Vallejo Protests by Ojo Magazine, 1958

In June 1958, the union of railroad workers in Mexico went on strike, marking the beginning of a labor dispute that would paralyse Mexico for next two years. The strike was launched not by the union’s leadership but by manual workers who were following the advice of Demetrio Vallejo, a railroad worker, activist and regional director of Mexican Communist Party.

The 6-hour strike on June 28 was supported by petroleum workers, teachers, and students and only resolved when President Adolfo Ruiz Cortines stepped in and negotiated a middle ground offer. But the following month, the railroad workers met to elect Vallejo to be the union leader — a decision not accepted by the railway companies and the Ministries of Labor and Interior. Another bitter strike followed on July 31, and the polce were sent in to seize the workers’ union halls and arrest dissident members. Further strikes were started by other labor unions and students. On August 26, 1958, thousands of students took over downtown Mexico City in a mass meeting and torchlight parade to protest a rise in the city bus fares.

Hector García was engaged by Excelsior newspaper, one of the oldest Mexican dailies to cover the protests. However, it refused to publish his photos of police brutality in dealing with protesters. Journalist Horacio Quiñones was impressed by García’s photos but realized that the photos would never be published by the official press. Determined to see them published, Quiñones and García co-founded their own publication, Ojo! (meaning ‘Eye’ in Spanish).

On the cover, under the title, Document of a Burning Week, were nine torches being held up in the raised arms of the protestors in the Tabacalera neighborhood of Mexico City. In the background was the Monument to the Revolution.

The magazine appeared on September 12, 1958 with Horacio Quiñones as General Director, Héctor García as Executive Director and Raúl Lara as Artistic Director. García’s photos were accompanied by Quiñones’ texts. The first edition, of 4,500 copies priced at $1, sold out within hours on its publication day, but it was not allowed to be reprinted. The publishing houses were threatened by the government forces, and the police confiscated the plates. Ojo! published a second issue (on September 19, 1958) before it was stopped.

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