Massacre in Mexico is a moving account of the student movement of 1968 and its tragic culmination at the Plaza of the Three Cultures of the Tlatelolco housing complex on October 2 when Army units and police killed many students and onlookers and wounded and imprisoned several thousand persons. Poniatowska, a Mexican novelist and journalist, permits the hundreds of students and others whom she interviewed to tell the story of the student movement and its early high hopes, public reactions both adverse and favorable, the growing confrontations with public authority leading to the violation of university autonomy, arrests, and some killings, and finally the noche triste of Tlatelolco with a death toll estimated by sources at more than 300. Although some of the interviews are anti-student, the bulk of the material points to a pro-student bias by the author; and the reader of Part 2, “The Night of Tlatelolco,” is likely to find himself in profound sympathy with the students and other victims of the massacre.

The reviewer can only guess at why the government created a situation whose outcome was tragedy. Perhaps it was fearful of revolution, angry at the insults to the President, traditionally above direct, personal criticism, and, despite student disclaimers, afraid of student interference with the Olympic games. The tragedy may have had some positive results. The reviewer hypothesizes that President Echeverría’s encouragement of public discussion and dialogue—the students repeatedly called for a dialogue with President Díaz Ordaz—and his greater responsiveness to worker and campesino problems may represent an effort to purge a sense of guilt resulting from his participation in the events of 1968, at least in a formal sense, as the Secretary of Internal Affairs.