|English | Español||September 23, 2017 | Issue #67|
#131+1: Voices in Movement
An Oral History of the Mexican Youth Movement of 2012
By The School of Authentic Journalism
They questioned. They invoked justice. And for this they were called thugs, agitators. From their indignation, the #YoSoy132 movement was born. Oral history allows us to reconstruct the events in the eyes of those who lived through them.
And their perspectives—in all their colors and shades—also show the feelings and subjectivities of a moment when a youth movement shook a society. Anecdotes, rumors, news and opinions mingle together in a chorus of voices through which history is revealed.
At the 2013 School of Authentic Journalism in Mexico City, eight student organizers, artists and journalists from various parts of Mexico came together and responded to inquiries regarding their experiences and participation in the movement known as #YoSoy132.
We asked each of them the following questions:
1. When and how did you first hear about the #YoSoy132 movement?
2. Could you tell the history of the #YoSoy132 movement, according to you?
3. What were the opinions of the #YoSoy132 movement in your various social circles?
4. Regarding the mass mobilization of December 1, what happened? What feelings and thoughts did it bring out in you?
5. How did you participate in the #YoSoy132 movement? Did you play a role?
6. Tell us the strategies and tactics of the movement, its successes and failures.
7. What was your experience in #YoSoy132 trainings?
8. If the primary objective was the democratization of the media, what were the successes and failures?
9. What is the current state of the movement?
10. How did your perspective change after being part of the #YoSoy132 movement?
11. What would you do differently from here on?
Marlo Garcia. PHOTO DR 2013 Elaine Cromie.
Fabiola Rocha. Mexico City. Theater management student. 24. A group of students from the Iberoamericana school, which is a private university in Mexico, interviewed presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto. They were asking really “prickly” questions. At first, he didn’t want to answer. In fact, he was already on his way out. He had already finished presenting his presidential plan, and everything that was supposedly of interest. He came back and said: “well, I take responsibility for Atenco, I acknowledge that those things had to be done and basically I don’t give a damn if there were human rights violations or not.” And the students got really upset.
Marlo García: Then the students started shouting “Murderer! Murderer!” Enrique Peña Nieto had to leave the room where they were having the debate, and since the people were really riled up he had to hide in the first bathroom he found. That was another one of the funny things that allowed the video to become popular (…) the video started to circulate ten minutes after what had happened in the Ibero.
Luz Rodea, Mexico City. Political analyst. 27. I remember that I was dying of laughter because the announcers were saying that they were having technical problems because [Peña Nieto] was closed up in the bathroom. The radio said that they were having problems, and right away they posted the video. Everything was so viral and so immediate that it seemed absurd to me that they would deny what was happening.
Uriel Pérez. Mexico City. Graphic Designer. 29. At the time, Coldwell, the leader of the PRI [political party], tried to justify what happened at the Universidad Iberoamericana. He said it was caused by “a group of thugs,” of rabble-rousers.
Fabiola Rocha: So the students got upset again and made a video that said: “I’m so-and-so, this is my major, look at my I.D. I’m not an infiltrator.” There were 131 of them in total… When the video came out there was already a trending topic on Twitter that said “I am student number 132.” It meant that you wanted to get involved in the movement, and as such, you were number 132 of that video. And anyway, that’s how I found out about the movement.
Litza Fernández. Mexico City. Editor and communicator.It was on Twitter, it had the hashtag #YoSoy132 and I clicked to see the video of what had happened, and after the video I said, wow!
Adrienne Blanc. Cuernavaca. Artist. 25.I heard about it on the news. People were talking about it and I turned on the TV to see what was going on.
Joselyn Quiles. Colima. Social Entrepreneur. 33. Watching the videos on YouTube we said, what group of thugs? The ones shouting their truths were all from the school.
Litza Fernández. PHOTO DR 2013 Elaine Cromie
Marlo García: People’s grandparents and aunts and uncles started to ask, “Hey, what is that 132 thing?” That was the perfect opportunity to tell them more or less what happened. Those who had a positive image of Enrique Peña Nieto began to question it, or at least that planted a seed in their head saying: “something’s going on here that isn’t normal.”
