About the project

Latin American countries that have undergone political transitions often promote justice and truth mechanisms, whether through the emerging democratic government or through social organizations. One of the pillars of this process, in addition to trial proceedings and truth commissions, is the examination of state archives, where one can understand the administration of authoritarian violence. In other words, the archives of repression.

The extensive public debate around these archives and their use has since established standardized methods for the conservation and dissemination of documentary materials as the politics and actions of memory. In Mexico, the political transition of 2000 did not provide the conditions for a similar process. There were no public policies created for truth or justice nor the construction of historical memory and pedagogical processes to counteract impunity and to guarantee the non repetition of the events. A glimpse of promise for the Mexican truth process was the transfer of a large collection of documents from the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Defense to the General Archive of the Nation (AGN in Spanish) in 2002. The documents, which we call the Archives of Repression, outline state surveillance and violence perpetrated by the Mexican government between the years 1940 and 1980. Because a substantial part of this collection was and continues to be in the custody of national intelligence services, for several years the documents could be consulted in an unrestrictive capacity by victims of state repression and their families, journalists, historians, and those interested in this recent chapter of Mexican history. However in 2012, a decade after the collection’s arrival at the AGN, a Federal Archives Law was issued that allowed the restriction of public access to state documents under their inclusion in the category of “confidential historical documents”. A new system of transparency would determine access, but paradoxically this served as a mechanism for withholding from the public particularly relevant information on the participation of state institutions in grave human rights violations. Certain documents were not disclosed and public versions for others were created with important information missing, such as the name of the president in power at the time.

Since 2014, there has been much public dispute over these archives of repression and the right for public access, led by various groups of historians and civil organizations who make evident the extent of authoritarian control that still exists over historical memory and information. The project Archives of Repression is a product of this dispute. The materials that form this project were obtained by historians and state truth commissions through either freedom of information requests, solicitation or through mandate. These efforts resulted in the acquisition of information on state actors and agencies of the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Defense from the years 1950 to 1980, historically considered the central period of state-sponsored counterintelligence and violence against political dissidents, guerrilla organizations, and popular movements in Mexico.

The archives of repression served as documental support for the working procedures of state agencies. In the case of the archives of the Federal Security Directorate (DFS in Spanish), a component of the Ministry of Interior, the documents outlined surveillance and accrued information on “enemies of the state”; information that was then utilized to document an alleged culpability and just cause the arrest and subsequent sentencing of these purported enemies. The DFS archives were consulted daily by state agencies to verify information extracted during the torture of political opponents and insurgents. Those who now consult these documents must not lose sight of the central objectives of the original materials. The power logics that conceived these documents remain, even after their removal from institutional historicity at a contemporary moment of consultation.

The documents made public here do not contain the entire historical truth, but form an important part in its construction. As much of the information in these materials was obtained through torture and manipulation by the state, these documents do not necessarily narrate an honest representation of events. They are, however, an indispensable tool in understanding the Mexican government’s conception of political dissidence, its actions to counteract opposition, and the logic of violence that was employed in these actions, which included gross violations of human rights and the sanctioning of state violence. These documents form part of the archives of the Ministry of Defense and of the Federal Security Directorate and the General Directorate of Political and Social Research, both agencies of the Ministry of the Interior between 1947 and 1985. The archives currently reside within the holdings of the General Archive of the Nation and because of their consideration as historical documents have been denied access and publication essential to the public’s right to truth, contributing to an overarching impunity that still reigns in Mexico.

This archive, whose original documents remain under the custody of the General Archive of the Nation, seeks as its objective the organization, dissemination, and preservation of these materials given their historical importance in the Mexican truth process and their fundamental relationship with grave human rights violations committed by the state in accordance with the National Human Rights Commission’s 26/2001 Recommendation.

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The archive of the State of Guerrero Truth Commission (COMVERDAD in Spanish) contains 310,000 photographs of documents that are under the custodial care of the General Archive of the Nation. ARTÍCULO 19 is in the process of systematizing and cataloging this documentation. In the section BIBLIOTECA  (LIBRARY) “Archivos de la Represión” you can consult catalogued information relative to individual persons, services and/or public organizations mentioned in the archive. In the section ARCHIVO (ARCHIVE) you can consult the entire archive of 310,000 photographs still pending systematization. The documents contained in the archive were in their majority produced by the following government agencies: the Federal Security Directorate (DFS), the General Directorate of Political and Social Research (DGIPS), the Ministry of Defense, and other political organizations between 1950 and 1980 in Mexico. Artículo 19. Omeka-S