History, Department of


Date of this Version

Spring 4-19-2013


Chrisman, Kevin M. "Community, Power, and Memory in Díaz Ordaz's Mexico: The 1968 Lynching in San Miguel Canoa, Puebla." Masters thesis, University of Nebraska, 2013.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: History, Under the Supervision of Professor James A. Garza. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2013

Copyright © 2013, Kevin M. Chrisman


On September 14th, 1968, approximately 1,000 enraged inhabitants wielding assorted makeshift weapons formed a lynch mob that brutally murdered four people and injured three others in San Miguel Canoa, Mexico. According to the generally accepted account, Canoa’s inhabitants feared that recently-arrived Universidad Autónoma de Puebla employees, in town on a weekend mountain-climbing expedition, were in actuality communist agitators threatening the town’s social order. The lynching in Canoa received limited press coverage and was subsequently overshadowed by the much larger government orchestrated Tlatelolco massacre that occurred in Mexico City, on October 2, 1968. While Tlatelolco remains an important historic event from late 1960s Mexico, the Canoa lynching and its aftermath reveals powerful social tensions that enveloped rural Mexico during the Cold War. These tensions not only contributed to the lynching but also served as an engine that produced competing narratives about the incident and the larger issues of community, power and memory.

I propose Canoa was not culturally isolated or separated as a traditional rural community but intricately connected to mainstream Mexican politics, migration, and culture. Canoa’s residents were deeply connected to the national political environment presided over by President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, and local and regional sociopolitical concerns. These layers of political culture filtered into Canoa and were interpreted by the town’s residents according to their unique historical experiences. By contextualizing the Canoa lynching into the larger narrative of the Cold War as related to Mexico, I hope to not only add to the historiography of the Díaz Ordaz and Luis Echeverría years but also place Canoa into the greater narrative of 1968 and the student movement.

A later film about the lynching reshaped the historic memory of the events. The film Canoa (Cazals, 1975) became the dominant public memory of the lynching. Due in part to Cazals’ documentary-style production, this dramatic fictional depiction influenced how Mexicans perceived the rural countryside during the Cold War, and sanitized the memory of the Canoa lynching in a manner that reflected the policies of President Luis Echeverría. This study focuses on the power of film representation in the production and consumption of public memory.

Adviser: James A. Garza