Elena Poniatowska

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Joseph Moseley
ES 394
Final Paper

Elena Poniatowska
In 1968, the world was politically on fire. The atrocities being reported about the Viet Nam war began to touch every corner of the globe and young people everywhere began challenging their governments demanding change, equality and peace. Mexico was no exception and in this particular year of unrest, they were going to be the first Spanish-speaking developing nation to hold the Olympic Games. Tensions were high and police brutality, hostility and enforcement were prevalently rampant throughout the nation resulting in an escalation of frustration and anger by Mexican citizens. Prior to the start of the Olympics, an event occurred that resulted in the imprisonment, disappearances and death of possible 3,000 students, during a peaceful protest on the 2nd of October at the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco, Mexico. The cover-up by the Mexican government was swift, vicious and devastating to the citizens leaving many of them uncertain of their future and lives. But in the midst of this chaos, there was one woman who stood up and decided that she would expose Mexico’s corruption and would not let the memories of those students killed on Oct. 2nd be forgotten. She fearlessly attacked social and gendered inequality and fought for “la gente” demanding truth and justice. Her name is Elena Poniatowska and I will further detail the importance of her actions into investigating Oct 2nd Massacre. I will also discuss some other of her other socially important literary work as well as her contributions and influence to the country of Mexico as a whole and for women globally. Poniatowska was born in Paris to Prince Jean Joseph Evremont Sperry Poniatowska and Paula Amor Yturbe. Her father was a French nobleman who was a descendant of the brother of King Stanislaus II of Poland, the last king of Poland. The Poniatowska brothers of King Stanislaus were granted Princely titles as relatives to the King. She is also a descendant of King Louis XV of France through her paternal great-grandmother Louis Le Hon. Her mother, Paula Amor de Yturbe, was a Mexican of mixed French ancestry, and also a descendant of Mexican nobility. Poniatowska fled from France with her mother during the Second World War and the family settled in Mexico City, where the young Elena and her sister Kitzia learned Spanish from an indigenous servant. In 1943, Elena was sent to study in the United States but returned to Mexico in 1953 where she started her career as a journalist working for the newspaper “Excelsior.” (Elena Poniatowska. 2011). The majority of Poniatowska’s writing exposes social and gender oppression. In one of her most famous works, La Noche de Tlatelolco (1971; Massacre in Mexico) she relates an account of the protesters that were massacred in Plaza de las Tres Culturas by the Mexican government. The massacre arose out of growing tension between students of UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) in response to the recent escalation of police brutality. Due to the approaching 1968 Olympic games in Mexico City, the government wished to quell any protest that could potentially embarrass Mexico internationally. Students at UNAM had successfully taken over the University and turned it into an alternate, or model, society with presented a perceived threat between them and the government. Mexican troops subsequently occupied the remaining free regions of the university, and during a large gathering assembled for a speech from the National Strike committee (NSC) at the Tlatelolco housing unit, soldiers and police surrounded protesters and began opening fire. Hundreds were killed and over one thousand people wounded. Some of the protesters managed to get away, while others took refuge in homes and apartments surrounding the square. A door-to-door search yielded some of these protesters but also left the community in fear and devastation. Many of the victims of the...
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