Historical Truth Matters
“Mexico Is a Mass Grave”
Rodolfo F. Acuña
Historical Truth Matters
“Mexico Is a Mass Grave”
Rodolfo F. Acuña
American media has given this event cursory attention much as the case of the wars in the Middle East. The attitude is that if it is not reported it does not exist. Indeed, I have only seen only one item in the Los Angeles Times, a paper that used to boast that if it did not report it, it was not news.
The narrative is easy enough to understand. Normalistas are college students training to be teachers. Students at the Ayotzinapa Normal School traveled to the small city of Iguala to ask for donations to help finance their trips to Mexico City for the annual march commemorating the 1968 Tlatelolco student massacre.
Apparently the impending visit unsettled Iguala Mayor José Luis Abarca and his wife María de los Angeles Pineda Villa who were hosting a parade and fiesta celebrating María’s charitable work. Not wanting María de los Angeles’ party spoiled the couple entered into an arrangement with the local drug cartel, Guerreros Unidos, (http://www.borderlandbeat.com/2014/10/what-is-guerreros-unidos.html) and police Chief Felipe Flores Velazquez, to have the problem disappear. Two of María de los Angeles’ brothers were senior members of the cartel.
On September 26, 2014, a bus carrying 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers College of Ayotzinapa was intercepted by the local police and handed over to Guerreros Unidos. What happened then is open to conjecture. Some have testified that the students were burned alive; others say that they were disposed of by the cartel.
The truth be told, violence in Mexico has increased since the 1980s, and it has molted into a neo-liberal state. In the current crisis, the government trying to take the heat off PRI have uncovered multiple graves in the area, leading one observer to remark “Mexico Is a Mass Grave.”
In order to understand the political significance of the Ayotzinapa normalistas, it is important to understand who they are and know their history. The massacre at Tlatelolco is well known even in the United States. Lesser known is la matanza that occurred in September 1968 in San Miguel, Canoa in Puebla on the advent of Tlatelolco. Five hikers who were employees of the Autonomous University of Puebla were lynched by 2,000 town people who had been whipped into a frenzy by the local priest. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUfp3QzVn-I).
Tensions in Mexico have accelerated since the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994. The majority of the 43 disappeared normalistas grew up in rural Guererro farm towns devastated by Mexico’s post-NAFTA economy and the privatization of the Mexican economy that has wiped out the Mexican rural farms and increased rural poverty and lawlessness.
During these years Mexico has become of vassal of the United States adopting its neo-liberal economic policies. It has fought the U.S.’s war on drugs increasing violence and unrest. The Mexican government has fast-tracked the molting of Mexico – stripping the people of the constitutional guarantees of the Mexican Constitution of 1917 and has privatized Mexico’s public resources.
History matters to many Mexicans who still bask in the memories of the Mexican Revolution of 1910, the first social, political and cultural revolution of the 20th Century, paving the way for Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and the anti-colonial wars of the century. The ghost of Zapata still rides down streets Iguala.
The Mexican Revolution began on November 20, 1910, and raged for a decade. More than a million Mexicans fled to the United States during this period with another million dying trying to create a new society.
The Ayotzinapa Normal School was founded in 1926 in the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution as a teachers’ boarding school. The normalistas of Ayotzinapa took this tradition seriously and participated in the progressive struggles of the nation. They were part of what is known in Mexico as the rural school movement where Mexican youth went into the countryside to teach rural Mexicans to read and write.
Mexicans know their history of self-sacrifice. I know Mexicans of my age group who remember the rural teachers who would come for one or two years. Many were not trained but they were enthusiastic with dreams of building a new society as they taught their young charges the words to the Intenacional. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zf6z2Vrfcmg)
The rural schools were founded in the post-revolutionary period for children of peasant families. Teachers have defended revolutionary values even in the face of the government’s move to privatize, globalize and atomize Mexico. Today’s student protests are about so-called education reforms modeled after US programs that are increasingly for the one percent.
In our world a normal school is a teachers’ college. Many American universities started out as normal schools, e.g., University of California at Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, the California state College system, etc. They have a long tradition.
Contrary to popular belief education in the United States has not always been universal. More often than not it was democratic. The vaunted Puritan educational system was for the faithful and limited to those elected by god.
During the 19th century very few venues extended free public education to new immigrant. In 1872 the New York Times wrote the principle of universal education had been popularized “in New England and other portions of the country” was changing owing “to foreign immigration and to unequal distribution of wealth, large numbers of people have grown up without the rudiments even of common-school education.” Over 5.6 million people in the United States did not know how to read or write. Only four states had compulsory education laws.
By the turn of the century, California was one of the few Southwestern states that compelled children to go to school, but even then law was enforced occasionally. Texas had enacted a compulsory education bill in the second decade of the 20th Century that was not enforced until modern times.
During this period the United States ranked last among the “civilized” nations of the world in the length of the school day and year. Texas ranked thirty-eighth in the number of children enrolled in school and New Mexico ranked fortieth. By 1913 only seven of eighty-seven students graduating from New Mexico’s public high schools were of Mexican origin.
There are those who forget history and those who never read it. In a recent letter to the faculty California State University Northridge Provost Harry Hellenbrand boasted that molting (the privatization) would take the university to a higher level. Harry said that the only thing that was slowing CSUN down was a few critics. If the provost had read a history book, he would know that progress is brought about not by molting, not by the “invisible hand” of the market, but by people like the normalistas who were willing to sacrifice themselves and to say this is not right! This is not fair!