Uriel Pérez: In general, the housewives, who weren’t very well informed, who just let television influence them, started calling them thugs and began to defend Peña Nieto. The problem is that the media had a lot of influence in forming people’s opinions and created a lack of information.
Joselyn Quiles: It was a movement that really filled us with youth, that encouraged a lot to say “Shoot! Why didn’t I do this in 2006? Why didn’t I stand up?”
Luz Rodea: There were some among my friends who disagreed. They said that they were coopted by the Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador movement (presidential candidate), but those friends, I think, were influenced by the PRI.
Fabiola Rocha: I heard favorable opinions of the 132 all the time, but when I was in line to buy food, the people behind me were opposed and they said “Ah, those students again! Holding their marches, bothering everybody.”
Litza Fernández: I did hear teachers who were super excited because many of them remembered the movement in ‘68. Many of them said that it was time for the students to wake up and raise their voices. I had the chance to talk with a few adults who said: “we tried it in ‘68, but it didn’t work. Now it’s your turn.”
Uriel Perez. PHOTO DR 2013 Elaine Cromie
Uriel Pérez: I went to the marches. I’m a graphic designer, I design, and what I did is I used my skills, making illustrations, signs, stickers, and that way I contributed a lot to the movement.
Marlo García: I participated in many of the marches and in some of the inter-university assemblies. Later on I got involved in this network of operative groups, and that was where I spent a lot more time and had clearer goals. (…) then, even after the movement started falling apart, we kept meeting. That was one of the works of organization that lasted.
Litza Fernández: I participated in the assemblies as a listener. I joined the communication and information board of an inter-university assembly. At that point we were deciding how we were going to distribute information, if it would be through public billboards, signs, flyers, or mouth to mouth on the subway.
Marlo García: At first (the objective was) the democratization of the media. As I said, it was evident that the television stations had some sort of deal with the candidate [Peña Nieto]. Then it changed to “against the imposition” as the elections grew nearer. When it became difficult to achieve the effects we wanted to, the primary demand became that the Federal Electoral Institute not permit fraud to take place.
Luz Rodea: The goal was to seek the democratization of the media which also didn’t seem like the best concept to me. How do you democratize a media that’s private? I argued with those in the movement many times that the thing was, rather, to seek transparency in the media, but anways, when has that ever happened?
Fabiola Rocha: Yeah, basically there were two demands. Number one was to keep Enrique Peña Nieto—which is to say, the regime that silences movements with blood—from returning to power. That seemed very important to me. The second was the use of mass communication media, like television (…), to manipulate public opinion.
Joselyn Quiles. PHOTO DR 2013 Elaine Cromie
Ximena Payán. Mexico City. Journalism student. 23. The movement depended on the media and on social networks. Later, when it had begun to affect certain interests, the media stopped covering it and the movement went downhill because it never had grassroots support. Lots of information was shared (on social networks), to the point that everyone who was going to the marches had found out about them through social networks. That was also a weakness because in Mexico only 50 percent of the population has internet access.
Marlo García: I heard that they were organizing a network of Operative Groups (GO by its Spanish acronym). It was a network of small groups of people that worked on specific tasks, and the only thing they had in common was that they had to be connected to each other, maintain certain guidelines for secure communication, and that they give greater importance to the work in practice that they were doing.
Joselyn Quiles: With “#YoSoy132” we had a direct encounter with a group in Mexico City, the Strategy Salon. They came to give one of the workshops on nonviolent civil resistance, in fact, that I had the opportunity to take and it seemed like they were opening up the world to me.
Uriel Pérez: The question of strategy in the 132. It responds like other (movements) in that they are very visceral. The problem is that there was no long-term plan. That was a failure that the movement had nationwide. They were not well planned actions. The thing about making a strategy is understanding that you have to have a series of small victories to get to a big victory. And defining, too, what happens after that victory. The government started to infiltrate the movement and it fragmented.
Fabiola Rocha. PHOTO DR 2013 Elaine Cromie
Adrienne Blanc: A failure in this movement was trying to tell people what they had to do rather than listening to them to know what to do all together.
