SHIVERING PIGS BLUSH
On Saturday, February 19, in the village of Tepatepec in
Hidalgo, Mexico, an unusual sight would
have greeted any visitor to the public square. Sixty riot cops, stripped of their clubs, shields and
most of their uniforms, were bound together with the ropes they use on those they arrest and forced
to kneel in the chill air.
The situation started when police raided a teachers' college in the village in an attempt to put an end
to student strike and occupation. The strike was inspired by the 9-month strike at the national
university that was ended by a police takeover on February 6. Both strikes began in response to
government proposals to make academic standards more difficult in ways that would particularly
affect students from poor rural families who need to take time off to help on the family farm. Although
the reasons behind the occupations were specific injustices within the present social order, the
methods of action chosen were those of open conflict with the power structures rather than peaceful
negotiation. Perhaps the history of government corruption in Mexico left the students with fewer
illusions about what peaceful negotiation can accomplish.
I am reminded of the school occupations that temporarily shut down a good part of the Greek
education system from late 1998 through early 1999. In this case as well, the occupations began as a
protest against reforms in the educational system. In Greece, the presence of anarchists and other
revolutionaries probably played a role in giving the occupations a more insurgent form. I don't know
if the same is true in Mexico, but the national university is known to have a radical student
But to continue with the story of the shivering pigs: Though state officials claim that no strikers were
injured in the police raid, word reached the villagers that a young woman had been raped. Incensed
by the rumor, several hundred people armed with clubs, machetes and, in many cases, pistols
surrounded the school. In the ensuing battle, one cop was shot, seven people-among them cops and
protesters-were injured and possibly a dozen patrol cars were burned. Once those cops still inside
were subdued, they were forced to remove their shirts and shoes and in some cases their pants.
After the sixty cops were tied together, they were paraded through the streets to the central square
where the villagers forced them to kneel and then to lie face down on the pavement shivering in the
Of course the situation ended in a compromise of sorts. When all but fifteen of the 350 arrested
students had been released, the villagers let the cops go. If any of the villagers considered taking
more extreme action against the cops, they certainly realized that such a public action in their
present situation could only lead to a massacre by the state. What they did shows the determination
of these villagers to act directly in their own interests and in solidarity with the struggle of the
students. These same students have indicated their willingness to defy power and its laws, as well
as democratic morality, in other actions such as the hijacking a month earlier of a state-owned
gasoline truck in order to get fuel they needed.
Police power is only as great as the willingness of people to accept it, but certainly without a strong
insurrectionary movement, the state will always find ways to reimpose it. Nonetheless, the thought of
these shivering pigs blushing with shame is a pleasant one, and the action of these villagers shows
the limits of power.