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The 1968 Massacre

Sharon Sneddon
Project 5A


On October 2, 1968 a brutal massacre occurred in La Plaza de Las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco, Mexico City, Mexico. Students had been organizing non violent strikes for the past months leading up to the massacre. The strikes were mostly against the Mexican government and their repression of students and social movements. The 1968 Olympics were about to arrive in Mexico City, and the protestors hoped to exploit the attention of the world. The president at the time, Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, was determined to put an end to the demonstrations. In September, he ordered the army to occupy the largest university in Latin America, the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City. Students were beaten and arrested indiscriminately and as a result of the occupancy, the school rector resigned in protest. Demonstrators were not deterred, and on October 2nd, in protest the occupancy of the university campus, nearly 15,000 marched the streets of Mexico City carrying red carnations representing their silent protest. At sunset, 5000 filled the plaza in Tlatelolco. Students and Workers, many with spouses and children, gathered for a peaceful protest.

            At sunset, army and police forces with armored cars and tanks surrounded the plaza. They began to fire live rounds into the crowd, hitting protestors as well as those present for reasons unrelated to the protest. The shooting continued throughout the night as bodies piled up in the plaza. Witnesses say garbage trucks came to remove most of the bodies. The government’s explanation was that protestors in the apartments surrounding the plaza had begun firing first. Suddenly, the army and police forces were sniper targets and were thus simply defending themselves. The death toll varies, usually averaging around 200 or 300. Salvador Zalco, a student at the National Autonomous University was not present at the plaza, but he does recount what happened the next day. “After work the next morning, I went from apartment to apartment looking for my friends. No one seemed to be home at the first two apartments that I went to, on the third, however I was greeted by members of the Mexican secret police. Whether they were looking for me or not, I was immediately arrested and taken to a police station. I was put into a cold empty room, blindfolded, beaten and given electric shocks the entire day. It was an experience of horror. They wanted me to admit to a number of crimes against the State, which I never did. I found out later that the government arrested around 2,000 of us during that week. We were imprisoned without trial at three different cites in Mexico City. In December 1968, most of those who were detained were released.”

To this day the Mexican people have been demanding an answer for who exactly was responsible for the massacre. Protestors pointed at police and police pointed right back at the protestors. In November 2001, President Vicente Fox announced the creation of a special prosecutor's office, charged with unearthing new information about the events of October 2, 1968 and to bring judicial charges against those responsible for the deaths of the students.


            I chose to research the 1968 Massacre because I knew little about it. Most of the other topics such as Evita Perone and El Che I was already familiar with. The three websites I used to research the Massacre include:





I found all three of these websites quite reputable. The first is a first person account of the incidents surrounding the massacre. The included facts match those I found on other sites, but what gives this particular site its power is the unique individual account of the incidents surrounding October 2, 1968.The second website is from Wikipedia, the largest free online encyclopedia. It is credible not only because of its magnitude but also because it can be edited by scholars/people who find incorrect information. The third website was a link from George Washington University, which is a highly accredited educational institution.


Three Interesting facts/ideas:

-The 1968 Massacre occurred 10 days before the Olympics started in the same city.

-Witnesses say garbage trucks removed the bodies after the massacre.

-The Plaza protest was staged to oppose the governments repression of protests as well as there occupancy of the university.


The 1968 Massacre raised a lot of attention of both government and students due to the Olympics that would follow it as well as the number of victims.


            Freire’s ideas on privilege and oppression fit perfectly into the massacre scenario. The privileged government and the oppressed students, but in this particular case, the students are not in the classroom, but the principals are the same. The government never chose to peacefully speak with leaders of the protests, something Freire would have fought for and highly recommended. The students were not treated as equals, only as a problem that needed to be silenced.


Project 5A