68 Student Movement And Its Causes

We explain to you what the student movement is and the causes for which it originated. In addition, its consequences and who were its leaders.

What is the 68 student movement?

It is known as the 68 student movement to the social movement of which students from the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN) and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) participated, among other educational institutions besides professionals, workers, teachers and other social sectors.

This movement was formed in Mexico City in response to a series of attacks that, previous days, had suffered a group of students by grenadiers. They had used tear gas to stop and persecute young people.

So it was that on July 26, 1968, that conglomerate went to the Constitution Square to protest. But before they arrived, the police repressed, leaving a balance of three dead and hundreds injured . Many of the young people, in the middle of the repression, took refuge in the buildings of the University and of the College of San Ildefonso and were besieged by the security forces .

A day later, the students returned to the streets , took UNAM, while clashes with the police continued to grow while new schools were added. As the grenadiers did not achieve their goal – reduce the mobilizations – the government summoned the army to join.

For 100 days, the students, who opposed the president and authoritarianism , made the Mexican streets.

On October 2 this situation came to an end, when the military opened fire in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco , where students and journalists had concentrated. The explanation is that flares were thrown from a helicopter to confuse the military and make them believe that it was the students who attacked them. So it was that the security forces pointed against the protesters in the square.

As of the date of the date, the exact number of deaths in what became known as the Tlatelolco Massacre remains unknown . While the Mexican government talked about 20, the calculations made by relatives of victims amount to 65, and there are those who throw the figure of 500.

Causes of the student movement of 68

68 student movement
Students of the IPN and Isaac Ochoterena High School are confronted with two groups.

The student movement of ’68 did not occur from a single cause but there were several factors that influenced its development. To analyze this fact, the history of Mexico and the international context must be taken into account , beyond the confrontations of students with the security forces that were, perhaps, their trigger.

Here are some of the causes:

  • Student confrontations. On July 22, 1968, students from IPN and Isaac Ochoterena High School are confronted with two porrile groups (shock forces) that instigated them. These groups called themselves Los Ciudadelos and Los Arañas. The grenadiers intervened in the confrontation and wounded several students by throwing stones at them. This fact was the trigger of the series of marches.
  • Inequality and lack of representation. The economic growth that the country was going through in that decade did not translate into a distribution of wealth. To this was added that, since World War II , the lower classes were victims of the security forces of that country. An extra factor was that young middle class students did not find a representative among the figures and political spaces of the time. These two social actors were protagonists of the mobilizations of those days of ’68.
  • International context Doors outside, in the world, students also led a series of mobilizations that had different objectives, such as the end of the Vietnam War in the United States, or a “human face” socialism in Czechoslovakia. What happened in Mexico was not an isolated event but one more example of young people who wanted to have a leading role in a series of transformations or revolutions that they considered necessary for society.
  • Cuba as north. A specific case of those years and that was inspiring for young people from different parts of the western world was the Cuban Revolution , headed by Fidel Castro. It was an example that revolution was possible.

Consequences of the 68 student movement

The consequences attributed to the student mobilizations of 1968 are also several. Some of them are:

  • Transformation. After the social repudiation that the Mexican government received as a result of what happened, the arrival of a new president (Luis Echeverría) in replacement of Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, brought with it a series of internal changes. The brand new president of those years chose to leave out of power all the officials whom the society indicated as responsible for the student massacre.
  • Criticisms and transformations. The students were the ones who inaugurated something never seen before in that country: a hard questioning of who the president was then. Despite the social discontent of those years, it was the student movement who carried the singing voice against the authorities. Violence and repression by the State did nothing but convince and mobilize other sectors of society in demand of a series of transformations.
  • Slaughter. The number of students and protesters who died in Tlatelolco remains unknown, but there is talk of between 300 and 400 deaths by the security forces. To this must be added more than 1200 arrests.

Leaders of the 68 student movement

68 student movement
Raúl Álvarez Garín studied at the Faculty of Sciences of the UNAM.

Although the list is much more extensive, some of the youth who led the 1968 student movement were:

  • Raúl Álvarez Garín. At that time I was 27 years old and studied at the Faculty of Sciences of the UNAM.
  • Pablo Gomez Alvarez. He was a member of the Communist Youth since he was 17 years old. In 1968 he was 21 and was president of the student society of the Faculty of Economics.
  • Socrates Campus Lemus. He was a member of the Communist Youth, delegate of the IPN and was 22 years old.
  • Luis Cabeza de Vaca. He was described as one of the most “radical” within the movement. He was 25 years old and a student at the Chapingo School of Agriculture.

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