Mexicans memorialize students slain in 1968 Official count is 32

estimates say 300

October 04, 1993|By Ginger Thompson | Ginger Thompson,Mexico City Bureau

MEXICO CITY -- There was a massacre here 25 years ago, but history books mention it only briefly. The government still has not completely released information on the military attack against unarmed student protesters, so most details of the incident remain a mystery, including how many died.

Most independent estimates put the toll at at least 300. Officially, there were only 32 deaths, a figure the government gave after it had removed the bodies during the night and announced that it had quelled armed Communist agitators.

On Saturday, thousands of people marched through the center of Mexico City in memory of those who died in the Tlatelolco student protest of Oct. 2, 1968. Students, professors, professionals, laborers and farmers waved peace signs and shouted, "Oct. 2, do not forget."

"As long as I am able, I will march and tell people about Tlatelolco," said survivor Maria Concepcion Lara. "Whether the government will talk about it or not, that day changed Mexico forever."

On that day, 10 days before the Olympic Games began in Mexico City, hundreds of students gathered in a plaza in Tlatelolco to express a number of demands, including an end to police brutality, the release of political prisoners, support for the Cuban Revolution, and the freedom to wear blue jeans and listen to rock and roll.

Shortly after 6 p.m., helicopters flew over the crowd and fired flares into the air. Then soldiers began firing into the crowd.

"We fell to the ground and then we got up and ran," said Ms. Lara, who was an engineering student at a technical institute. "There were people on the ground, bleeding all around us.

"A woman let us hide in her apartment and we just sat on the floor trembling in fear for hours."

On Saturday Ms. Lara walked hand-in-hand with her elderly parents, who had traveled from the northern city of Nuevo Laredo to attend the march.

"As a father I was scared for her," Victor Lara remembered. "But as a former college student, I was proud of what they were doing."

In preparation for the 25th anniversary of the massacre, major Mexican newspapers published special features about it every day last week. Scholars and legislators convened debates. And on Saturday a memorial was unveiled that listed the names of those known to have died in the massacre.

Earlier this year, journalists and scholars agreed to organize a Truth Commission and demanded that the government turn over its files.

"The truth has to be told," said Roberto Martinez, who was fired as a police officer because he refused to go along with the plan to attack the students. "We can never let the government do that again to our sons and daughters."

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