The Tlatelolco Massacre

The eyes of the world were on Mexico when they became the first country in Latin America to host the Olympics in 1968. However, beneath the surface and attention of the five rings, a much larger crisis was shielded from the sight of the public. On October 2, 1968, just ten days prior to the opening ceremonies, somewhere between 300 and 400 people were murdered in a massacre against the young, peaceful protesters of Mexico City and the majority of those killed were never named, never identified and, according to some reports from the Mexican Government, never existed.

The late 1960s was a time of political and social tension, not only in the Americas, but the entire world. According to CIA documents released by the Freedom of Information Act in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the days and months prior to the attack, Mexican officials sought to end the unrest within society in preparation for the games. According to Document 70, the CIA Station in Mexico reported that peaceful protests were even stopped from happening and students were murdered without cause, stating, “a policeman pulled his pistol, evidently planning to fire over the students’ heads, but he did not raise the weapon high enough and shot and killed one student.” This is but one example of the back and forth between government entities and civilians. Even with the impending Olympics, the protesters and organizations claimed they were not using the Olympics as a way to disrupt, but rather criticized the $150 million investment, which would equal about $1 billion in today’s standards, that was being invested solely into the event rather than the struggling lower classes of Mexico.

In an interview with BBC from 2008, British journalist Robert Trevor gave his first-hand accounts to the events that transpired on that day. Trevor was in the crowd in hopes of getting a potential story in the works and said that about 3,000 people had gathered in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas. “The majority of these protesters throughout this era were educated college and high school students who sought to make a better Mexico for them and their children to grow up in. These protests never turned physical for the students. Trevor said that shots were fired from the surrounding rooftops of the apartment complexes covering all four sides of the plaza and then the whole area was swarmed with helicopters and gunships firing upon the crowd. Within the chaos and stampede, Trevor escaped to a hotel and filed his report of the events, which was published on the front page of the London Evening News. He wrote about how the police commissioner of Mexico City had held a press conference claiming that 25 people had been killed, including seven policemen. “I knew this wasn’t true because I had seen more people than that being shot,” Trevor said. Since that day, an official death toll has never been given. According to CIA Document 75 of the event, “twenty-four civilians dead, many of whom were students, and one hundred thirty-seven civilians wounded; eight soldiers.” However, according to many studies, somewhere between 300 and 400 civilians died in the events of that day. Declassified documents and research supports the idea that paramilitary forces were ordered to provoke the attack on students that day, even if it meant killing some of their own.

In the early 2000s, charges were placed upon the former president of Mexico Luis Echeverria for his role in the Tlatelolco Massacre as well as the Corpus Christi Massacre in Mexico City. Ultimately, due to the 30-year statute of limitations, the charges were dropped in 2006. No one has been held accountable for either massacres to this day. Mexico City citizens still hold a march throughout the city on the anniversary of the massacre every year.