huge march in Mexico City tomorrow - In Memory of Tlatelolco
- In Memory of Tlatelolco, 1968 - The Mexico City Revolution and October 2nd White-Gloved Massacre October 2nd, 2006 is the 38th anniversary of modern Mexico's cleanest, deadliest, most public and most covered-up massacre. This October 2nd, as Oaxaca fears imminent police assault and less than 24 hours before protests against the G8 Energy Ministers meeting on Climate Change begin in Mexico, thousands of people will march at 3 pm from ancient Mexico City's Tlatelolco Plaza de las Tres Culturas (Plaza of the Three Cultures) in a huge demonstration commemorating the massacre! The true story of the Tlatelolco massacre must continue to be told as a reminder of the professional, totalitarian ease with which states now-and-then willfully kill citizens, and the questions, cover-ups and struggles to reclaim truth that ensue. Here is historian of Mexico Earl Shorris' vivid narration of the massacre, followed by public documentation and eyewitness reports. From Tlatelolco to
Oaxaca to Sonora, vive Mexico!
For more info about the 2006 counter-G8 protests
and other converging revolutionary events in Mexico:
In Memory of Tlatelolco, 1968 - The Mexico City Revolution and October 2nd Massacre
ONE WHITE GLOVE (from THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MEXICO)
In July 1968 the Second Mexican Revolution began. Although the first fruits of the Revolution would not appear for thirty-two years, there can be little doubt now that when the mayor of Mexico City sent the riot squad (granaderos) to stop a fight during a soccer game between a technical school and a preparatory school, the citizens of the Federal District began to take a more critical view of government. The granaderos broke up the fight, followed the students into the school building, and beat them. Then there was a student demonstration the in the center of the city that turned into a fight between police and students that lasted for days. Students burned buses, police beat students, and students were arrested and jailed. The confrontation had all the earmarks of student-police battles in Paris and San Francisco and New York. It was 1968.
The battles in the center of the city had settled down when the police blasted their way with a bazooka into an UNAM feeder school and occupied the campus. The government blamed it all on the Communists, but no one outside the government accepted the argument. It was no longer a student riot. The rector of the National Autonomous University appealed to students to join in the defense of freedom, and he led a march toward the city. Fifty thousand people marched with him. The government had made a problem for itself, and Gastavo Diaz Ordaz, the ugly president with the mistress who went public, used the problem to express his hard line about everything: the presidency, the Communists, the students, and the state. Mexico was a democracy, free and growing, in the view of the president, and no one had the right to challenge the state.
On August 28, the students from the UNAM and the National Polytechnic Institute brought together the faculties of the university and thousands of citizens they had been recruiting for their cause in a massive demonstration in the Zocalo. Perhaps half a million people gathered there. The government sent tanks into the streets to break up the demonstration. A student was killed. On September 1, 1968, President Gustavo Diaz Obrador deliverred the annual State of the Union message (informe), and it was not calculated to win over the students and their supporters. He appeared not to care about them. He had something else on his mind: the Olympics were coming to Mexico. The games were not a spectacle that Diaz Ordaz has promoted or desired, but he did not want the world to see Mexico as a lawless country, something out of a bad movie about Pancho Villa, with people killing each other in the streets.
The students and their supporters held open meetings, and the public found them sensible, orderly, exactly as they wanted university students to be. The government, which still controlled all the newspapers and every magazine except Siempre and Politica, used the press to condemn the students and their followers., hinting always at Communist domination, control from distant and dangerous places. At one point the government argued that there had been no bazooka or mortar fire in the first confrontation. It had been a Molotov cocktail thrown by a student, the government said. But everyone seemed to know exactly what happened. And there was evidence: The ancient wooden gates of the school had not burned; they had been blown off in an explosion. And the students seemed to know exactly what to do to keep the goodwill of the public. To show their wish to avoid confrontation, they held a silent march. The students and their supporters moved through the streets of the ancient
capital, and there was no sound but the low rumble of the footsteps of a quarter of a million people.
Since the unrest surfaced, Diaz Ordaz had made one wrong move after another. In response to the silent march, he had a new idea of how to bring calm to the situation. He dispatched thousands of army troops to invade and secure the UNAM campus. The rector of the university resigned. The students had won; the criticism of the government had reached the top of the intellectual world. Not only the rector but Professor Cosio Villegas, the revered historian himself, had come over to their side. Yet Diaz Obrador and Luis Echeverria, his secretary of the interior, the post from which presidents came, were relentless. Troops occupied the Polytechnic Institute. The newspapers wrote day after day about foreign agitators, Communists, a student plan to wreck the Olympics, to embarass Mexico before the world.
