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Mexico’s Mass Disappearances and the Drug War (Ayotzinapa: The Missing 43 Students) : Guerrilla Movements in Guerrero, Mexico

This research guide was created after the exhibition Ayotzinapa: We Will Not Wither, held at Memorial Library from September 16 to October 30, 2015.


During the 1960s Guerrero was at the center of an array of movements by campesinos (rural workers), laborers, students, and teachers yearning for democracy, civil rights, and social justice. In response to dissent the local government ordered security forces to crack down on these nonviolent mobilizations and criminalized their leaders. Repression proved counterproductive and only served to radicalize movements.

Both Normal and Rural Teacher Training Schools –inspired by the socialist education project sponsored by president Lázaro Cárdenas (1936-1940)– transformed into major centers of political activism. Students participated in open social movements, while others opted for the socialist armed struggle.

              Lucio Cabañas (1938- 1974)

Schoolteachers like Genaro Vázquez Rojas and Lucio Cabañas Barrientos individually lead two of the largest campesino guerilla movements in the state: the National Civic Revolutionary Association (ACNR) and the Party of the Poor (PdlP). Between 1969 and 1978 the federal government carried out numerous counterinsurgency operations to exterminate the rebels, setting up a virtual siege throughout the Sierra de Atoyac. Estimates indicate that at least 3,000 victims were executed, tortured, disappeared, or displaced as a result of state terror.

Recommended Readings

Further Readings on Guerrilla Movements and Teacher Training Schools [PDF]