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unam ‘99

scott claassen bauhaus kolleg xi

all text is taken from interviews by the author with Ana alvarez, alejandro alvarez, daniel escotto, imanol ordorika, humberto ricalde, sara sefchovich, lucia santa ana lozada, peter krieger, and valentina loa rojas salazar

Geographies, too, are symbolic: physical spaces turn into geometric archetypes that are emissive forms of symbols...the accidents of terrain become meaningful as soon as they enter history. Each history is a geography and each geography is a geometry of symbols.

-Octavio Paz, The other Mexico, 1972

The free men who were named Cortez, Pizarro, Alvarado and Belacazar were not caesars nor lackeys, but great captains that to a destructive impetus added a creative genius.

-Jose Vasconcelos, The cosmic Race, 1921

that structure of having the one unviersity, is very prista, no?

Centralization Part I

Even if we are autonomous and we have this city, we don’t need police here, we take care of ourselves There was some symbolic inner sanctum in the campus




days. all campuses were places you could go and be safe from an authoritarian and repressive Mexican state.

the campus was understood as a place where there were a certain amount of liberties that were not allowed outside university campuses, in a very very authoritarian state. Students had a special legal status. They could not be judged by the regular legal bodies they had to be judged by the university bodies. The authorities were saying ‘no it’s not possible this is a radical group, a leftist group and we don’t think they are really representative of ...’

Let me give you a little bit of background...

The political movements on campus worked in ways in which they radiated not only in the neighborhoods that were close to the campus, but the city as a whole. You need really, if you want to keep social peace, to keep the university calm and the students continue to study without making any noise. There was a movement to isolate the students from the society. Of course in mexico, even in the time of the revolutionary government there was this party saying ‘hey be careful’ because students, many students together can be very dangerous. One of the reasons to bring the university here, was just to prevent student action. But the students started opening the city again

I came from Merida in 1960 because in yucatan there was no school of architecture. i was only 17 years old, So you can imagine the joy...okay you are accepted. was like the realization of a real modern architecture that we would live and study in. All was functioning and it was, emotionally, a feeling that mexico was modern and was building itself quite strongly. The Ciudad Universitaria was built was to be modern, to be nice, to be very avant garde, but...foremost so the students won’t have a chance to disturb the life of the city. It was really a wonderful experience to begin studying architecture at the beginhning of the 60s in this university city.

In 68 there was a movement here that lasted about 5 monhnths after a very authroitarian reaction of the government. The army came and invaded this city. in 68 the confrontation between the students and the state was really a major confrontation, that was defined in the end by a massacre of students in the Plaza Tlatelolco...

I remember the first day that the army came it was september 1968 and the people, us, the students, teachers, were there outside on the entrance of insurgentes. And people were standing there shouting and asking what was going on with this country, and with this authoritarian reaction. And Elena Poniatovska a long time literature teacher at the school of literature. She had her car there, and to all the people who were there shouting, she was giving the mexican constitution saying here are your rights, you must defend your rights. On one side the army in the university city, and then this lady, very charming lady, , saying here is the law, lets study it, lets try to defend it.

It was 25 years without police intervention on the campus...

when we came from the 68 strike, lets say, it was a very strong feeling of our social responsibility. after October the second 1968 it was some kind of a natural reaction, that the people went out every year just saying we don’t forget october the second. It was a kind of reaction, a political reaction, saying well we can do nothing but we don’t forget. If in the university things are not solved by dialogue and agree ment, what’s the message to the rest of the country? this becomes the way of solving conflicts. This generation inherrited the 68 movement but was not able to do something similar.

There was no victory for anyone, even the ones who wanted the strike to end. the strike was too long and it really destroyed the way the university was before.....I think it’s worse, though old people like me seem to think old times were always better, but it’s not because of that. It’s because after this strike there was no, and is no today, life in the university. They don’t play that role anymore as they used to in the 1968 movement when they wanted not only to do something about the university but about the entire country.