On October 2, in Tlatelolco, where the Spaniards had seen the most orderly and clean marketplace in the world of 1519, in the city-state where the conquest was completed, in a place known as the Plaza of Three Cultures (Aztec, Spanish and Mexican), a student gathering began in the afternoon. The crowd was not very large, the speeches were not very stirring: it seemed the rebellion had grown weary. As the afternoon ebbed into evening, a helicopter appeared in the sky over Tlatelolco near the center of the city. Some of those who had been standing in the plaza looked up at the curiousity. Tanks waited outside the entrances to the plaza as did soldiers and the Olympia Brigade, a group of men each of whom wore a white glove on the left hand only. The tanks and the soldiers were ordinary business for the government, the one white glove was strange, as were the helicopter and the flares.
The machine guns opened fire first, and the soldiers and tanks came rushing in, closing off the exits, turning the crowd into a mob. Parents and their children screamed, gunfire came from every direction; then the men each with the one white glove invaded the crowd, and there was no more gunfire. No one was permitted in or out of the plaza, no ambulances for the wounded, just the thousands who had been there and the tanks and the soldiers and the men who wore one white glove.
The people were trampled; one ran just on top of people....Thus were defeated the Mexica Tlatelolca, who relinquished their altepetl (city-state)....When it was done, when it was over they delivered Quauhtemoctzin to the place where the captain, don Pedro de Alvarado, and Marina were. When they had been taken into custody, the people began to leave, heading for where there was a way out. Some still had some rags to wrap around their bottoms. --- Anales de Tlatelolco
The special presidential guards of the Olympia Brigade tore the clothes off the people they thought were student leaders. Journalists in the crowd photographed the nearly naked students, the shreds of the clothing hanging around their shoulders, their trousers gone. That was how the army identified them when they took the hundreds to the jails. They gathered them up in trucks and took them away. Five hours after the helicopters had dropped the flares, the first ambulances were allowed into the plaza.
For more than thirth years the government insisted that the crowd had fired first at the army. Snipers hidden among the crowd, the government said, sudent provacateurs, even implying that it may have been the white-gloved Olympia Brigade that put the slaughter into motion, but not the Mexican army, not the police. All the records kept by all the police and the army and the staffs of the president and the secretary of the interior (Gobernacion) remained secrets. In a diary published after his death, Echeverria, the secretary of the interior, blamed the massacre on the president. He could not have given such an order, he said; he did not have the power. Only the president could have done it.
Elena Poniatoska collected everything that was not secret, and a few secrets too, and edited it and made a book about the massacre. The police said twenty-six were killed, or forty-five, a small number. The leaders of the strike were tortured, beaten, burned, shocked, humiliated. But they had no secrets, no money from foreign governments.
In time it came clear, although not certain, that the number who were killed was closer to three hundred, or five hundred. But the official number remained the same: a few. Only twenty-six autopsies had been performed. Journalists and politicians asked questions, and the government always had the same answer: Produce the bodies! Produce the bodies! What did not come clear was who started the shooting, who planned the massacre: was it Diaz Ordaz or Echeverria? Were the uncounted bodies dumpted into the sea? In the end it did not matter. After Tlatelolco no decent man or woman in Mexico was ever again quite at peace with the system of the party-government-president all wrapped together in a country that was both free and very close to totalitarian in the way it worked. Everything that took place at Tlatelolco was an official secret and public knowledge.
Headlines in the major daily newspapers in Mexico City on Thursday, October 3, 1968
"Serious Fighting as Army Breaks Up Meeting of Strikers: 20 Dean, 75 Wounded, 400 Jailed: Fernando M. Garza, Press Secretary of the President of the Republic"
"Tlatelolco a Battlefield.
Serious Fighting for Hours between Terrorists and Soldiers. 29 Dead and More than 80 Wounded; Casualties on Both Sides; 1000 Arrested"
"Bloody Encounter in Tlatelolco.
26 Dead and 71 Wounded; Sharpshooters Fire on Army Troops. General Toldeo Wounded"
El Sol de Mexico (a morning paper):
"Foreign Interlopers Attempt to Damage Mexico's National Image. The Objective: Preventing the Nineteenth Olympic Games from Being Held
Sharpshooters Fire on Army Troops in Tlatelolco.
One General and 11 Soldiers Wounded; 2 Soldiers and More than 20 Civilians Killed in a Terrible Gun Battle"
Eye Witness Accounts:
A heavier rain of bullets than any of the ones before began then, and went on and on. This was genocide, in the most absolute, the most tragic meaning of that word. Sixty-two minutes of round after round of gunfire, until the solders' weapons were so red-hot they could not longer hold them.
Then I heard voices shouting things like "We're wearing white gloves, don't shoot, don't shoot!" And then other voices shouting, "We need a walkie-talkie here, don't shoot us, contact us by walkie-talkie!" There were desperate cries, coming either from down below us on the third floor, or from up above on the fifth or sixth flor: "Olimpia Battalion!" And then I hear whistles blowing ... "Olimpia Battalion, line up over here!" ... There were desperate shouts from the police for a long time: "Don't shoot! ... They're wearing white gloves!" This will give you some idea of how absolutely chaotic the whole affair was, on one hand, and also how it took on proportions that the organizers hadn't expected and got completely out of control. I can assure you that the whole thing was obviously planned in advance; the authorities knew exactly what they were up to. They were trying to prevent any sort of demonstration or student disturbance before the Olympics and during the games. The
flares were the signal to start shooting, and they began firing from all directions at once. As for the supposed "sharpshooters," I can assure you -- because those of us who were there saw it with our own eyes and know it's true beyond the shadow of a doubt -- that the sharpshooters were agents playing their part in the government's plan.
