Mexico in the Global 1960s

AHA Session 167
Conference on Latin American History 34
Sunday, January 4, 2015: 9:00 AM-11:00 AM
Liberty Suite 5 (Sheraton New York, Third Floor)
Eric Zolov, Stony Brook University
William Marotti, University of California, Los Angeles

Session Abstract

Mexico in the Global 1960s


     The year 1968 signifies erupting youth movements that challenged socio-political complacence in different parts of the globe.  In Mexico City, student protests against state violence and repression swelled in the summer, spread over the city, and culminated on October 2, when the army fired on a mass meeting at the Tlatelolco Plaza on the eve of the Olympic Games.  This panel’s purpose is to place new research on this and other Mexican youth movements in the “long 1960s” (c. 1958-1974) within an emerging historiography of the Global 1960s.  In this literature, until recently focused on the US and Western Europe, scholars have examined the relationship between the transnational and the local.   They agree on the interpenetration of events (e.g. dramatic youth protests) with processes of cultural liberalization, economic growth, and mass consumption that are viewed as undergirding rebellion on many fronts (artistic, sexual, political, literary, musical). As historians of Asia, Africa, and Latin America join the conversation, they expand its contours, questions, and findings.    This panel uses the Mexican experience to bring Latin America more directly into the discussion.  We have asked a non-Mexicanist, William Marotti, who addresses similar issues in his work on Japan’s 1960s, to provide an ‘outside’ perspective that will further link the panel’s findings on Mexico to the wider discussion.

      Ariel Rodriguez Kuri argues Mexico City students saw in the global event of the Olympic Games an opportunity to demand civil/political freedoms.  With control over the press and as a tactic for repression, the authoritarian regime portrayed the students as opposed to the Olympics, symbol of Mexican progress and prestige. Mary Kay Vaughan looks at educational processes (school, cinema, radio, sports, health) and shared experiences (economic prosperity, transnational consumption, government social programs, and youth’s social spaces) that explain protest movements in Mexico City.  She argues that youth’s socializing experiences were similar to, yet distinct from those of U.S. and European rebels.  Jaime Pensado and Shane Dillingham introduce new actors.  Pensado looks at leftwing Catholic student organizations.  He examines how they negotiated questions of authoritarianism/anti-authoritarianism and violence/non-violence, so contradictory in rebel youth transnationally. In particular, he looks at the Movimiento Estudiantil Profesional that provided leadership for the Liga Comunista 23 de Septiembre, one of several urban and rural guerrilla groups that surged in these years across Mexico (and Latin America) to pursue revolutionary change through violence.   Shane Dillingham examines an indigenous movement in southern Oaxaca.  Here Mixtec youth identified not with revolutionary violence nor with the vision of cultural alterity that transnational urban youth often cast upon native societies.   Rather they demanded their professionalization as teachers and freedom and resources to promote the material improvement of their communities. Like students in Mexico City but on a smaller scale, they were products of population explosion and government social policies. Young radical anthropologists from Mexico City introduced them to anti-colonial ideology that justified their movement.  With these papers, we open a dialogue that will enrich both Mexican and Global 1960s historiographies.

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