Tomorrow I will attend the #YoSoy132 anniversary at the Estela de Luz, near Chapultepec Park here in Mexico City. (I mentioned this in my previous post, and provided a link to an informative video.)
To provide some additional context: the event tomorrow will commemorate the May 11 protest at the Universidad Iberoamericana during a campaign stop for then-candidate Enrique Peña Nieto. Peña Nieto’s campaign staff reportedly expected the audience at the Ibero to be supportive. But contrary to expectations, and challenging Peña Nieto’s attempts to distance himself from the PRI’s violent past (exemplified by 1968, 1971, etc.), many young audience members interrogated the candidate for his role, as then-governor of Mexico State, in a violent police action in 2006 in the nearby municipality of San Salvador Atenco. (The police action repressed a protest of flower vendors displaced from Texcoco. The National Human Rights Commission reported that two deaths, 26 sexual assaults, and 145 arbitrary arrests resulted from excessive use of force by state and federal police.)
Grainy videos from the 2012 protest at the Ibero (mostly captured on cellular phones) reveal the auditorium at the Ibero becoming louder and falling further from Peña Nieto’s control before the candidate finally stepped to the microphone and unapologetically admitted that he approved the police action in Atenco as a measure to restore order. Infuriated, the dissenting audience members heckled Peña Nieto and pushed him, first, into a bathroom stall, and then off campus altogether.
After the embarrassing campaign appearance, spokespeople for Peña Nieto cast the May 11 hecklers as “porros” in an attempt to throw doubt on the legitimacy of their voice, and thereby transform their dissent into the inaudible noise of infiltrator thugs—“noise” improper for a forum in Mexico’s contemporary democracy (for useful discussion of such “partitioning of the sensible” see Mustafa Dikeç’s article in Environment and Planning D 23). But a viral video and a series of newspaper articles corrected the campaign’s story and forcefully asserted that the antipeñistas at the Ibero were indeed students. The Ibero students released a statement: “We exercised our right to reply with disapproval of them. We are students at the Ibero; not puppets, nor infiltrators; and nobody trained us for anything” (“Usamos nuestro derecho de réplica para desmentirlos. Somos estudiantes de la Ibero, no acarreados, ni porros, y nadie nos entrenó para nada”) (see Olivares Alonso 2012).
In solidarity with the 131 students who appeared in the video displaying their Ibero ID cards, social media users generated a Twitter trend through which they announced, “Yo soy 132” (“I am 132). This social media frenzy, in turn, propelled a series of marches and countless asambleas. (I discuss this activism in a paper in progress, some of which I recently presented at the AAG Annual Meeting in Los Angeles. A taste of the paper is available here.) Tomorrow’s event at the Estela de Luz will commemorate May 11 but is clearly also oriented towards maintaining the energy of activists who continue to identify with #YoSoy132.