Mercedes Olivera de Vazquez
Then the agents ordered the prisoners to lie down, and as a hail of bullets struck the Chihuahua building, the men in the white gloves, anumber of whom had shouted that they were from the Olimpia Battalion, began yelling in chorus to make themselves heard over the heavy gunfire: "We're the Olimpia Battalion, don't shoot!" As the rifle fire grew heavier and heavier and the high-power machine guns mounted on the tanks began to chatter, the men in the white gloves started desperately searching about for a walkie-talkie... Amid all the shooting they had recognized the burst of small bombs being launched from the tanks to clear openings in the walls for the troops to shoot through. The men with a white glove or a white handkerchief on their left hand kept crawling by, very cautiously, on their hands and knees. Apparently they had no way of communicating with the troops that were firing on everyone in the Plaza. We were surprised it was taking them so long to kill all of us.
Felix Lucio Hernandez Gamundi
Now that I'd managed to get to Julio and we were together again, I could raise my head and look around. The very first thing I noticed was all the people lying on the ground; the entire Plaza was covered with the bodies of the living and the dead, all lying side by side. The second thing I noticed was that my kid brother had been riddled with bullets.
Diana Salmeron de Contreras
In a few minutes the whole thing became a scene straight out of hell. The gunfire was deafening. The bullets were shattering the windows of the apartments and hsards of glass were flying all over, and the terror-stricken families inside were desperately trying to protect their youngest children.
Jorge Aviles R.
A child no more than five or six years old who was running about crying fell to the ground. Several other children who had been with hime fled in terror, but one six-year-old came back and started shaking him: "Juanito, Juanito, come on get up!" He began to pull at him as though that would revive him. "Juanity, what's wrong with you?" he asked him. He obviously had no idea what death was, and was never to find out that his little friend was dead, because his questions suddenly were heard no more, just a moan. The two tiny bodies were left lying on the pavement there, one on top of the other. I saw the whole thing. I wanted to get the littlest one into the ditch where I was hiding. I called to him several times, but bullets were whizzing all over the place and I didn't dare go out there and get him. I just shouted several times, "Com on down here, little boy!" but he was too busy trying to revive his friend to notice. The the bullet hit him! I know I'm a coward, and I also
know now that the instinct to save your own neck is terribly selfish.
Jesus Tovar Garcia
Margarita was absolutely beside herself. We spent the entire night looking for her son, and her fit of hysteria reached its peak, so to speak the next day, when they phoned us that he was in one of the apartments in the Chihuahua building, though they couldn't tell us exactly which one he was in. The I witnessed really awful scenes, because it wasn't only margarita who was searching, but lots of other people, lots of other mothers looking for their children, lots of whom were very young, a couple of them only two years or so old, though ohters, like Margarita's boy, were high-school kids. Margarits was more or less out of her mind by that time and was going from door to door shouting, "Carlitos, it's me, Mama! Let me in!"
Mercedes Olivera de Vazquez
Around five that morning, the entire family started organizing. My husband began making the rounds of the various offices of the Attorney General, Pepe went to all the police stations, Chelo and I went to the Red and Green Cross hospitals and all the other hospitals and morgues where there were dead or wounded ... At the Red Cross hospital, they asked me if I was brave enough to go down to the morgue in the basement. (The Red Cross hospital is on Ejercito Nacional, opposite Sears.) ... One of the hospital employees went down with me in the elevator. My daughter didn't go in in with me... Once inside the morgue, the hospital employee pressed a switch and began to pull the drawers out. In the first one he pulled out there was the corpse of a youngster about sixteen years old; his skin had already turned a deep purple. Since part of his face was missing, I tried to identify him by looking at his teeth and seeing if he had any moles on his face, since all my children have
them. The only thing left of this cadaver's face was the jaw-bone and a couple of teeth. When I saw this youngster's dead body, I was sure it was Pichi, because every one of the corpses I saw seemed to be one of my children; every dead body I saw seemed to be one of my boys; but in order to make sure I opened whatever was left of their lips and looked at their teeth, and none of the was Pichi, because there is a big gap between my son's front teeth and the teeth of all these corpses were very close together.
Celia Espinoza de Valle
From Elena Poniatowska, Massacre in Mexico (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1975)
More links -
When she saw the White Glove she knew
Photo Proof - The Truth of Tlatelolco
"Black Glove/White Glove: Revisiting Mexico's 1968" by Donald Nicholson-Smith - analysis including reverberations with Black Power protest at 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games
Blood at Tlatelolco - detailed account from the Revolutionary Worker
Tlatelolco massacre - Wikipedia
Anniversary of '68 Tlatelolco massacre brings new facts to light
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