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The year 1968 is remembered for its many social movements and political turmoil that fiercely rocked the world ranging from the millions of workers that went on strike in France, the revolts against offensive Vietnamese wars to the Olympics' Black power salutes. But the Mexican student mass movement will forever remain an indelible movement that led to a great massacre that saw many students loose their lives as they tried to bargain for what was rightfully correct. The students wanted to express their dissatisfaction with the society and most importantly the government of the time and hence tried to create a much better world a place they would call home (Downs, 2004).
Though the movement was short lived as it was brutally extinguished by the Mexican army who left approximately 400 hundred students dead the nearly half a million striking university students left a lasting impression that was taken down in the history of Mexico. The roots of The 1968 Mexican Student Movement which involved almost every university and polytechnic student can be traced back to the ideological clashes between the different generations that existed in Mexico during this period. To add to the ideological clashes were the capitalism and socialism ideologies that differently influenced these students and the government that reigned during this time.
The activities of this student movement took their peak in the 2nd of October 1968 and have been recorded in the Mexican history and this day is considered as the most important moment of this movement. During this day students from all over Mexico, UNAM, IPN and other educational institutions put their differences aside and came together as one to execute their ultimate goals revolting authoritativeness of the government being a prime one (Shapira, 1997). Much to the student's aid was the Summer Olympics of 1968 which were quite significant and influence the actions that the government took against these striking students. Both parties, the government and the students, actions were driven by the different generational ideologies that each camp held on to which will be discussed later in this paper. Much to the influence of this student movement were other movements in the world the Hippie movement being a good example. The movement had a lot of influence in the feminism of the Mexicans with the Mexican playing a key role in what was to be later labeled the Mexico 68 (Downs, 2004).
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Just to place the movement's roots into context the movement came to its effect after the Vietnamese War which had raised a lot ideological revolutions around the globe. With the invention of the pill, feminism had gained a lot of momentum as sexual liberation had been given life. Apart from this was Hippie movement which gave birth to the ideology of love and peace which the student had globally taken up and made the best of their efforts to thoroughly extend in their corresponding societies. These were among some of the major reasons as to many student movements in Germany, France, Japan, the U.S, Italy, Argentina and Czechoslovakia had been effected as many youths especially students who considered themselves intellectual wanted to express their dissatisfaction with the social situations of the time (Downs, 2004).
To go back to the Mexican case, as the paper had highlighted earlier, the clash between the government and the student was as a result of the ideological differences between the two camps who represented two different generations. The younger and newer generation had accommodated innovations looking at them with an open mind whereas the older one which was very authoritative (comprising the government) were conservative and not ready to take up all the looming new ideas. With these ideological clashes the older generation resulted to repression in order to try and contain the situation and this is what led to the formation the many student (young adult) movements in Mexico. During these times repression was a greatly valued way of controlling the society.
The initial event that led to the start of the movement is as follows. A fight had one day broken between high school students over a football game. The Mexican City riot police had been sent in as usual to calm the skirmishes but the student this time engaged them in a fierce fight. After hours of revolt the army was called in to contain the extreme violence. This siege came to an end when military officers blasted the gate of the San IIdefonso National preparatory school using a bazooka which left some of the students dead. Since Preparatory school was overseen by the National University and the university official as well as the students had to step in (Downs, 2004). From this point on University student with the support of university official started organizing protest against the government's use of excessive force employed by riot police units during repressions.
Later on rallies and protest against government violence and repression became the main concern for student's movements who wanted to see revolution being affected to end the government's authoritative ways. The government had had completely gone overboard even restricting the freedom of speech as well as mass actions for the Mexican citizens. The people especially the students who viewed themselves as agents of change had gotten tired of such kind of a lifestyle which brought a lot of discontent on their part as they were so dissatisfied with the Mexican Government. The government stuck to the constitution which gave it the right to use military force in maintaining peace and order while the young generation was greatly opposed to this (Shapira, 1997).
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The students pressured the government expecting it to give in to their demands but were greeted with a crushing message from the Mexican president that clearly indicated that 'unrest would no longer be tolerated. Following this the Military went ahead to take the National University seizure which went ahead with no virtual student resistance. Later on the military seized the National polytechnic but this time with a lot of violent resistance by the students. The above events prompted students from all over Mexico to call for a fresh gathering on the 2nd of October which was to be held at the Three Culture Squares inside the Tlatelolco housing complex (Hildreth, 1972). The students were very keen to come and get the way forward, the next steps of the student's movement.
The Olympic Games to be hosted by Mexico were fast closing in at and the students wanted to take it to their advantage. By hosting these games Mexico would be the first developing country to host them and this surely provided a good opportunity to earn a lot of income especially fro tourist drawn in by the Olympics. Selling a good picture to the world was hence important as it would attract a lot of international investors. However the students wanted to boycott the event as they argued that the image of Mexico to the rest of the world was not a major priority at that time. They therefore preferred a revolution which would reform their country.
On the 2nd of October Students from all over Mexico began gathering at the Three Culture Plaza for the arranged meeting which was then to be escorted with a march to the IPN in protest of military occupation. Fully equipped soldiers had been stationed all around the plaza prior to the meeting making the atmosphere around the plaza very tense. By around 6 P.M thousands of students and neighbors had curiously gathered to witness the event. Shortly after gunshots were heard and government officials streamed in trying to arrest s many student leaders as they could (Hildreth, 1972). This massacre lasted for approximately four hours leaving approximately four hundred students dead but the government covered this up reporting that only four students died while on lookers told a different story. The student's movement was crushed and the Olympic went on peacefully with the government selling out the picture it had wanted to the rest of the world.
