|A Normalista Protester|
The Government has tried to spin a perception that the students from the Escuela Normal of Ayotzinapa fall into one of the categories above; “Radical, Revolutionaries, or Communist”.
A "normal" school is a college, usually a 2 year college, to train high school graduates to become teachers. The use of the term to describe teachers colleges goes back to the 16th century.
In the US, the term has mostly been dropped from the name of the school and they are typically called Teachers Colleges. In Mexico the term is still used and they are mostly located in poor areas and the students are mostly from the indigenous communities.
Students at those schools are typically called "Normalistas".
What seems to be missing from all the confusing and sometimes conflicting stories on the massacre in Iguala and the aftermath is any mention of who these students are, and what their disappearance (I have no doubt they’ve been murdered) means.
These kids were the best and the brightest of very poor families, most of them from indigenous communities. It was a sacrifice on the parts of their families to even send their sons (and most were young men, though a few are women) to lose their labor while the students themselves lived in appalling conditions BY CHOICE. There were not pampered college kids… these were young men and women on a mission.
We are told by the government and the media (following the government spin) that these students were “radicals”,
But if you look at the big picture, they are radical only in the sense that educating the poor is a radical idea, and educating minorities is “radical”. If the rural normal schools have a reputation for being on the political left, whose fault is that? Who else have supported the schools, and who else is providing the material support (like books for their libraries, let alone food for their cafeteria)? And, given the “support” given to rural people and the indigenous in this country by the government and a large part of society as a whole, what would one expect?
When “education” is being re-defined as job training and not as a way of means of liberating one’s self, students feel they have a right to rebel. And… in this political and social climate… to liberate one’s self, and to see one’s role in life as assisting others in their own liberation is a “radical” act, a defiance of the State and of the prevailing economic assumptions.
That these students are actually very conservative (simple “peasants” seeking to preserve their culture, but within the modern world) is lost when we see on the walls of the school those posters and murals of Che or Lenin or Emiliano Zapata.. but what other models are presented to them? What neo-liberal — or social democratic — model would make room for their survival, or accept their way of life? What has representative “democracy” given them?
As journalist and author of several books on Mexico, Richard Grabman stated;
“I’d be tempted to torch a statehouse myself if my representatives were not just doing nothing (I’m used to the U.S. Congress), but actively working against my survival, and appeared to actively participate in the destruction of my family, my culture and the future”.
Keep in mind the immediate cause of the massacre in Iguala was the students going there to raise money for a trip to Mexico City to join the national protests scheduled for Oct 2 to commemorate the Tlatelolco Massacre.
There is a war in this country against the indigenous, and the campesinos. Whether the fight is over water, or electrical power, or minerals, or narcotics, it has less to do with access to the product than with who stands in the way of “progress”, and what they are able to say or think about those who have access. Those that teach, those that speak up, those that refuse to acquiese in their own destruction, are the ones being “disappeared” or murdered.
knows that Iguala was not the first student massacre by the government. The
roots of the student movement in
Mexico do not go back to the world-wide movements of the late 60s, but to a
seemingly unimportant …. and little noted… incident a decade earlier, when
students took to the streets to demand the government lift a ban on showing
“Jailhouse Rock” in movie theaters. In
1958, nothing happened (other than the Federal District arranged for more
matinee showing of Elvis, with half-price tickets for those with a student ID
card) until in 1968.
|Disappeared in Iguala|
Much has changed since the "Elvis" protests in 1958. What made the Elvis protests seemingly unimportant in 1958 was that the number of students at the time was relatively small, and students were still overwhelmingly from priviliged backgrounds, not particularly representative of the people as a whole.
By 1968, with economic growth leading to a larger pool of families that could afford to allow their children to engage in economically unproductive work like seeking a higher education, and with even rural campesinos having benefited from rural electrification (and television), there were not only more students in 1968, but more and more campesinos and workers included in their family circle an educated “person of respect”.
WHAT HAPPENED IN 1968; THE GOOD AND THE BAD
Though the shameful actions of the government (which they tried to cover up) are what most people remember about Oct. 2, 1968, some good came from the events of that day. Legs were put under the "student movement". Some of their demands were met.
Universities and Normal Schools were given more autonomy; meaning that students, teachers and administrators were given the power to run the schools without direct state interference. This meant that the students and faculty were given greater voice in what they studied and more control over their future. The military and police were removed from the campuses and there was greater freedom of speech and assembly.
Fast forward to 2014.
Over the next 40 years many of those rights gained at such a high price in 1968 were eroded. The education reforms of 2013 and 2014 in which teachers, administrators, students, much less the indigenous population had no voice in formulating.
While the schools are in desperate need of better funding, and the teachers in need of better training and resources, the government has shown a tolerance for mismanagement and outright theft by the union bosses imposed on the teachers by themselves.
Coupled with that is the imposition of curriculum changes meant not to create educated people, but workers. Removing humanities from the curriculum in favor of shortened classes meant to impart just the technical training needed for careers is one of the students’ largest complaints.
That, and as the nation’s main source for teacher training and school administration, a recognition that merely training a student to present facts in a classroom (and to adequately pass standarized tests) is not education, and is meant to thwart the expectations of a better life for the next generation.
In Guerrero, at what even by long-time Mexico hands like the Guardian’s Jo Tuckman as “a famously radical teacher training college”, it isn’t so much the “radicalism” that has sent the students off campus and into the streets, as another of the 1968 factors. The Guerrero students are nearly all indigenous… from families in which a village maestro is as close to “person of respect” that the forgotten campesinos of this country can strive to become.
If they are “radical” it is in the sense that indigenous people are always “radical” in fighting to preserve their traditions. These students reject a requirement to teach English, for example, less because of any (quite legitimate) sense that the requirement is for the benefit of foreign employers and foreign control of future workers, but because they recognize that their students are already at a disadvantge, often not speaking Spanish. And that they can’t get texts in their own languages. And, as the future “men and women of respect” in their traditional cultures, they are expected to lead the struggle for their various people’s autonomy
In October 1968, the state's presumed intention in using massive force against the students was to end the student movement. It didn't work.
The movement may have slept for a while licking it's wounds, but the "YoSoy132" movement showed it was still alive.
The governments actions (and inaction) in Iguala may have ignited a fuse that set off a salvo that was heard around the world. Lets hope it is not forgotten and it forces some "radical" change.