From the September-October 2018 issue of News & Letters
by J.G.F. Héctor
Mexico City, Mexico—Everything began with a students’ strike at one of the high schools (CCH-Azcapotzalco) of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). On Aug. 28, the students occupied parts of UNAM to demand a solution to problems at their campus:
“On Aug. 23, we delivered a document to the director making our demands. We asked her for an appointment on the 27th. She didn’t show up. On the 28th, the porros [pro-government thugs] caused some problems, so we had to barricade the doors. Supposedly, the director was there, but she didn’t do anything to stop the porros’ aggression!”
—Woman student in an assembly on Aug. 291https://www.facebook.com/JuventudAnticapitalistaCCHSur/videos/326588724569931/.
This attack, together with the sympathy felt by other students for the CCH-Azcapotzalco’s demands, expanded the movement to several other high schools. Assemblies were held not only to support fellow students, but in which the youth reflected on the educational and social situation in the country:
“Why are we in this assembly? People are talking about going back to classes, but not about the aggressions suffered by our fellow students. Why aren’t we in classes? Because we have to solve political issues.”
“It’s not merely a question of classes, but of attacks against public education. We are being charged for entering school; there hasn’t been more money in the budget assigned to schools. All this turns education into a privilege and not a right, as it should be.”
On Sept. 3, a demonstration headed by CCH-Azcapotzalco marched to the UNAM central campus to make their demands heard. Supporters felt that they were also demonstrating for more:
“CCH-Azcapotzalco called us to this march, but several other issues have been added, like opposing femicide. One of the largest groups in Mexico are students. We are a key element for social consciousness. Either for internal problems at the university or for national issues, we have to support each other.”
—Male student4Interviews by the author.
“Several femicides have taken place at UNAM. The institution has surveillance camera recordings, but they don’t share them because it will damage UNAM’s public image. Femicide is one of the biggest problems in Mexico today.”
—Female student5Interviews by the author.
That Sept. 3 demonstration was attacked again by porros, leaving at least six students injured, two of them in a critical condition. The attack occurred inside the UNAM central campus. Again, campus security personnel didn’t do anything about it. Immediately, dozens of faculty members from UNAM and other universities went on 48- and 72-hour strikes.
On Sept. 5, a march with tens of thousands of students and other social groups flooded the UNAM campus to demand an end to porrismo, which has been a long-time practice used by the authorities to stop students’ movements.
One of the questions that some students are posing now is how to go beyond these particular demands, to a real democratization of education and, in the end, to its total reorganization. These are the questions that have yet to be developed, both practically and theoretically:
“It’s not just that some directors quit, because new directors will be imposed. We have to get organized with other schools, so that the students actually become the ones who decide about education.”
“Being gathered here is important because it means that we care for our own identity as students. To support demonstrations, that’s fine. But we are actually putting all the blame onto the authorities. If we get organized we can achieve great things.”