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10 1968 Archiving Amnesia: Tlatelolco and the Artfulness of Memory Jacqueline E. Bixler El olvido está lleno de memoria. Oblivion is full of memory. Mario Benedetti Hay países que castigan su pasado. Hay otros que lo entierran en un ataúd. Some countries punish their past. Others bury it in a coffin. Denise Dresser Primary Materials ● La noche de Tlatelolco (Massacre in Mexico) by Elena Poniatowska (testimonial narrative, 1971) ● Olimpia 68 (Olympia ’68) by Flavio González Mello (play, 2008) ● Rojo amanecer (Red Dawn), directed by Jorge Fons (film, 1990) ● Plaza de Tlatelolco and the 1968 Memorial Museum (sites of memory) ● Graphic art from 1968 and 2008 by various artists O utside the borders of Mexico, few people are aware that the 1968 Summer Olympics were held in Mexico City. Even fewer know that ten days before the opening ceremony army troops and special forces slaughtered hundreds of students and innocent bystanders in the Plaza de Tlatelolco, a site of struggle and sacrifice since the days of the Aztecs. Vi­ olent death is unfortunately nothing new in Mexico, home to the Spanish 204 Jacqueline E. Bixler Conquest, the 1910 Revolution, the deadly earthquake of 1985, the 1994 Chiapas uprising, femicides, drug cartels, mass graves, and the presumed slaughter of forty-three disappeared students in 2014 in rural Ayotzinapa. While the demands being made by the students in ’68 were not unlike those being voiced in Paris, Prague, Tokyo, California, and many other places that same year, the Mexican student movement was unique in terms of the violence with which it was squelched and the questions that were left unanswered—namely, who ordered the massacre and how many were killed? The movement itself began on July 22 in a rather trivial way,when an excessive use of force was used to break up a skirmish between groups from two secondary schools.The brutality of the police response sparked an escalating chain of protests and repression that led to increasingly large protest marches, in which the students were joined by teachers,workers,and members of leftist political groups. As the opening of the Olympic Games approached in October, President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz decided that on the eve of its debut on the world stage,Mexico could not and would not be seen as a country that could not maintain order. His “solution” was effective; October 2 brought the death, detention, or disappearance of hundreds and the demise of the student movement. By October 3, the bodies were gone, the blood had been washed away, and the governmentcontrolled media merely reported that a handful of students had been killed after they opened fire on the troops, while the government itself launched Operation Amnesia:“first they hide the magnitude of the tragedy,then they minimalize the numbers, propagate rumors, denigrate the protagonists, and trivialize the events and in the end there will be those who doubt that the events actually took place” (Álvarez Garín 256). Official archives remained buried until the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party), or PRI, finally lost its seventy-year stranglehold on the presidency in 2000. The challenge to the amnesia began in earnest when 1,500 unregistered rolls of film were discovered on the roof of the National Palace, scores of books and films on 1968 appeared, and the Internet provided a free and uncontrollable source of photos,videos,and testimonies . Nonetheless, the government has yet to admit blame, to punish those responsible,or to provide an accurate count of those killed that afternoon. On October 2, 1968, twentieth-century Mexican history split into two eras: pre- and post-’68.Considered a watershed moment in Mexican history and the cornerstone of Mexico’s contemporary collective consciousness, the Tlatelolco massacre marks the beginning of deep public distrust of governmental authority . Almost fifty years later, Mexicans refuse to forget October 2 and continue 1968 205 to demand both the truth and an end to the impunity that has protected those responsible. Mexico’s writers and artists, in particular, have ensured that “el dos de octubre no se olvida” (October 2 will not be forgotten) by counteracting the politics of amnesia with a steady stream of collective memories, ranging from chronicles and commemorative books to works for the stage and the silver screen.These cultural products serve as “counter-memories,” which underscore “the disparities between history as it is discursively transmitted and memory as it is publicly enacted by the bodies that bear its consequences”(Roach 26). In a...


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