Mexican memories were brutally hauled back into bitter recall with this nation’s student massacre, October 2, 1968, and the killings two weeks ago, June 11, in Orlando, Florida.
But there were two obvious – and brutal – differences: The massacre in Mexico was directed by this Republic’s two most powerful men: President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, and the Mexican government’s ruthless second-in-command, Luis Echeverria. The death toll was – still is – said to be some 300 killed. But many survivors, to this day, believe that casualty count is weak.
The widely used summary is: There is no useful consensus regarding how many were killed in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in the Tlatelolco district of Mexico City.
I and a couple of friends prepared to rush down to cover this capital chaos, but others, including fellow journalists and writers – Mexican and gringo word-slingers – sharply told us “don’t go.”
One convincing warning was that foreign writers were being targeted by U.S.-armed Mexican soldiers. Convincing evidence: Soldiers had shot world-famous Oriana Fallaci, correspondent for “L’Europa,” and Claude Kielman, correspondent for “Le Monde,” Paris, among others.
The stories were daunting: College girls – daughters of good families--being stripped and raped by soldiers and special police, captured university students and teachers being tied up and shot.
One non-journalistic rough-neck friend who hurried to the capital to help the students and other “strikers,” came back swifly. For months here in Jalisco he carried two concealed automatic pistols, each with an extra clip – one in his car, one on his person. He continued to carry arms for a long time after the carnage in Tlatelolco.
Many in Mexico City scattered to other relatives in other areas throughout Mexico. Getting away from the “Dirty War,” away from merciless savagery. Terror, blood, brutal killing. No mercy. At Orlando, Florida, in hard areas of Mexico (headless male bodies just found in Rosario, Sinaloa).
Yet in both the United States and Mexico sane areas prosper. And we thrive well and thankfully there.
This is the second in a two-part series.