The 1971 Corpus Christi student massacre

The student massacre that took place on June 10, 1971 is also known as "El Halconazo"

The 1971 Corpus Christi student massacre, one of the bloodiest chapters in Mexico's history
"The Hawks" were a paramilitary force funded by the Mexican government - Photo: File photo/EL UNIVERSAL
English 10/06/2020 13:57 Newsroom Mexico City Actualizada 14:31
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Mexico’s government inaugurated a memorial for the student massacre that took place on June 10, 1971, best known as “El Halconazo,” (The Hawk Strike) and that will be located in the facilities of the former Federal Security Direction (DFS) where the youths were kidnapped, tortured, and disappeared.

The memorial is part of the “Memory Sites” project, which aims to rescue properties that were used for torturing and extermining men and women who opposed the regime at that time.

But, what happened during the Corpus Christi Massacre and why is it known as “Halconazo”?


On June 10, 1971, in the vicinity of the Meritorious National Teachers School, students from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and from the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN) took over the streets to demand then-President Luis Echeverría (1970-1976) political freedom and the democratization of teaching in support of students in Monterrey.

It was the first large student protest after the events that took place three years before in Tlatelolco, one of the most painful imprints in Mexican history.

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The peaceful protest that was carried out at the Mexico-Tacuba Road, turned into a massacre after the irruption of the paramilitary force “Los Halcones” (The Hawks), which opened fire to repress the students, which left at least 22 killed, several missing, and 50 injured.

This massacre is considered one of the most violent episodes of the government’s “dirty war” against opposing political movements by the late 70s and early 80s.

The episode is known as “El Halconazo” or “The Corpus Christi Massacre” and is portrayed in Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma.”

Recommended: What the C.I.A. the F.B.I. and the U.S. government had to say about Tlatelolco

It is called The Hawk Strike because the aggressors belonged to the paramilitary force known as "The Hawks."

It has been documented that “Los Halcones” was a paramilitary force funded by Mexico’s government.


According to researchers and human rights organizations, its purpose was to repress any protest or social movement.

“Los Halcones” was a group comprised of soldiers and young men recruited in poor and violent neighborhoods in Mexico City, as explained to the BBC by Jacinto Rodrìguez Munguía, a researcher on the history of intelligence agencies in Mexico.

The number of people who were part of the paramilitary as well as the time of its creation is unknown, but it is clear it was before 1971.

The BBC said that academic research and civil organizations have placed Colonel Manuel Díaz Escobar as the head and creator of the group.

In 1971, he was the deputy director of Mexico City’s General Services, and, during the investigations on the massacre, he acknowledged the existence of a special security force in charge of strategic facilities.

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As a matter of fact, Díaz Escobar was in charge of recruiting and training young men from poor neighborhoods as well as active soldiers or deserters.


“They had an extremely violent profile,” mentions Jacinto Rodríguez, “The group received special training in martial arts and self-defense.”

For instance, they were taught kendo, a traditional Japanese martial art that uses bamboo sticks, the same weapons used by “Los Halcones” on June 10, 1971.

According to the book Mexico Under Siege: Popular Resistance to Presidential Despotism, the protest began a few minutes before 17:00. The demonstrators were divided into different groups according to their schools.

Over 5,000 students joined in the protests and chanted “Mexico! Freedom!”

The Mexico-Tacuba Road witnessed as the students were allowed to march by the Grenadiers, a police force group, due to their high number.

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Colonel Ángel Rodríguez, chief of the Police General Staff, spoke with the leaders of the movement about calling off the march for there were people at a nearby movie theater armed with clubs and guns that would attack them. They were “The Hawks” and four more buses brought more of their members to the place.


As the students were marching as was their due right according to the Constitution, they were suddenly interrupted by machine-gun fire, filling the streets with terror for some hawks had mixed with the students in the protest.

The protesters tried to flee but it was useless for they were surrounded by the paramilitary wherever they went and were beaten with clubs and shot mercilessly from the rooftops. The streets were blocked by anti-riot tanks and Grenadiers. There was nowhere to hide.

According to Mexico Under Siege, “The Federal Police covered the backs of the hawks by firing from their cars at those who had escaped the encirclement… At around 7 pm, the police supported the hawks with tear gas.”


Since some hawks were taken to the hospital with injuries, Rubén Leñero organized an attack to “rescue” them. He and the hawks entered the hospital with full violence in search of their members. On their way, they dragged wounded students to military camp number one.

According to Colonel Alfonso Guarro, “the public forces taking part in the repression numbered 900, with the hawks numbering 1,500.”  While official sources only acknowledged 11 dead, a hawk testified he had seen over 30 dead, 100 wounded, and 1,000 beaten. Mexico Under Siege mentions that those injured were taken to several hospitals, including the Xoco Hospital, where witnesses said there were over 150 injured, thus suggesting there were hundreds wounded.



Regarding the “sinister repression,” Rosaura Ruiz Gutiérrez, Mexico City’s Minister of Education, Science, Technology, and Innovation, asserted that no one has been charged or made responsible for the genocide acts that followed a dirty war that causes hundreds of missing people.


She asserted that the demands of those young people who experienced the atrocities of the Corpus Christi massacre have not been forgotten; instead, they have helped to think about the right to truth and justice, as well as the pertaining investigation to compensate the victims with a no-repetition guarantee and punishment for the aggressors.

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