The most difficult part was to come back. everything was dirty, everything was empty. physically it was quite destroyed still, but they destroyed the image of public education and the UNAM and everything.

68 was a movement where students began to ask for things and then it became a social movement, which helped open eyes to what was going on in Mexico. History changed...99 was different. It was a movement which had no sense at the end...and, it had destroyed what we had built in 68. That could be the same if you had an lets think that we had an earthquake and that you had to begin again from zero. It never really is from zero...

it's still another universe. It's like a world in itself that has a lot of disconnection with what's going on outside. And I think that's a big problem. (Ana, maybe later) t's this big instituion and I don't know if that works anymore, for a reality like the one we have in Mexico City, in many ways. And I feel that they are very closed into themselves.

It's no longer the central university, it's not the most important one;

and that's the link that's not there. -ana alvarez

Separation Part II

March 15, 1999

This really was a huge attack

these reforms were not even announced for the students. Lets say nothing related to some kind of a consultation

we entered into a new stage of our budget cuts, and a reorientation of the system (AA)‌ with pressure to raise the fees in the university, and for the students to pay for all the services that they recieve in the university.

this financial reform came

'oh these students

to the campus with a media

are privaledged,


they don't pay...

‘they come in fancy cars and they live very well but they are selfish and they don't want to support blah blah blah...'

‘look at the majority, the absolute majority of the students at this university, come here by bus or by metro. So this is a very tiny group that comes in his own car. And the rest of the students, lives under a very low income.

The faculty of sciences is one of the most politically active faculties in the school, and they had this meeting to discuss whether or not to go on strike.

we were trying to ask the whole community and not just the poeple who went to these meetings.

but the way campus was built it won't allow you to be But it was resisted, a very

very close to the rest of the

strong student reaction's like an island

They decided, in the case of the faculty of ciencias, that they would go to strike and urge the other faculties to go to strike. And the directors themselves began to close down the faculties. Which was bizarre because you say, why an authority was closing down the faculties. It was the student movement.

Everybody that wants to say something and to be listened to has to be in the media. Radio, TV, newspapers

If you look at the metropolitan area, if you took the students of unam, of uam and ipn it's a lot of students in this area. There's a possibility of interconnection between these groups in an incredible size.

And they created Ke Huelga, their own radio station on campus*

'okay, you want to make a protest, you want to make a mass demonstration, perfect go on and we will be waiting here, No reactions, you’re gonna die by indifference'

April 23, 1999 can have in a few days thousands of students outside . and you have 150000 people in the streets and they say ‘no’. this really was a big victory for the students.





There was a point in which there was a possibility to negotiate

June 29, 1999

And we went into a period extremely large and exhausting. they used to have meetings of twelve hours in the university. Then what you had were the extremes, right and left, gaining more

The rector proposed something that was very close to what was wanted

strength than they would usually have. it became polarized very fast. The Ultras present themselves as very pure souls that want to share everything and be free and generous and equal to everybody. And they look at people with different opinions as these horrible bloody bourgeois.

and they said ‘no we don't accept.’

...the university has groups that were not there for the 68 movement but were something that were studying. And not that young, Most of them just had a chair and they were paid per hours. `this group, would have loved to be like the poeple form 68. this group of people, who are neither students, nor part of the faculty, and they were very powerful at the faculty of sciences. Fossils. they were the ones who started to push...

] present themselves as very pure souls that want to share everything and be free and generous and equal to everybody. And they look at people with different opinions as these horrible bloody bourgeois. these guys, some of them were completely crazy.

it, within the university brought a kind of civil war, started making holes around the campus so the cars couldn’t ge tin. And making barriers with the cement and sand. Actually trying to close the university more than it was.

Autonomy is not separated from society, it is separated from the government...we are not separate from society and we shouldn't be

you have a bunch of twenty people transforming that into their house and poutting in front of their door decideing who enters and who doesn't, who's the one deciding who's political and who's not?

there was a group that broke into the library and started to steal books. Then there were a few events which were very delicate...

