Photo: Javier Armas, @javierarmas
Thousands of university students took to the streets of cities across Mexico to protest against the manipulation of the political system by the media and politicians, saying that they will no longer keep quiet about the situation in the country.
“This is a movement that goes well beyond the elections. Whoever wins, wins, but they will have to listen to us because we are not going to shut up,” Rosana Holsch, a 20-year-old student who participated in the march in Mexico City, the biggest gathering, told Efe.
Holsch is one of the 131 students who lit the fuse for the protest movement on May 11, when presidential frontrunner Enrique Peña Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, visited the Universidad Iberoamericana and was jeered by students.
Those in Peña Nieto’s inner circle and some members of the media downplayed the incident, accusing the students of being agitators and prompting them to counterattack by making a video that was posted on YouTube.
The criticism led to the birth of the “Somos mas de 131” (We Are More Than 131) movement, which took its name from the number of students who appeared in the video and later evolved into the “Yo soy 132” (I Am 132) movement when students from other universities joined the protests.
The young people also created the Twitter hash tag #LaMarchaYoSoy132 to get their message out to supporters and the public.
Students rallied under the movement’s banner on May 18 at the headquarters of media giant Televisa, rejecting Peña Nieto’s candidacy and calling for balanced coverage in the media.
Thousands of students staged a protest the next day at the Angel of Independence Monument, where they called for the mass march that took place on Wednesday.
Peña Nieto, for his part, responded to the growing movement against him by unveiling a manifesto Monday that calls for freedom of expression and the right to protest.
The protest in Mexico City started at the Estela de Luz Monument, where students carrying banners gathered.
The banners bore messages aimed at the traditional media outlets and politicians, such as “Hace un tiempo perfecto para vivir un momento historico” (This Is the Perfect Time to Live a Historic Moment) and “Bienvenidos al quinto poder, las redes sociales” (Welcome to the Fifth Estate, the Social Networks).
Some criticism was aimed at individuals and political parties, but most of it target the perceived lack of objectivity of the media.
“We are a people and we cannot allow them to manipulate us like this, we are fed up. The time has come for young people to wake up,” movement member Yaiza Bejos told Efe.
This could be the start of what many are calling “the Mexican spring,” the 20-year-old Bejos said, adding that she never imagined that a simple video could have such a big impact.
“It was a big surprise for everybody,” Bejos said.
The time is right for everyone to wake up “and see that manipulation and violence are not the solution for this country, which needs to make a big leap,” Bejos said.
Although the movement was born out of criticism of Peña Nieto’s candidacy, it does not support or oppose anyone, defining itself instead as a nonpartisan, peaceful and leaderless movement, Holsch said.
The students marched to the Angel of Independence Monument, with some protesters continuing down Reforma avenue to the Zocalo, Mexico City’s largest plaza, causing traffic jams in the area.
Other protesters headed to the Televisa headquarters.
Protests drew large numbers of students in other states, such as Puebla, where about 2,500 university students marched from the main plaza to the offices of TV Azteca and Televisa, Mexico’s two largest media companies.
In Guadalajara, about 1,000 students from public and private universities marched to Televisa’s regional office to demand “Mas educacion, menos telenovelas” (More Education, Fewer Soap Operas).
The protesters called on members of society to serve as citizen observers during the July 1 presidential election to prevent fraud.
Marches also took place in cities in Chihuahua, Queretaro, Hidalgo, Baja California and Mexico states.