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Reading the history of the Mexican student movement one question becomes quite inevitable. What were the consequences of the student movement or did the student movement achieve what it had set itself against. The answer to this question is quite to the affirmative. In spite all the propaganda that was looming around, Mexico was characterized by an emergent democracy seeking for social justice. Though, the 1968 student movement was put to check, it really exposed the flaws of the Mexican government by revealing the system as to what it was thus an authoritarian and brutal regime which was only interested in enriching the already rich (Shapira, 1997).
Despite having a federalist constitution which was democratic, Mexico was centrally governed from the city of Mexico with the PRI as the government's political party winning in almost all elections. The dispensation of social services was done on the basis of political imperatives and not income disparities or needs. The movement which precipitated all the mass actions of the time had risen in reaction against reliance of repression which only exacerbated the situation. In the face of international Embarrassment the government had mishandled the looming dispute by resulting to repression of the only strongest tactic it had in hand to suppress the movement.
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After this fatal event the middle and upper classes which has enjoyed immunity from the violence of the government realized through their children that they were not immune to attack if they were to question the government's supremacy closely. Domestic and foreign scholars began their criticisms towards the system and started agitating for democratic reforms. This social movement hence gave birth to consequences that could no longer be avoided and which permanently changed the future of Mexico.
The major changes that were noted as a result of the student movement were more evidently displayed on the political up front. The inhabitants realized they had an opportunity to lead a new democracy whereby their opinion counted and was important in shaping out change min the Mexican society. People no longer left all their trust with the government and defied the norm of living under the ultimate control of their government and neither were they ready to tolerate it any longer even though complete freedom had not been achieved (Carey, 2005). Some of the government officials even resigned from heir possession as a way of protest and expression of the government crude way of repression towards the Mexican Student Movement. However some still believed the government had done nothing wrong in resulting to the harsh repression means.
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In the social upfront, several social reforms were effected following the year after the massacre. People no longer agreed to live by the unbreakable and strict rules that the previous government had propagated. As a result of this people started exercising their freedom of action under the county's law which was also the same case with the freedom of speech or expression which was not under any restrictions. New ideas found their way into the surface which led to transformations in daily lifestyles. New feminist ideologies were also discovered allowing women to actively agitate for their rights as they had always in the past been tramped upon. With this women increased their social participation in the country's affairs. Apart from house keeping and child bearing and rearing women had an open highway for them to actively engage in business.
It would be quite unfair not to recognize the role that the movement played in women affairs. Those who participated in the student movement witnessed a social experience of their life time which led to them to expand their expectations one as women and secondly as Mexican citizens. The social and political commitment of women was awakened. Before the Massacre some of the student organizations had already started giving women a chance to actively participate in the social movement. This had resulted to stronger growth and spreading of feminist ideas among women (Carey, 2005). Women had also played a significant role in propagating the activities of this movement. During this times government officials only focused on men while responding to the movement ignoring the fact that women played important roles in the same. Due to this discrimination, even during the 2nd October massacre government official only targeted men hence women activists were left behind. This helped in keeping the movement alive as these women gave it direction in the years that ensued.
Despite the fact that the Mexican student movement was crushed the question as to whether it achieved what it had initially set its self against has yes as the ultimate answer. Though the aftermath of its actions were quite fatal it left a lasting impression and impact on the Mexican society. The social injustices that it highly objected were eventually tramped upon. The clash of ideologies had eventually resulted to a great revolution with the young generation who had for a long time been repressed by the older regime who controlled governance in Mexico. The young generation played an important role through the Student movement in keeping the Mexican society abreast with the new explosions of ideas all over the world. The older generation had for long refused to embrace new ideas look at things with an open mind and hence had given the government a go ahead to continue oppressing them through the use of repression to tramp on their right in the pretence of maintaining law an order.
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The student movement acted as an eye opener to the idle and upper classes who ignored the importance of democracy and let the government thrive in its authoritarian way of rule. The movement exposed the government as to what it was authoritarian ad violent never caring about the citizens as its interest was focused on material wealth. The young generation had educated the older shed their blood to make the world and the society a better place and made Mexico a place they could call home. It made the first crack into the edifice of the authoritarian Institutional evolutional party (Shapira, 1997). The student movement is therefore considered to be a lot of things at the same time. It was a tool of unmasking the edifice of the Mexican state, a crisis amid the traditional modes of revolutionalizing the country, a spoken word or rumor as an alternative to the television and the press, a sacrifice, violence and repression. But most importantly, more than anything else it encompassed the re-launching of the new generation of student revolutionaries reforming their dear society and a re-discovery of popular unanimity.
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The student's movement was a means to an end that finally gave birth to democracy, a face of change that brought social and political revolution and educated the older generation on what the term democracy really entailed. Social justice as the main objective was finally achieves through the events precipitated by the student movement and though it cannot be fully credited with the full achievement of freedom of the Mexicans against the authoritarian regime it actually laid a strong foundation, a strong rock on which all this was late to be achieved on.