In the Game pp 191-217 | Cite as

The Harmonizing Nation

Mexico and the 1968 Olympics
  • Eric Zolov


A tourist arriving in Mexico City in the early summer of 1968 would have found the city awash in color, an air of expectation and optimism everywhere palpable as the country finalized last-minute preparations for the staging of the Olympic Games that fall. Yellow, blue, and pink banners framing a white peace dove lit up major thoroughfares. Throughout the city, numerous commercial billboards had been replaced with photographs of cultural and physical activity related to the Games; in one corner, a superimposed dove of peace was clearly visible. Other enormous images featured caricatured line drawings of school children, a family portrait, and anonymous faces in a crowd set against a background of hot pink and vibrant yellow. “Everything is Possible in Peace,” they proclaimed in a multitude of languages. Along a designated “Route of Friendship” that extended across the southern part of the city, large abstract sculptures by artists of international renown, made of concrete and painted in various bright colors, could be observed in various stages of completion. The country’s official logo for the Games—“MEXICO68”—whose evident Op Art influence was designed to evoke a moving, modernist feel, was omnipresent, as were the hundreds of young edecanes (event hostesses), whose uniformed miniskirts and pants suits were emblazoned with a graphic representation of the logo.


Mexico City Olympic Game Organize Committee International Olympic Committee Black Athlete 
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  1. 1.
    The historiography on 1968 in Mexico is vast and continues to expand, especially as new access to government documents becomes available. With very few exceptions, however, virtually all of the literature focuses on the question of state repression and student protest to the utter exclusion of the broader cultural context of this period. The recent historiography from the Mexican perspective includes, Sergio Aguayo Quezada, 1968: Los archivos de la violencia (Mexico City: Editorial Grijalbo/Reforma, 1998);Google Scholar
  2. Raúl Alvarez Garín, La Estrela de Tlatelolco: Una reconstrución histórica del Movimiento estudiantil del 68 (Mexico City: Grijalbo, 1998),Google Scholar
  3. Julio Scherer García & Carlos Monsiváis, Parte de Guerra: Tlatelolco 1968 (Mexico City: Nuevo Siglo/Aguilar, 1999);Google Scholar
  4. Carlos Montemayor, Rehacer la Historia: Análisis de los nuevos documentos del 2 de octubre de 1968 en Tlatelolco (Mexico City: Planeta, 2000).Google Scholar
  5. Important exceptions to this trend include Ariel Rodríguez Kuri, “El otro 68: Política y estilo en la organización de los juegos olímpicos de la ciudad de México,” Relaciones 19 (Fall 1998): 109–129,Google Scholar
  6. Jorge Volpi, La imaginación y el poder: Una historia intellectual de 1968 (Mexico: Era, 1998);Google Scholar
  7. and Eric Zolov, Refried Elvis: The Rise of the Mexican Counterculture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).Google Scholar
  8. 2.
    The definitive discussion of the Carlos and Smith protest salute and its legacy in the United States is Amy Bass, Not the Triumph but the Struggle: The 1968 Olympics and the Making of the Black Athlete (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002).Google Scholar
  9. 4.
    See, for example, Edward M. Conley, “The Americanization of Mexico,” Review of Reviews 32 (1905): 724–725;Google Scholar
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  11. 6.
    For an excellent discussion of how a common, nationalist discourse of belonging was negotiated see Mary Kay Vaughan, Cultural Politics in Revolution: Teachers, Peasants, and Schools in Mexico, 1930–1940 (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1997).Google Scholar
  12. 7.
    Helen Delpar, The Enormous Vogue of Things Mexican: Cultural Relations between the United States and Mexico, 1920–1935 (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1992), 146.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Michael E. Latham, Modernization as Ideology: American Social Science and ‘Nation Building’ in the Kennedy Era (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000).Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    This strategy continued a trajectory dating to the late nineteenth century. See Mauricio Tenorio-Trillo, Mexico at the World’s Fairs: Crafting a Modern Nation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996); Zolov, “Discovering a Land ‘Mysterious and Obvious’.”Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    The meeting was originally to be held in Nairobi, Kenya, but was changed at the last moment due to conflict over South Africa’s participation. Mexico won on the first round of voting, with the final tally as such: Mexico (30); Detroit (14); Lyon (12); Buenos Aires (2). Press reports later suggested that Mexico received all eight votes from the Soviet Bloc, an allegation never verified one way or the other. For recent historical treatments see Rodríguez Kuri, “El otro 68”; Kevin Witherspoon, “Protest at the Pyramid: The 1968 Mexico City Olympics and the Politicization of the Olympic Games” (Ph.D. Diss., Florida State University, 2003).Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    “Observations on the Selection of Mexico City as the Host for the Games of the XIX Olympiad in 1968 (Confidential),” November 12, 1963, Avery Brundage Collection (hereafter: ABC), Box 178, “Organizing Committee, 1962–65”; Richard Espy, The Politics of the Olympic Games (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979), 76–82.Google Scholar
  17. 26.
    Ariel Rodríguez Kuri, “Hacia México 68: Pedro Ramírez Vázquez y el proyecto olímpico,” Secuencia 56 (May–August 2003): 47. Among the major architectural achievements credited to Ramírez Vázquez were the recently constructed Museum of Anthropology and the “Aztec Stadium,” slated for completion in time for the Olympics.Google Scholar
  18. 31.
    See Rodríguez Kuri, “Hácia Mexico 68,” 63. Kuri’s chart showing comparative Olympics financing is extremely useful. In examining the twelve Olympic Games from 1936 to 1988, Rodríguez Kuri found that the Tokyo Games (1964) were by far the most exorbitant. Japan spent more than thirteen times that spent by Mexico and more than double the next highest figure—the Games in South Korea in 1988! See also Joseph L. Arbena, “Hosting the Summer Olympic Games: Mexico City, 1968,” in Joseph L. Arbena and David G LaFrance, eds., Sport in Latin America and the Caribbean (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 2003), 133–143.Google Scholar
  19. 40.
    Eric Zolov, “Toward an Analytical Framework for Assessing the Impact of the 1968 Student Movement on U.S.-Mexican Relations,” Journal of Iberian and Latin American Studies 9, no. 2 (December 2003): 41–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 44.
    Sergio Rivera Conde, “El Diseño en la XIX Olimpiada. Entrevista al arquitecto Pedro Ramírez Vázquez,” Creación y culture, 1, no. 1 (July–August 1999): 33.Google Scholar
  21. 45.
    Beatrice Trueblood, ed., Mexico68, vol. 4 (Mexico City: Miguel Galas, SA, 1969), 732.Google Scholar
  22. 69.
    For a discussion of how gender was a key element of tourist marketing in the 1940s see Saragoza, “The Selling of Mexico.” For a discussion of gender conflicts and public discourse in middle-class Mexico during the 1960s see Eric Zolov, Refried Elvis: The Rise of the Mexican Counterculture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).Google Scholar

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© Amy Bass 2005

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  • Eric Zolov

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