TEC 1969

Photo by Jesús J. Torres

Prof. Santos, then a college student - two days shy of turning 20 years old - addressing about 30,000 students who dared to march and hold a protest rally in downtown Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, on the first anniversary of the 1968 Tlateloco Massacre of hundreds of students involved in the pro-democracy movement. It was the first such public protest in the country since the massacre and it pierced the stage of siege and press censorship atmosphere of the time. The rally was sponsored by the student governments from the three local universities. Santos, who organized his campus contingent, was chosen to speak on their behalf.

A few days before the march & rally were to be held, the student leaders were given to understand that military orders had already been issued to arrest them if they went ahead with the protest. The student went ahead with it anyway, and due to the huge turnout and press coverage, the arrest orders were never executed.

tlatelolco '68 collage
Mexico City, Summer of 1968

The Olympic Games were scheduled to be held in October, and the eyes of the world would be focused on Mexico. Early that Summer, after an incident that led students at a high school to be brutally repressed by the granaderos - riot police - the pro-democracy student movement took to the streets peacefully by the hundreds of thousands, growing in strength over the next four months and broadening the demands for democratic reform in Mexico's authoritarian one-party political system. The Mexican president, Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, responded a month before the games were to start by ordering a clampdown. On October 2, at a rally held in the Plaza of the Three Cultures in the Tlatelolco district of the city, students suddenly found themselves surrounded by soldiers, which open fire, killing hundreds. The blood on the plaza was washed off that evening, the bodies of all dead and wounded carted off somewhere, until the bodies began to appear at the morgues, and a strict press censorship of the event imposed. Hundreds of students were subsequently persecuted, "disappeared," and tortured, many never to be heard from again. The "Dirty War" - a euphemism for the Cold War violent suppression of dissidents and pro-democracy movements in Latin America, then almost entirely under authoritarian regimes - had begun in Mexico. The 1968 Olympic Games proceeded without a single mention in the international or national press of what had just occurred. Only since the year 2001 has a Congressional Truth Commission on Mexico's Dirty War begun to unearth previously classified reports.  Criminal indictments have begun to be issued, none so far against the top political leaders of the era.