Accepted Papers:

Remembering Tlatelolco, Forgetting Madrazo: Rethinking Mexico's 1960s  


Ben Smith (University of Warwick)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper looks at how the legacy of the 1968 Tlatelolco student massacre has warped and obscured the narrative of modern Mexican history.

Paper long abstract:

For nearly half a century, Mexicanists have focused on the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre as the critical turning point in the relationship between the ruling party (the Institutional Revolutionary Party or PRI) and wider society. For many of the Mexico City middle classes, this may have been the case. However, outside the capital, PRI primaries, reintroduced by the head of the party, Carlos Madrazo, were far more important. By promoting primary elections to select municipal candidates, Madrazo opened up divisions throughout the country as state electoral machines faced up to popular, pluralist alliances. In some regions, where central interference ensured a degree of free choice or state machines proved weak, the primaries ushered in a new generation of PRI apparatchiks, who replaced the old-style caciques of the post-revolutionary era and ensured the continuation of relatively uncontentious party rule. But, in other regions violence and vote-rigging won out. Here, the failure of the PRI primaries forced popular groups to turn to increasingly anti-systemic forms of political resistance. These often formed the basis of the guerrilla groups, social organizations, and opposition parties of the next thirty years.

panel P33
On Mexican time: politics and the past in twentieth and twenty first-century Mexico