Massacre memorial – but why now?

Tlatelolco Memorial Exhibition at Centro Cultural Universitario (CCUT)There is something odd about entering a modern, brilliantly choreographed and beautifully presented exhibition created in memory of one of the darkest episodes in a country’s modern history. Odd because the tragedy of Tlatelolco, depicted in such rich and excellently executed multi-media form here at at Mexico City’s Centro Cultural Universitario, has yet to be seriously investigated by the Mexican administration even after nearly forty years, and remains a painful scar for those that survived that terrible night and the families of those that didn’t.

But yet here it is – in all its horrific detail – for anyone to come to learn, to understand and to practically witness the damage done that night.

For those of you who follow, you’ll remember that we reported on the memorial march for Tlatelolco in October last year. This memorial exhibition was recently opened at Centro Cultural Universitario in Tlatelolco in memory of the hundreds of peacefully protesting men, women, children and students who were killed, injured, imprisoned or disappeared by state forces on the night of October 2nd 1968 in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas, just around the corner from where the exhibition is located.

Tlatelolco Memory MarchSurvivors of that night tell the story in their own words, and both Salvador Martinez de la Roca and Ana Ignacia Rodriguez Marquez, who we spoke to last year, are featured in the video interviews (go to the bottom of this post to watch a video interview with de la Roca).

The installation is made up of a series of video, photography and art installations that feature survivors sharing their experiences of the months that run up to that night, as well as their personal memories of the night itself and what they witnessed. The exhibition documents in detail the student movement of 1968, and using original archive footage and photography pieces together history.

Walking through the exhibition, listening to the testimony of the survivors, watching the footage and seeing the photographs is a highly emotional experience.

Standing at the base of a wall plastered in posters and protest fliers demanding liberty and freedom gives one a sense of what the demands of the protesters were. Contrary to being the communist subversion that President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz and his party claimed, the students were demanding democracy and an end to repression, not a revolution.Tlatelolco Memorial Exhibition at Centro Cultural Universitario (CCUT)

An interesting question, and one which remains unanswered by the apparently permanent exhibition, is why now, after nearly forty years, has an exhibition been created? Is it part of an activism strategy to push for the process of justice and recognition? How did it come about? What does the current ruling PAN administration of President Felipe Calderon make of it all? Are they going to take it as a cue to do something about that awful night and its repercussions? Hopefully these questions will be answered over the coming weeks.

What the exhibition will prompt, if anything, has yet to unfold, but its existence is an appropriate memory that promises to outlive the survivors of that night and keep its memory alive.

Please see here for another blog post on the exhibition from fellow Mexico blogger, Daniel Hernandez. talks to Salvador Martinez de la Roca about what the Tlateloloco Massacre means today:

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