Civil Rights Movement - Tlatelolco Massacre, Mexico

Tlatelolco Massacre, Mexico

Main article: Tlatelolco massacre

The Tlatelolco massacre, also known as Tlatelolco's Night (from a book title), took place in the afternoon and night of October 2, 1968, in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in the Tlatelolco section of Mexico City. The death toll remains uncertain, with some estimates placing the number of deaths in the thousands, but most reporting 200–300 deaths with many more wounded and several thousand arrested.

The massacre was preceded by months of political unrest in the Mexican capital, echoing student demonstrations and riots all over the world during 1968. Mexican students wanted to exploit the attention focused on Mexico City for the 1968 Summer Olympics. President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, however, was determined to stop the demonstrations and, in September, ordered the army to occupy the campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the largest university in Latin America. Students were beaten and arrested indiscriminately, causing Rector Javier Barros Sierra to resign in protest on September 23.

However, student demonstrators were not deterred and the demonstrations grew in size until October 2, when, after nine weeks of student strikes, 15,000 students from various universities marched through the streets of Mexico City carrying red carnations to protest the army's occupation of the university campus. By nightfall, 5,000 students and workers, many of them with spouses and children, had congregated outside an apartment complex in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco for what was supposed to be a peaceful rally. Among their chants were México – Libertad – México – Libertad ("Mexico – Liberty – Mexico –Liberty"). Rally organizers attempted to call off the protest when they noticed an increased military presence in the area.

The massacre began at sunset when army and police forces — equipped with armored cars and tanks — surrounded the square and began firing live rounds into the crowd, hitting not only the protesters, but also other bystanders uninvolved with the protest. Demonstrators and passersby alike, including children, were caught in the fire; soon, mounds of bodies lay on the ground. The killing continued through the night, with soldiers carrying out mopping-up operations on a house-to-house basis in the apartment buildings adjacent to the square. Witnesses to the event claim that the bodies were later removed in garbage trucks.

The official government explanation of the incident was that armed provocateurs among the demonstrators, stationed in buildings overlooking the crowd, had begun the firefight, causing security forces to return fire in self-defense.

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