Note: The following is a lengthy article on the revolutionary activity in Mexico, and the dirty war on Mexican students who are at the forefront of preserving the nation’s historical memory and defending the Mexican Constitution. This defense led to the disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa students in 2014. The recent dirty war is the result of former Mexican President Carlos Salinas’ privatization of the Mexican economy via NAFTA (1994). As a result Mexico is a neoliberal client state of the United States.
Mexico’s Indigenous people resisted domination from the moment Spain invaded Middle America. Unfortunately history limits this narrative to Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa. The history, however, is much richer, carried largely through oral tradition and corridos.
The Mexican Constitution of 1917 sought to remedy the grievances of the Mexican Revolution of 1910-20 and the rights won by the blood of over a million Mexicans. On paper, Mexico regained control over its natural resources; it recognized social and labor rights; the separation of church and state; and granted universal male suffrage. Article 3 secularized public educations and paved the way for José Vasconcelos to set up the Mexican education system.
Emiliano Zapata was assassinated on April 10, 1919 and Pancho Villa met the same fate on July 20, 1923. Yet the so-called institutionalization of the Revolution went forward; in 1920, President Alvaro Obregón (1920-24) appointed Vasconcelos secretary of education. Vasconcelos focused on rural schools and dispatched hundreds of teachers to remote villages. Between 1920 and 1924 – he established more than 1,000 rural schools and commissioned works by Mexican muralists depicting important events of the Mexican Revolution.
In 1921, Vasconcelos nationalized and reorganized the Mexican normal schools. Lazaro Cardenas completed the reforms and Cárdenas personally inspected schools, and opened a hundred new rural schools.
The Normal schools became a link to rural Mexico. The teacher trainees were the best and the brightest of very poor families who sent them in spite of great sacrifices. They were part of the Normalista history that the 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Normal School who disappeared at Ayotzinapa on Sept. 26, 2014 were part of. They shared a history of governmental repression. The teachers defended the autonomy of their villages. Two famous alumni of Ayotzinapa were Lucio Cabanas and Genaro Vazquez, who led guerrilla movements in Guerrero in the 1960s.
The schools to this day celebrate the legacy of the Tlatelolco massacre that occurred on October 2, 1968. It is this legacy that the Mexican government is trying stomp out. They remember Rubén Jaramillo, a Normalista, who fought for the land reform and the Mexican Constitution of 1917. Jaramillo, who fought alongside Emiliano Zapata, became a labor and political leader.
Jaramillo founded el Partido Agrario Obrero Morelense. On May 23, 1962, Federal Judicial Police and soldiers raided Jaramillo’s home, arresting him, his pregnant wife Epifanía, and their three sons taking them to Xochicalco, Morelos, where they brutally murdered them.
In Chihuahua, Arturo Gámiz enrolled at the Normal Rural de Saucillo He led a wave of revolts that were part of a wave of insurrections in the 1950s and 60s in the states of Sinaloa, Nayarit and Jalisco. On September 23, 1965, in the city of Madera, a guerrilla led by Arturo Gamiz Garcia and Pablo Gomez Ramirez took over the headquarters of the Mexican army. In Chihuahua a hundred families held 3.7 million acres. In this last encounter Gamez and six others were executed.
In Guerrero the Normaistas were provoked by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) that in September 1962 imposed its candidate Raymundo Abarca Alarcón as governor of Guerrero. Tensions rose as Genaro Vázquez Rojas and his followers successfully challenged PRI strongman Raúl Caballero Aburto. PRI retaliated by arresting opposition leaders on December 30, 1962. Caballero Aburto was ultimately removed following the murder by army of 19 students at Chilpancingo, on 30 December 1960. Protests against the electoral fraud ended in a massacre of six campesinos in December 1962 in Iguala.
A member of the Coordinadora (CNTE) and a professor of elementary education, Genaro was assassinated in 1972. The CNTE is today active in reclaiming the bodies of the 43 Normalistas. He operated a revolutionary band based in the Sierra Madre del Sur during the 1960s and 1970s and was supportive of el Partido de los Pobres.
Lucio Cabañas who was assassinated in 1974 paralleled that of Genaro. He was also a professor at Ayotzinapa and a founder of el Partido de los Pobres. He was active in la Federación de Estudiantes Campesinos Socialista de México (FECSM) but after the massacre of campesinos at Atoyac in 1967, he took to the Sierras. His widow, Isabel Ayala Nava, was assassinated, along with her sister, as the two women exited a church in Xaltianguis, Guerrero on July 3, 2011. Isabel Ayala had recently demanded justice for the killing of her brother
Cabañas was a member of the Mexican Communist Party that included women such as Professor Hilda Flores Solis from whom we learn much of the history of group. According to Flores, the movement began on April 23, 1967. The focus was Governor Raymundo Abarca Alarcón. Many of the members of the cell were teachers.
Although the slaughter at Atoyac in 1967 was directed at students, not all of the participants were students. Five parents including a pregnant woman and a child were killed and twenty-five were wounded at a meeting. The problem in discussing these massacres is that there were so many. The war against students was capped by the slaughter of over 300 students at Tlatelolco in Mexico City in 1968.
In June 28, 1995 at Aguas Blancas near Acapulco police slaughtered 17 campesinos and wounded 23 more. CNN called it a war of genocide. The latest chapter in the dirty war on Mexican Indians was the disappearance of the 43 Normalistas at Ayotzinapa. Intenational attention allowed Ayotzinapa students and parents to organize a caravan up the west coast and fight back.
The fight of teachers in Oaxaca against the privatization of education was the latest in the struggle. On July 31, 2014 teachers took over the Oaxaca offices of the Institutionalized Party of the Revolution (PRI). Activists from the Mexican Teachers Union stormed the premises and set up camp in Oaxaca’s main square; the occupation lasted for weeks.
Early in 2013 President Enrique Peña Nieto passed sweeping policies that reasserted government control over education, tied instructor pay to student evaluation results, and restricted the bargaining rights of teachers throughout Mexico.
Teachers in the National Coordinadora of Education Workers (CNTE) and members of the Mexican Electrical Workers (SME) marched in solidarity in Mexico City. They attacked privatization of education and oil. Hundreds of teachers from Oaxaca participated.
Ten days after President Enrique Peña Nieto took office in December 2012, he had sent constitutional changes to education to Mexico’s Congress. Ten days later they were ratified–after no discussion with teachers, consultation with education experts, or public debate. The New York Times was part of the cover-up. This was possible because the Mexican and American media were in collusion spreading lies about “reform.” The parallels between Ronald Reagan and Peña Nieto are startling — both were figureheads for Wall Street.
The top promoter of Peña Nieto was Claudio X. Gonzalez Guajardo and Televisa, that bankrolled him. He is president of Mexicanos Primero, a former president of Fundación Televisa, and head of the Unión de Empresarios para la Tecnología en la Educación (UNETE). Immediately upon entering office, González Guajardo demanded that Peña Nieto break the political agreement with the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (SNTE) and arrest its president Elba Esther Gordillo. The teachers fought back, and Peña Nieto had his Iraq.
Meanwhile, the Normalistas stand almost alone fighting for their school, their constitution and their history while U.S. Mexicans boycott South Africa, Israel and ignore what is happening in México Lindo. Thus the genocide continues…
— by Rodolfo F. Acuña
See O ’Neill Blacker-Hanson, “La Lucha Sigue (“The Struggle Continues!”) Teacher Activism in Guerrero and the Continuum of Democratic Struggle in Mexico,” Ph D dissertation, University of Washington, 2005.