When this portfolio of Mexican student posters arrived at my desk for cataloging I was struck by the image on the cover, and questions started to form in my mind. What was the meaning of this man, padlocked chain in his mouth, with the ironic text below “Libertad de expresión” followed by what looked like the Olympic logo for the 1968 Mexico City games? Who made this arresting image? According to the Center for the Study of Political Graphics it can be attributed to Adolfo Mexiac. Their note reads “Student-led protests over the Government’s heavy investment into Olympic facilities rather than social programs were quelled ten days before the Mexico City Games opened. In sympathy with the students, Adolfo Mexiac adapted and distributed a linocut he had made in 1954. His addition of the ‘Mexico 68’ logo draws a sarcastic parallel between the Olympic rings and the links of the gagging chain.”
At first I thought that the cover image was cropped in such a way as to hide the signature, but I realized that most of the posters either had the initials CNH in a lower corner or nothing at all. (The Consejo Nacional de Huelga (CNH) was a student organization formed in Mexico in 1968.) The Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo’s Gráfica del 68 exhibit information explains that anonymity was intentional, in order to protect members of the movement. Indeed one of the most chilling posters has the text “¡Detrás de cada estudiante muerto, hay una madre… que clama justicia!” above the image of a grieving mother kneeling next to a dead student. This poster also references the Tlatelolco massacre, in which the military opened fire on student protestors in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas, on October 2, 1968.
Even after I have finished my cataloging work questions remain in my mind. Why were these posters reprinted in 1971 in Indianapolis, as the Library of Congress catalog record suggests? (The Penn Librarie’s copy lacks an insert which could give more context.) Who were the unidentified artists and where are they now? What I am not left doubting is the power of the printed image.
- Imágenes y símbolos del 68 : fotografía y gráfica del movimiento estudiantil / compilación y concepto: Arnulfo Aquino [y] Jorge Perezvega.
- Ensayo sobre el movimiento estudiantil de 1968 : la fotografía y la construcción de un imaginario / Alberto del Castillo Troncoso.