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Different Student Movements In Mexico

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During 1960’s the student movements led to massacres: Tlatelolco Plaza massacre in 1968 in Mexico and Kent state massacre in 1970 in USA. In both cases, the student movements protested against the government. However, the extent to which those movements impacted the political situation in their country is quite different.

One way the student movements challenged the traditional authority in Mexico was protests. For example, on 2nd October 1968, 10 days before the Olympics, 5000 students protested in Tlatelolco Plaza against the Mexico’s repressive government under President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, under whose rule Mexico turned from democratic to single-party state. Students felt that the PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional) had betrayed the Mexican Revolution of 1910. For this reason, demonstrators did not leave when requested, soldiers used tear gas, clubs, rifles with bayonets, and automatic weapons on them. This led to the Tlatelolco massacre. According to V. Sanders historian, the death of innocent civilians did not even phase the International Olympic Committee and when two Olympic medalists, Tommie Smith and John Carlos showed their support for Mexican student protestors, they were banned from the Olympic Village. This is important because it shows that the massacre and student movement had very little impact on the political situation in Mexico because the government kept all the detail hidden from publicity and no one was allowed to publicly talk about the massacre. On international level, the massacre had almost no impact as well because instead of showing respect towards the victims, the International Olympic Committee decided to not boycott Mexican regime and carry on with the event, thus leaving the situation untouched.

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Similarly, the student movements challenged the traditional authority in USA via protests as well. For example, when the students learnt on 30th April that President Nixon wanted to invade Cambodia, they had anti-Vietnam war protests and burned the Reserve Officer Training Corps Buildings (ROTC) in colleges on 2nd May to show their agitation against the compulsory conscription that sent young adults to the war, which most of the Americans thought was a useless waste of their lives. This student movement activity led to the Kent State massacre on 4th May, 1970 . There were 500 protestors and the National Guard was called. They shot tear gas and 4 students died and 9 were severely injured. According to historian V.Sanders, this led to creation of Campus Riot Bill, which suspended any university student that was caught rioting, and Nixon withheld all scholarships and funding to those students, who participated in any protesting activity. Therefore, this is important because it shows that despite the grave circumstances of the massacre, just like in Mexico, American government decided to use oppressive measures to stop further protesting activity from happening. Similarly, in both massacres, the elder generation discredited the student protestors as they thought that the movement was associated with the hippie culture, which went against the traditional values in both societies. Moreover, majority of Americans did not react to the Kent State Massacre as they thought that the government was murdering protestors that caused too much damage (arson, riots etc.) to the country. However, unlike in Mexico, on international level, this massacre was not completely overlooked as Canadian students knew about the massacre and realized its gruesome nature. Yet, they were scared at how their own government could react and thus did create any protests in Canada to cause their government to interfere with this injustice in USA. Thus, the Kent State massacre did not impact the political situation in USA.

As a conclusion, both massacres did not manage to change the political situations in their countries as the oppressive regime in Mexico did everything to assure that the event was censored and no one publicly protested against the government. Similarly, Nixon used his power to stope further protesting activities by removing scholarships and funding from any student who was involved in protests. However, on international level, the Tlatelolco massacre had less impact as there was as chance for the international audience to protest against the Mexican regime during the Olympics, but they preferred not to. In case of Kent State massacre, students in other countries were aware of this injustice, but they still did nothing to investigate it further.

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