[sixties-l] Re: Olympic History

From: Michael Garrison (mgarrison@localaccess.com)
Date: Wed Jul 26 2000 - 19:18:30 CUT

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    I thought I would add to the discussion of the "Olympic Repressions" in
    Mexico, as I was in the country at the time. The reality of the events was
    suppressed both in Mexico and the US, therefore it is appropriate that it be
    brought up in this forum. Some of what I will say is anecdotal, since you
    will see that I didn't make it to Mexico City and depended on word of mouth
    for what was happening around the country. But, I was there and will tell
    of what I heard and saw.
    There had been a national strike of high school students going on
    (protesting corruption) and the university students were challenged by this
    action to do something and not let the opportunity of the Olympics go
    without some attempt at raising issues, including Vietnam. The graffiti all
    over included "Get out of Vietnam, yankee pigs", "Vietnam Si, Yankee No"
    etc. I left the US with a friend and planned to pick up a few Mexican
    students from Culiacan we knew and head for Mexico City with literature,
    posters etc. to see what we could do to help. After being in Detroit in
    July, the Pentagon in October, Boston Commons, the Diamond Ball in NY,
    etc.etc. I thought this would be more of the same...not so.
    My Mexican friends thought that the Government would have to tread lightly
    also, to avoid negative international press. Mexico had also a history of
    (somewhat) accepting "revolutionary" behavior, perhaps because the ruling
    party felt so secure. What we did not count on was the push by American
    advisors and the reaction of the Government which foreshadowed the dirty
    wars of the 70's and 80's all over Latin America. The Government acted
    early with a pre-emptive strike which occurred all over the country with a
    violence that left thousands dead and many more thousands in jail. In every
    city activist youths were rounded up and killed or, if they were lucky
    enough to have some family, money or influence, just put out of the way for
    the duration (along with torture, blackmail, expulsion from the country
    etc.). In fact, one of the surprises was that those who would have
    traditionally been handled with some deference, the sons and daughters of
    the rich or middle-class were treated so brutally, at least during the first
    few days of the repressions.
    We were in Culiacan, getting ready to head south when the troubles started.
    "The army is out, the army is out"...meaning that the army was out of their
    barracks and into the streets was our first word. That night squads broke
    down doors and dragged young people from their homes and the arms of their
    parents, some to be shot outside the home, some to be taken away. The
    Government knew who they wanted and stripped the leadership in one massive
    move. As luck would have it, we were out partying and were not caught in
    bed. Carlos, my Mexican friend and his sister were with us and we drove
    into the city to find others but were too late and in danger ourselves. We
    found one other young friend and called everyone we knew from a bar outside
    town to find out what the hell was happening. To listen to the phone ring
    and ring with no answer or to hear the hushed voices of family...get out,
    get out, they said. Carlos was told to head for the hacienda of his uncle,
    east of Culiacan in the Mountains as the roadblocks were up north and south
    of the city but the dirt roads heading into the Sierra Madre's were not all
    We headed east just as dawn came and made the foothills by daylight.
    Someone must have called his uncle because as we crept up the road, not much
    better than a stream bed, we passed two peasants with a donkey cart full of
    hay. After we passed, they put the cart in the road and took off one of the
    two big wheels to disable the cart and block the road...to give us a little
    more time if we were followed I guess. Carlos soon said we were safe as the
    Federalis don't come up here and his "patron" uncle controlled the
    surrounding area. In later years this area suffered a "civil war" between
    the hacienda owners and the U.S. drug enforcement/Federalis...I don't know
    who won that one. Anyway, after about an hour more we came to a small
    village, one dirt street, wooden boardwalks...looked like a western town in
    the 1800's. Mostly mules and horses, a few old pick-ups. It was like
    everyone knew why we were here and gave us small nods of their heads as
    welcome. We took a few "cervasas" in a store, loaded the car with gas from
    5 gallon cans and stashed it in a barn on the edge of the village. I
    thought to myself, gee, this is what every American tourist is looking for,
    the unspoiled Mexico...but what a way to find it. The radio station was
    under Government control and talking of a national
    emergency...communists...etc. The word from the people was: "Muy malo",
    very bad in Mexico City. A guide with a few pack mules led us with our
    supplies to a hut a few miles away and we were told to stay there until
    things settled down and it was safe to return to the City (and us to the
    US). Every day or two someone would come to us with news and supplies.
    We heard that the soldiers had dragged over a hundred kids out of the
    Cathedral in Mexico city and shot them on the steps...the blood ran like
    water down the steps and into the street. Also that some who were
    "detained" were being bought their freedom by relatives and some were just
    gone. This purge took the leadership of the radical youth back many years
    I'm told. After a few weeks things seemed to settle down, the Olympics went
    on, the news of the repressions was effectively suppressed (upon our return
    to the US we tried to tell people and they sort of didn't believe us...even
    now its kind of unreal) and although the army still had roadblocks out near
    the centers of Ciudad Obregon and Hermosillo, our friends thought we would
    be able to bribe and talk our way out. They were going to stay in hiding a
    while longer. I can't say what happened to them as after this I have never
    been back to Mexico, period.
    One problem was that our papers were bad to begin with (we just paid our way
    in with old papers, as we traveled into Mexico too many times in the months
    prior...we got lazy and just threw money around) and now they were really
    out of date. Also, we weren't sure if the Federalis had any idea
    about us. What the heck, we were 22 and wanted to get the hell out of
    Mexico, so we took off North.
    We got rid of everything that smacked of radical we had, bought serape hats
    and tourist trinkets to fill the car, sholished tequila into and over
    ourselves and played the roll of wild American boys in Mexico. The first
    Army roadblock was scary...we thought night would be better to travel
    in...mistake...big fat soldiers with nazi boots, a whole platoon, all
    carrying BAR's (browning automatic rifles)...the officers with giant
    revolvers on their hips. Where were our papers, they wanted to know...they
    were stolen with our bags we said, but the thieves didn't get our money we
    said as we flashed bills in hopes they would just take them and let us go.
    "Did we know anybody in Mexico?" they asked...only women we replied...ha,
    ha? "Were we at the Olympics?" No, we got too drunk in Mazatlan and thats
    as far as we got we said. Could we get a pass here to get out of the
    country, we asked, as our money was almost gone and college would be
    starting soon. A couple of $20 bills to each officer later and a dubious
    pass for the next block ( which worked with another $20 bill attached) and
    we were on our way. I'm not sure our "front" worked because after a few
    phone calls and some debate between the officers we were sent on our way
    with the admonition: "Never come back to Mexico!"
    The next day we heard from tourists coming south that the Mexicans were
    checking people leaving Mexico carefully at the crossing at Nogales so we
    went west to a small crossing in the desert where we knew we could buy our
    way out and thus returned to the US, where, as I have said, very few people
    knew that anything had happened in Mexico other than the US athletes
    Years later I knew people who went to Nicaragua and I told them: "Be sure
    of what you are doing, its not like the US down there, your life is not
    worth anything...its a whole new ballgame." We have heard a little tip of
    the iceberg about what happened in Latin America and is still going on in
    Colombia etc. I think that whole area could blow up again and we, in the
    guise of "drug control" will be right back in it. Lessons from the sixties,
    unlearned because of information repression, will cost this country in the
    long run. Peace, Mike Garrison, mgarrison@localaccess.com

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