Assistant art history professor discusses spatial cultures in new book

Sunny Kim

Approximately 40 students and faculty gathered Friday at the Sid Richardson Hall to listen to assistant art history professor George Flaherty speak about his new book, “Hotel Mexico: Dwelling on the ’68 Movement,” which emphasizes how artists in urban spaces helped archive the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre.

While Mexico was investing in infrastructure improvements in anticipation of the summer Olympics, students gathered after their demands on addressing the struggling economy and policing improvements were not met in protest. In response, police officers and military troops killed hundreds of unarmed people involved in the movement, according to the Latin Times.

Rather than narrating these events, “Hotel Mexico” focuses on how the student movement developed protest techniques that harnessed the city as a form of communication.

“Student movements didn’t have access to the press, or to politics in a conventional way, so they used the city as their medium in a way to communicate,” Flaherty said. “They turned the city into their own medium of communication through marches, graphics and films.” 

Flaherty also argues that poets, filmmakers and photographers recorded the student movement, creating an archive of evidence for eventual justice.

“[The 1968 student movement] has many afterlives,” Flaherty said. “It continues to have an effect on culture, present day culture … The memory of ’68 will continue to change over time, and historians need to develop tools and techniques for understanding that changeability of history.” 

Jeniffer Perales, a government, Spanish and Latin American studies junior who was present at the event, said the massacre can be tied to a student movement that occurred in 2014. 

“Two years ago, there were 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teacher’s College who were en route to Mexico City to a commemorative march of the Tlatelolco Massacre who disappeared overnight,” Perales said. “To this day, the government has not responded to the families.”

Lucero Estrella, a Mexican-American studies junior who was present at the event and visited the massacre site in Mexico City during a study abroad program, said the event gave her a different perspective about the massacre. Estrella said the killing is a vital part of history that not many people know about but should be aware of. 

“It’s a piece of history that shouldn’t be forgotten,” Estrella said. “Students were murdered … trying to speak out against certain issues. Not only in Mexico, but all over the world, students have a voice and they are able to speak out.”