There was something in the

they caught some professors

faculty politicas

who were against the main group who was ruling the strike

they took their clothes off. They threatened that they were going to hit them, just because they have differences with the group running the strike.

Really fascist i would say

That was something stupid. the fact that you have a good thing you are fighting for can't mean you can do what ever you want and not listen what other people have to say. here was a point in which, it really had to do with the methods, not that much to the principles

But in fighting for that, you have to take care of the way you do it. You become as authoritarian or even more than the authorities themselves.

I was openly criticizing this new strategy. the students were like 'I don't want to hear, I don't want to see' (in reference to his critiques

Part of the school went to a psychiatric hospital here, and many ought to remain there. This psychiatric hospital was empty they offered it to us. It's almost like a joke

both parts were totally unable to establish a dialogue...

the rector had to resign and in the middle of the crisis the university had to put another guy to run the office of the university.

the student movement of 99 suddenly became criss crossed by a lot of other political interests. was even said that the fossils were paid to make all that mess. You had the president on one side and this little group of students on the other, and then there were the rest of us. Thousands and thousands of us....

Jan 19, 2000

This opened way for the new rector to call for a kind of vote about the strike, which it was very clear that the vote would head to the bringing of police onto the campus. And this happened in 2000. the idea was that they finally had to use the police because they never had a negotiation really open for change. when the police came into the campus, i felt a real strong defeat. Even if i didn’t agree with the ones ruling the strike. It was a defeat of

Feb. 6 2000

the possibility of actually having a dialogue. Though i would say that doesn’t mean it’s solved. That doesn’t mean people would see the university again as this very important reference it used to be.

the strike was over

the students were defeated some of the students went into jail.

68 was a turning point, 99 was another one but in the opposite way. Not for better, but for worse.

How can you retun to work when some people are in jail, some were completely defeated, and some were breaking the strike? You have a community completely divided.

the most difficult thing was coming back after the strike. one year you’re almost done with a semester and then one year later you come back to finish the semester. It doesn’t make any sense at all. Many people didn’t come back

even in our small world, the university, we were not able to change anything so what was the point of trying to change anything at all.

I lost respect for the university. I didn't respect it for all of what happened and that nobody wanted to speak about it

it's still another universe. It's like a world in itself that has a lot of disconnection with what's going on outside.

That was the point i decided i didn't want anything to do with the university

there was a lot of excitement. 'now we are the owners of the campus!’

-Valentina Loa Rojas Salazar

Public Space Part III 2010

I discovered campus during the strike. I wasn't aware of how beautiful and fun it is. the spaces started meaning something else, because all the places that were not accessible suddenly opened their doors. it was a continuous operation, opening the city. this marvelous city.. I was tempted at the beginning to not get involved. Tempted to just say okay this is not going to last verylong. But then I realized that I had a responsibility too, i was in that inner debate with myself. And then i started to get involved...

It was very naive in a way. As if you just move into the university and sleep there and that makes your movement powerful.

And then the people from the

We Invited professors and students

CGH at my faculty, I didn't

from all around the university to

really get along with them. We

discuss about the problems that

used to have a lot of conflict.

originated the strike.

then I found a group, something called encuentra por la universidad, which was like a series of conferences for an entire week in the campus, in a garden that was always closed for students, but since there was a strike we were able to actually open and use it.

the Jardin de los Cerezos was remade to the encuentro de la universidad the spaces started meaning something else, because all the places that were not accessible suddenly opened their doors. I discovered campus during the strike. I wasn't aware of how beautiful and fun it is.

When it was over, You felt that it belonged to you, and After the Strike it wasn't nice anymore that you weren't allowed to go into that garden anympore. Because you were there and you used it but the university closed it again somehow.

They opened it once in a while when there was a congress or a lecture or something like that, they opened it for cocktails...

I think the fact

they had the

that they make a

auditorio Che

physical intervention,

Guevara but

physical in the sense

they didn't do

of reogranizing the

anything with it

tranist like something

except to have

you can see, in which

a rubbish dump

the university was

with Marijuana

working better, i think

and Reggae

it worked, it helped.

music and hippie food...