Ximena Payán: They were very civil marches and it seems to me that they worked, but then they wanted to resolve everything in assemblies, which aren’t even democratic, and they debate things the whole time.
Litza Fernández: The problem is that there were too many people. Everyone wanted to take the microphone. Later they divided it in small groups by university or collectives, and those in turn had sub-assemblies or sub-groups of each department. There was (a group) that appeared that I attended more that was “Yo Soy 132 Academics,” which was public and private university professors who had also made their group and discussed proposals, and they added them to the general assembly. So a tree of assemblitis was formed and what you heard in a group hardly ever made it to the final table, so it was like a broken telephone.
Litza Fernández: It was a very important point to explain and say why to not pay attention to the conventional media. The people in the movement woke up but all the people who didn’t belong to it didn’t care one bit. It goes way beyond just watching a television program or not.
Ximena Payan. PHOTO DR 2013 Elaine Cromie
Joselyn Quiles: There were a lot of things (that I learned) by intuition (…). There are strategies for finding your allies that seem basic to me. Also, there are other dynamics to help you find out what you and the other people agree on, and work on the things where you converge and leave behind everything that you can spend you whole lives arguing about.
Marlo García: I discovered the importance of giving workshops, because people are used to meeting in assemblies to make decisions by votes that last for hours (…). So these workshops implemented a culture of teamwork.
Uriel Pérez: Thanks to our coming across information on nonviolent civil resistance, we began to study successful strategies that have worked in other instances. We realized (the importance of) persistence. You have to be dedicated to the cause. The problem is that a lot of people leave along the way, and proposals peter out as well.
Litza Fernández: It was very important to me to see the interest in having a strategy and an understanding of nonviolent civil resistance. I think it is a great example that yes, you can do things without the use of weapons. It is thought that being nonviolent is being passive, but it’s really about winning conflicts, and I think that it is the mission of all of those that make up this group and who aren’t here to make it known.
Marlo García: The inauguration of Peña Nieto was planned for the first of December. (…) We found out that the movement intended to take the legislative palace, and to hold protests in the adjacent streets which were already closed off with barricades. In the events of December 1, teargas bombs were thrown, in the live reports you could hear the detonations and suddenly, when it started to get even more chaotic, they started to mention that there were injured people, people who had been struck in the head, who were inconscious and who seemed dead. It was pretty shocking.
Joselyn Quiles: We were absolutely willing to go out into the streets. I was going to come to Mexico City with some other companions. We were already getting organized, but a few days beforehand there were a lot of rumors going around, we weren’t sure of anything. When we saw the images we felt powerlessness, frustration, fury, there were lots of feelings to be found.
Adrienne Blanc: I think it was a very important event because nobody wanted the president to get to take power, right? And the police knew that we didn’t want him to, even though in the end we didn’t manage to stop it, tons of people were there. It couldn’t be a completely peaceful movement, but I understand why. I feel that it was a way of letting out their rage and saying “watch out,” because there is a reaction.
Fabiola Rocha: I have a group of companions from my community at the Department of Dramatic Literature and Theater. They organized a performance, they were on a different street where the disturbances were, and they took them to jail charged with “attacking the public peace.”
Uriel Pérez: It was a date that we had already analyzed. We decided not to participate [in the 1st of December] as the Strategy Salon (Salón de Estrategia) because we already knew that it was a very dangerous day. The streets around San Lázaro were closed days earlier, not even people who lived there could enter, that speaks to a public force that is disposed to do anything to achieve the imposition. It was a chronicle of a foreseen disaster.
Ximena Payán: The students who went kept up the idea of nonviolent protest. Later on came the repression, but they started arresting people who weren’t doing anything violent, and it was very offensive. Yes, that was the decline of the movement, that day it fell. In the mass media, it was treated like this: “All the students are a bunch of vandals and they deserve to go to jail, because they just destroyed Mexico City.”
