Mexican Transition(s) and Youth Political Engagement after 1968 in Mexico City

Youth political engagement in central Mexico is today shaped in part by how 1968 is popularly commemorated. This relay between politics and memory has endured for nearly five decades, so that the 1968 student movement and the massacre in Tlatelolco are treated as an origin for the form and content of contentious politics today. My research suggests that youth political engagement in central Mexico is shaped by the intersection of two narratives of transition in commemorative practice: a democratic transition and a life course transition. Especially after “the return of the PRI” in 2012, young activists and organizers increasingly characterize Mexico’s democratic transition as a consolidation of authoritarian neoliberalism, and represent “inheritors” of 1968 as natural antagonists of the order yielded by that transition. Narratives of democratic transition accordingly shape young people’s transitions to becoming adults, with young activists inheriting an apparently timeless antagonism with the state that structures political life.


Nicholas Jon Crane is an assistant professor of geography at the University of Wyoming, where he teaches courses in human geography. Crane’s ongoing projects are (1) an ethnography of “social disappearance” and social mobilization in central Mexico (with Dr. Oliver Hernández Lara, UAEMex), (2) an activist research project with young social justice organizers in cities across Ohio, and (3) an ethnography of youth protest and memory in Mexico City. Crane has published research articles, essays, and reviews in human geography and cultural studies, and he is the section editor for political geography in Geography Compass.