If we measure news traveling down a grapevine exchange between Dallas, Texas and Mexico City- each headline journeys 1,135 miles every time these neighbors trade updates. But several weeks ago, the Dallas Morning News wire (one of today’s numerous digital grapevines…) released Alfredo Corchado’s fascinating story describing a student-driven movement that uses the name ‘#YoSoy132 as a way to identify/raise awareness about their cause which they hope will bring permanent change to a corrupt education system plaguing the current and future Mexican student community. It’s a genuinely inspiring article that lends a unique perspective to research investigating how Latin American university environments employing emerging media platforms deal with the consequent implications- both positive and negative.
Corchado’s reporting and other field accounts from major news networks like CNN and the BBC World News, all documenting the passionate activity surrounding #YoSoy132’s student protest movement coincidentally began to receive coverage just as this research project began; therefore it’s critical to read, analyze and monitor this story’s ongoing online development and how Mexico’s university campuses will or will not advocate relevant discussions.
At the end of 2012, Mexico will induct the newly elected President at the conclusion of current President, Felipe Calderón’s term. That said, ever since the election’s beginning numerous reports continue to debate the country’s transition and also question several broadcast media platforms who’ve allegedly given selective endorsements supporting the Institutional Revolutionary Party that presumptive president-elect Enrique Peña Nieto represents.
As a result, when Peña Nieto made an appearance on the Ibero-American University / Mexico City campus earlier this summer, students formed a heckling protest voicing their opposition toward the government’s passive reforms, Peña Nieto, and other responsible leaders (i.e. Elba Esther Gordillo, leader of the national teachers’ union). According to Corchado’s observations, “The candidate’s team tried to play down the incident, saying that the crowd had been infiltrated by supporters of rival Andrés Manuel López Obrador who were posing as students.”
The protest retaliation took a viral turn three days later when a YouTube video featuring 131 students introducing themselves while presenting their school identification card as proof, received 1 million+ views in a 10 day period. #YoSoy132 also circulated on Twitter as a hashtag discussion and news about the movement spread worldwide. #YoSoy132 and the students, parents, and other individuals wanting to help spread awareness about education conditions failing to help Mexico’s student community use an expansive arsenal of emerging media platforms to generate dialogue, organize committee meeting strategies and designate spokespeople. Beyond Twitter and Youtube, wikipages and of course other university Facebook accounts all offer information about how to help those supporting the movement.
In the coming weeks, students everywhere will begin a new Fall semester at their respective universities but it’s undeniable that 100s of universities throughout Mexico will continue to discuss events surrounding #YoSoy132. More importantly, educators, administrators, and students will also converse about what significant changes will impact their country’s future students socially, economically, politically and culturally. But not surprisingly, a select percentage feel concern that creating a lasting impact to ensure permanent, enduring changes will require more than a strategic albeit dynamic social media effort which supports #YoSoy132.
Raul Trejo Delarbre, a professor who studies social media at the National Autonomous University of Mexico observes that indeed, “Social media savvy isn’t enough to maintain a movement… the leaderless group — accused by critics of lacking direction — must better define its main demands.” And to his point, Reforma newspaper columnist Carmen Aristegui F. asks “Are we or are we not before an authentic Mexican Spring? Depends, of course, on students believing it themselves and on many other sectors of society … finding in them the creation of a space where their own hopes and concerns are reflected.”
Yet even considering these daunting aspirations, there is a confident optimism delicately circulating amongst the student masses and those who support them. As Angel Rodriguez, 19, a student at a music school run by Mexico’s City’s cultural ministry shares, “There is a spark, but if we leave it apathetically, it will dissolve.” What an incredibly earnest observation but imagine the detrimental consequences if this discussion never even caught fire?