La Esmeralda in the Student Movement of 68
Posted on 1 October, 2018
Leticia Galaviz and José Serrato
Those of us who enrolled in 1965 in Escuela Nacional de Pintura y Escultura (ENPE) “La Esmeralda” were a young, restless group. Many came from provincial cities in Mexico, some came from abroad. We all had great expectations for our education at this national school.
Our shared life was very interesting. Sometimes, our classes became a grand debate over conflicting political and philosophical ideas, from the right and the left, between existentialist and religious views, and many more. These debates were heated, each one argued their opinions with enthusiasm, but always preserving an attitude of good comraderie.
We were the first class to study at the new ENPE building, in San Fernando Street, number 14. It was designed by architect Guadalupe Rivera Marín, as a suitable space for an arts school, with classrooms for drawing, painting, sculpture and monumental sculpture, a lab, storage for materials, an auditorium and a gallery.
At that time, the Director was Fernando Castro Pacheco, heading a group of good teachers: Alberto Vázquez Beltrán, Gonzalo de la Paz Pérez, Isidoro Ocampo, Arturo Estrada, Javier Iñiguez, Lorenzo Guerrero, Carlos García, Jesús Álvarez Amaya, Rosa Ma. Castillo, Rolando Arjona, José Muñoz Medina, among others. The teacher in charge of the lab, “Cuquita”, as we used to call her, was very supportive as we learned traditional techniques and tried some new ones.
Besides our studies, we took active part in solidarity events with just causes from around the world: against the Vietnam War, in favor of social movements in Algeria and the Dominican Republic, to name a few.
We gained strength as a group in the school. Through the Student Association, for instance, we started petitioning for improvements:
- An increase in teaching jobs.
- More and better materials and equipment for our workshops.
- More and better scholarships.
- Affordable lunches for teachers, students and models.
- A non-profit art supplies store.
- A special budgetary allocation for cultural activities.
- A school bus.
- A lab to experiment with new materials.
- Free medical service.
- Buying the lot next to ENPE, which was occupied by the School for the Deaf and Dumb.
In 1966, we organized the “José Clemente Orozco” Reading group, affiliated to Juventud Comunista de México (JCM), which went on to join the Central Nacional de Estudiantes Democráticos (CNED), carrying the banner for a better education.
In February, 1968, the student march along the the Ruta de la Libertad (Feedom Path), organized by CNED, was brutally dispersed by the Army. This march demanded the freedom of all political prisoners, among them Rafael Aguilar Talamantes, the head of CNED, and the protection of the democratic rights of Mexico’s youth.
On July 26, 1968, we took part on a march and a rally at the Hemiciclo a Juárez, to celebrate the Cuban Revolution. From that day on, the repressive measures increased; JCM leaders were hounded and its headquarters in Colonia Roma was illegally searched.
After this, Commitees for the Struggle were formed at La Esmeralda and other schools.
During the Movement of 68, as members of CNED, we joined the Frente Democrático de Escuelas de Arte, made up of all the INBA art schools: Escuela Superior de Música, Escuela Nacional de Pintura y Escultura, Escuela Nacional de Arte Dramático, Conservatorio Nacional de Música, as well as the Academia de Danza Mexicana INBA / SEP.
We took active part in all the rallies, organizing ourselves to raise our voice through our artistic work.
ENPE, along with the other schools, was taken over by the students. There, we made huge banners, propaganda engravings, and so-called “bonds”, with denominations of 10, 20 and 50 pesos, which our brigades used to collect funds in the streets. People were very supportive.
50 years after those days of brutal represión, it is important to commend the creative work made during the Movement. We collectively produced engravings at La Esmeralda against the clock, taking turns: some would provide an idea and the others would make the engraving and print it.
It is extremely important to pay homage to La Esmeralda and its students. Many of the images that conveyed those events to the public at large were made there, with the “non-official” support of our engraving teachers, in whose workshop the students produced most of the propaganda art.
We always enjoyed the unconditoinal support of Fernando Castro Pacheco, the school director at the time, who has since passed away. He always helped out, even paying money to get some of our comrades out of jail.
As a rule, the engravings with the initials CNED were made at La Esmeralda. Such is the case of the 67 original plates of engravings that have appeared in several publications, which are preserved by the artist Herlinda Sánchez Laurel. Recently, we catalogued them with her. These plates are made of linoleum, wood and metal.
The identified authors of these images are: Herlinda Sánchez Laurel, Humberto Pérez, José Serrato Hernández, Enrique Elias Cantú (RIP), Fernando Sánchez (RIP), Hugo F. Gallardo, Esteban Ramos, Abundio Ruiz, Leticia Galaviz, Marcia Salcedo, Ma. Teresa Berlanga, María Shelley, Nunik Sauret and Amalia Baldamis.
That work was only made possible by the solidarity of our school comrades.
Let this modest testimony of those days, which we lived with passion, conviction and solidarity, be an evocation of those who are no longer with us.