Archive of memories : a journey through the discursive construction and cultural silencing of Mexico’s Dirty War




Castro Villarreal, Mario Nicolás

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Mexico's "Dirty War" or guerra sucia refers to the historical period covering the seventies and early eighties, when the federal governments of presidents Gustavo Díaz Ordaz and Luis Echeverría Álvarez waged open warfare and counterintelligence assaults on urban leftist guerrillas. Once a taboo topic and a historical moment erased and silenced in Mexican historiography, the past fifteen years brought a new wave of historians and activists spearheading attempts at memorializing this bloody event under the frameworks of human rights, archival research, and the recovery of oral history. This research project analyzes three case studies focused on historical and mnemonic reconstructions of guerrilla history and the human rights violations that occurred during the Dirty War; with a particular focus on the two most famous leftist armed movements of that time: the Fuerzas de Liberación Nacional (FLN) and the Liga Comunista 23 de Septiembre (LC23S). The first part delves into Mexico's failed attempt at building a legal framework for transitional justice after Mexico’s “democratic turn” in 2000s. The second case moves to the question of recuperating "spaces of terror" and the successes and failures at building new forms of collective memory. The final chapter focuses on the controversial and infamous murder of Monterrey businessman Eugenio Garza Sada in 1973 and the competing historical and moral interpretations surrounding guerrilla violence. Through a methodology combining discursive analysis, anthropological approaches to memory, and auto-ethnographic vignettes, this dissertation attempts to grasp the current challenges of transforming what once was a marginal countermemory into an accepted and integral part of Mexico's political history. The author expands these questions through the study of guerrilla literature, testimonios, documentaries, and his familial connections to the regional histories of urban guerrillas.


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