Student Militancy after 1968: Guadalajara and the Regional Dynamics of Mexico's Dirty War, 1968–81

Friday, January 7, 2011: 10:30 AM
Defender Room (The Westin Copley Place)
Fernando Calderon , University of Minnesota
After the 1968 student movement in Mexico City, urban guerrilla movements surfaced throughout the country, responding to the call of a youthful discontented radical left to create a "new revolution." These groups were primarily composed of students from various class and political backgrounds who voluntarily gave up their privileges to dedicate themselves to a political cause they believed would radically transform society and lead to the establishment of a socialist state. Guerrilla movements have always seemed to concern individuals who share a similar language, social background, political objective (despite ideological divisions), and visions of what a better society would be without capitalism. Evidence from guerrilla communiqués, manuscripts, and propaganda explicitly testify that a major part of their political strategy was to attract students into their organization and transform them into radical revolutionaries. This paper traces the origins of the Frente Estudiantil Revolucionario (Revolutionary Student Front), or FER, an urban guerrilla movement from Guadalajara, and evaluates the reasons why students and adolescents formed the major part of this revolutionary vanguard. It pays particular attention to the justifications behind student’s decision to go underground, the ways they reframed the demands of previous struggles in relation to the current political and social circumstances, and how they saw their struggle in relation to revolutionary struggles around the world. Therefore, this paper will offer new insights and conclusions as to how and why students became radicalized. Furthermore, it contributes new understandings of how the "dirty war" was experienced in other cities. Because the dominant narrative continues to place the 1968 massacre as a major precursor to the rise of armed struggles, focusing on Guadalajara offers a compelling case that debunks this myth especially since students were detached from the 1968 student movement in Mexico City.
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