Luz Rodea. PHOTO DR 2013 Elaine Cromie
Litza Fernández: Afterwards (after the moment of the protest takeover) I went to an event near downtown and I saw the destruction that bothered the citizenry so much: broken windows of ATMs and the Federal Electricity Commission. It really seemed like an abandoned city. Around the Alameda (central park) there were still a lot of police, and I saw a burnt garbage truck. It was a tough environment: I was afraid, the streets felt full of fear. But it was really weird, because around the corner from the Alameda there were people dancing danzón, eating quesadillas, having their party. Then I truly realized the contrast that there can be in a single point in a city: while some suffer, others are happy, while some are dancing danzón others are detained. It made me want to tell them, “don’t you know that there are companions in jail?”
Joselyn Quiles: Currently the #YoSoy132 in Colima is working in other movements, but with an awareness that they also belonged to #YoSoy132. Once you’ve belonged to a group or a mobilization like this one, you’re never the same again.
Luz Rodea: Well right now it’s pretty inactive. [The movement] didn’t disappear because the discontent continues. On December 1 they did manage to silence many people, and I don’t know what they’re doing now.
Marlo García: There are still some groups within the university departments. I think there is a movement with a sort of ant-style organization, but in general I think it was pretty dissolved.
Uriel Pérez: Like any movement it has it’s stages; right now it’s in a stage of lethargy. I might not even venture to call it 132 because it generated various groups. It evolved, it changed.
Fabiola Rocha: I think it’s in a very important moment; I mean, the deceleration of a movement isn’t always bad. The movement was so big and it brought together so many people that it has converted into smaller operative groups.
Adrienne Blanc: I haven’t heard talk of assemblies or anything for a long time, you know?
Ximena Payán: I have no idea. I know that after the first of December they started to make the operative groups and you started seeing a new way of communicating and decision-making.
Litza Fernández: Yes, certain groups continue meeting. They’re still making information billboards where people can see, but it’s at a very small scale. At the level of the organization I think that, yeah, it’s lost, because they didn’t set an objective.
Uriel Pérez: A great success of the movement was to show the corruption that exists in the communication media. How is it possible that the media can creat the image of a president, and even impose him? We consider that a great victory. Lots of people woke up. I saw it with my family. Lots of people don’t swallow what they say on the news so easily anymore.
Adrienne Blanc. PHOTO DR 2013 Elaine Cromie
Uriel Pérez: What the movement left me with is a more open conscience. Politically speaking it leaves me with many experiences that will be useful for other movements. I’m a graphic designer and for me as an artist the movement was inspiring: I’m making a graphic novel based on social movements.
Joselyn Quiles: Once you’ve participated in a movement like this one, you’re just that much more excited to keep working for the people and working for your rights.
Marlo García: It changed me a lot, because I never imagined I would live through an process like that. The 132 movement led us to discover nonviolent civil resistance.
Fabiola Rocha: I feel much more sure of what I want, of my country, and I think that becoming aware is the first step in seeking a change. I have to be much more informed, I have to be much more badass.
Joselyn Quiles: Many of us will die without seeing a change in Mexico. But I know that every day, when I get up, there’s a little seed inside of me that’s growing, to work, to change the place where we live. It’s to build things from below, upwards.
Ximena Payán: Before I was very idealistic and I also that that going out into the streets you made yourself heard, but later on I realized that, no. I realized that assemblies aren’t a solution, and neither are marches, that the government will look for a way to repress you no matter what.
Luz Rodea: Yes, it made its mark on me… it brought back my faith in the youth and in my friends, in that yes you can create awareness in people. The movement showed us that we can all have an shared goal, no matter what our social surroundings.
Adrienne Blanc: So it isn’t this time, but the people dared to come together and to leap together again.
Litza Fernández: Two years ago I wasn’t really interested in politics, and due to the movement and to sharing with people who didn’t belong to my daily surroundings, I was able to see my vision of the country and the necessity to communicate.
Uriel Pérez: A lot of the time we want to educate people who are adults, but if it isn’t done when they’re little, once they’re older it’s very difficult. With all the neoliberalism the idea is that if you want a quality education you have to pay for it. As an organizer maybe what I’d create would be literacy campaigns, to look for remote places where education doesn’t reach.
Litza Fernández: I think the thing is to go further, to have a clearer vision that isn’t just those who are here, but all of those who weren’t here, who didn’t even know the movement existed, because it didn’t cross demographic borders, it was very exclusive.
- The Fund for Authentic Journalism