It's this whole idea of this university not being abandoned, it's this statement of saying you can recover it and yuo can have a new university in a way.

I think it is very good that it happened. I am only wondering if the new administrators that they have on their hands in these days on this campus, if they understand what it really means, this campus

many spaces especially the service spaces, bathrooms, or the cafeterias at that time were vandalized really. And little by little it all was put in order.

it has become more of a preservation. It's cheapened. Something that you just keep it and say it's very valuable...with Unesco and such They were putting a lot of barriers to students as well. And then we didn't do anything about it, we just complained The new rector insisted that we had to recover the public image of the university. And then he began a huge media campaign just to recover the image of public education. (AA) what de la fuente did was a large and deep propoganda campaign, featuring all these things that UNAM did, in order to enhance public perception about the importance of UNAM. You felt that it belonged to you, and that it wasn't nice anymore that you weren't allowed to go into that garden anympore. Because you were there and you used it but the university closed it again somehow.

there are some horrible classrooms in the faculty of philosophy, I mean really really horrible....and for example the people started sleeping there and it was just so nice to see how generous the space was.

Estamos Ke Huelga radio

the university has always been like our big garden and people really felt like that. And seeing people sleeping there was a funny thing because you could see that the university actually allowed that to happen (the space itself I mean)

and the sound drew her in



i thought

is this




a squat, it’s been here 10 years

was taken yeah

back when the police came

Can you nope, we’ve got a lot of space still

show me the others?



no photos....

We’ve got places all over campus, not just in Philosophy and letters. 4 spots in law, 2 and an auditorium in econ, 1 in arch, engineering, and sciences, with several more down in political science

not to mention the che guevara auditorium and the whole area surrounding it. There are galleries, auditoriums, kitchens, lounges a bar, the radio station, a server hub, dorms........ Some people live here and sleep here because they have to take care of the place.

The auditorium is still owned by a group of kind of students and a political group. And the faculty still doesn't have an auditorium.

the Che Guevara which was one of the main points where the Psychia Che had their meetings, And now what is it? There are still movies, but inside the auditorium is mostly concerts, movies and other events. Around it we have the vegetarian restaurant, bar, dorms, a photo studio, a pharmacy where we make traditional remedies from our garden, and the galeria autonoma.

the rooms don’t communicate much and some are associated more with some issues than others. they think students should student, teachers should teach, researches should do research that helps the market...and UNAM is something different, UNAM works in a differenet way.

we also have an archive in the architecture department. Want some old posters? Then there’s a library in the law faculty

There are people

no one is still

working in the

striking, the students

administration of the

in these places are

university...from the

still going to class.

president El Rector

Mostly they’re left

to all his helpers.....

leaning, but not

they imagine that

all. They’re mainly

downstairs everyone

just our own places.

is also working in the

We understand

same university. And


it's not like that.

differently than the university

Most of the squats sell something. The money for most of them goes to the legal funds of political prisoners. THere are a couple thought that are with the Zapatista movement, and they get the coffee from that region. You definitely can’t take photos of them The ban on vendors is a ruse, they were going after us not them. Since then security has been using it as an excuse to stay around our area.

they are each extremely unique, but they stand apart from the rest of campus. You walk through a hallway then you see a red door, maybe some grafitti...That’s the spot

Since 99, there’s been a bizarre speech in terms of privatizing public space. there was a lot of excitement. ‘now we are the owners of the campus!’ But Saying 'now this is my house'. can be a beautiful metaphor in the sense of the university being your house, and physically transform it into being my house. the problem is that they felt they were becoming like a king of a country. Like this is my house and I'm the one who guards it and decides what happens here. The problem here is to feel it's just your house, and not understand that as much as it is your house it is also the house of 200,000 other students. And that's the part that i found very delicate.

let's just move in there and be there, and how exciting it would be. A beautiful adventure.

UNAM '99