s corruption back then, but also show how today’s authorities are no different, as shown during the aftermath of the Sep. 7 and Sep.19 earthquakes. “These catastrophes have thrown light on the corruption, dishonesty and incompetence of our government when it comes to protecting the integrity of its citizens,” says the press release.
The demonstration also intends to recognize and honor the Mexican people, particularly the country’s youth, for their efforts aiding earthquake victims. “In the midst of tragedy, Mexico’s youth took to the streets, occupied schools and, by thousands, set up caravans and aid brigades,” it says.
In response to the demonstration, Mexico City’s Public Security Secretariat (SSP-CDMX) will deploy 4,200 police officers on the streets. The officers will stand alongside the routes traveled by the demonstrators to maintain order and security.
Hoy se conmemora el aniversario por el 2 de octubre de 1968, la #PolicíaCDMX desplegó 4,200 elementos. Te presentamos la #AlternativaVial pic.twitter.com/ZxLKNgbLOs
— SSP CDMX (@SSP_CDMX) 2 de octubre de 2017
Several businesses on Juárez Avenue and in the Historical Center decided to close down for the day and put up steel barricades in anticipation of violence and/or vandalism, reported Mexican news site El Financiero.
The hashtag “#2deOctubreNoSeOlvida” (“October 2 is not forgotten”) has been making the rounds on social media. Posts show pictures and videoclips of student protests from the summer of 1968, as well as messages that condemn government corruption and authoritarianism.
#UnDíaComoHoy de 1968 un mitin de estudiantes fue reprimido en la Plaza de las Tres Culturas en Tlatelolco. #2deOctubreNoSeOlvida pic.twitter.com/IhJIicpixP
— UNAM (@UNAM_MX) 2 de octubre de 2017
Oct. 2 represents a dark memory for most Mexicans, particularly for those born and raised in Mexico City. The date signifies the government’s brutal efforts to squash the student movement that started on July, 1968 and ended abruptly with protesters being shot at from apartment buildings by what was later revealed to be federal agents.
Though the details of that evening remain unclear, the most widely accepted version of the events states that protesters, most of them students from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN), had gathered at the Square of Three Cultures to present a six-point proposal meant to counter the authoritarian regime of then president Gustavo Díaz Ordaz. Around 6:10 p.m., a flare was shot from a helicopter that was flying by. The flare was followed by gunfire raining down from the buildings in the Tlatelolco apartment complex onto the crowd. The army, which was present at the gathering to maintain order, responded to the shooting with fire of their own, thinking the attack had been an ambush set up by the students. The crowd dispersed as the shots kept going. In the following hours, military and police agents searched the apparent buildings and detained students and protestors who were hiding from the turmoil of the square. Though President Díaz Ordaz said 26 people died that evening, some estimates go as high as 350. To this day, the number of victims remains uncertain.
El movimiento estudiantil del 68 buscaba un cambio democrático en el país #2deOctubreNoSeOlvida pic.twitter.com/uddiNY6JAu
— Noticias MVS (@NoticiasMVS) 2 de octubre de 2017
The 1968 Tlatelolco Massacre has grown in Mexico’s historical consciousness as a symbol of how far its government is willing to go in order to silence dissent. The tragedy has become a strong source of reflection and debate for historians, intellectuals and artists. It has also turned into a point of comparison for any act of violence against protestors and activists in the country. Parallels have been drawn between Tlatelolco and the 2006 Oaxaca protests, the clashes at San Salvador de Atenco, State of Mexico in 2006 and the 2014 mass kidnapping of 43 students in Iguala, Guerrero.