It was Wednesday, October 2nd, 1968 in Mexico City, a few weeks away from the Mexico ’68 Summer Olympic Games Opening Ceremony. For the last three months, the city had been facing an intensive and stressful situation with the national university students on strike. This strike was initiated at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, from and for the student’s sake against its Governing Board. Suddenly, the student’s ideals were mixed with a politic radical stream through the well known communist group “El Muro” (The Wall) that was operating underground against the government, which covered almost the entire nation.
The city’s people were sick of this strike due to its endless resolution, but especially sick of the government that saw this movement getting out of control every day. In order to keep me busy and away from the students strike activities, my dad, with a wise vision, helped me land a job with one of the contracting companies that were in charge of building the general sewer system of the city.
For the next five weeks, I got up early in the morning to go to my job, located a few blocks from the Alameda Park in downtown. Everything seemed to be normal for everybody, except for the students’ movement, who was organizing a big meeting at “Plaza de las Tres Culturas”(Three Cultures Square) at Tlatelolco City at 5 p.m. This plaza is well known as part of the Aztec pyramid heritage during the Conquest era when the Spaniard’s took over. Immediately after contractors found this site, the government declared it a National Treasure to avoid any construction atop it. Surrounding the park, however, a couple of twenty floor apartment building were built for the Mexico ’68 Olympic Games.
Knowing I still had some connections with the strike leaders, my dad stopped by my office at noon and warned me not to attend the meeting for my own sake. To my surprise, by midday, Guadalupe my girlfriend, stopped by as well to ask me not to go to the meeting as we previously planned. I took her to my car and we drove through the street until we got close by Tlateloco City.
All of the sudden I was asked to turn the other direction by a police officer. I was frozen at the steering wheel. I could not believe what my eyes were seeing. With doubts still in my head, I turned and asked Guadalupe if what I was witnessing was real. She said yes, and explained that it was the Army surrounding Plaza de las Tres Culturas, equipped with tanks, assault vehicles, jeeps, and troops; armed and ready to shoot, if needed. The government authorities warned the students on radio and TV news at noon that they were not going to allow any other meeting or manifestation against the University or Mexico government or the government authorities .
Not paying attention to what the policemen had said to me, I asked Guadalupe to go back to her house and promised to call her as soon as I went back to mine. I parked my car and walked up to the meeting place. When I got to the plaza, there were almost three thousand students waiting for the speakers to start the meeting. There was not an empty spot in site. I decided to stay away from the crowd but close enough to hear the speakers. By that time, all the people present knew about the army’s position. The stress and tension increased while more students were arrived. It was almost dawn when the army finished to surround the plaza. We were all trapped.
Nobody knew why the meeting was delayed, but when the speakers were about to start a gunshot crossed the Plaza air. Then another one, and all of the sudden there was a crossfire between the soldiers and apparently some posted “deer hunters” inside the apartments buildings. There was a lot of confusion. The fire was all over the crowd. Students started screaming and running everywhere, and the soldiers tried to keep them in one single block. As they could not stop them, they began to shoot them or stop them with their bayonets. I was experiencing a lot of fear and was afraid for my life.
One fellow close to me got shot in the back and fell onto me. He was bleeding all over. While holding him, my hands and clothes filled with blood. I realized that he was dead! Horrified, I dropped him on the floor and started sneaking away from the Plaza. Hiding in different places for several hours, I finally got away from the Plaza’s massacre.
By 10:30 p.m., I arrived at my home. At that moment, I opened the main door and my mom came running to me in tears to hold me and kiss me. I could not resist and broke into tears as well. I remember that I could not fall asleep that night. For a couple of months, I could hear the crowd screaming, the soldiers killing without mercy and the students, like myself, dying. I will never forget the feeling of being alive, safe, and close to my family, but most of all, those words that my dad told warning me not me not to attend that meeting.
Finally the strike was over. The students went back to the University. The Olympic Games were a success and at that time were named the best Olympiad of the century. In honor of those who got killed at the Square, the students and the people of Mexico City named la “Plaza de las Cuatro Culturas” (The Four Cultures Square). I will forever keep in my memories those who got killed at Tlateloco ’68: on that “Red October.”