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The #YoSoy132 Movement in Mexico

Emiliano Treré

EPN’s Black Friday: the Emergence of #YoSoy132

The movement #YoSoy132 emerged less than two months before the Mexican  elections—at a time when Mexico seemed ready for a change after 12 years under the National Action Party (PAN). Before these two mandates of the PAN government, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) ruled the country for seven decades, and in the 2012 elections the PRI was credited by polls as the favorite party, with Enrique Peña Nieto (EPN) leading the coalition “Commitment for Mexico.” The other contenders were Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), who led a coalition of the left parties, while Josefina Vazquez Mota and Gabriel Quadri were the candidates of the PAN and the PANAL parties, respectively. 

On Friday, May 11, 2012, EPN arrived at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City to give a conference. During the candidate’s presentation, students began to question him with posters; the questions raised were regarding the police repression in Atenco that occurred in 2006 when EPN was governor of the state of Mexico. When EPN justified Atenco’s violent repression, tension rose and he had to leave the university surrounded by a security cordon. The triggers that led students to organize the movement were the subsequent statements released by some PRI politicians who qualified students as thugs, violent, fascist, and intolerant—going so far as to deny their affiliation with the university. Mexican television networks and the newspaper chain Organización Editorial Mexicana presented versions of the event where EPN was portrayed as a hero against a boycott organized by the left. 

The 12 May 2012 cover of the Mexican newspaper El Sol de México (The Sun of Mexico) of the Organización Editorial Mexicana (Mexican Editorial Organization) reads “Success of Peña, despite orchestrated attempt of boycott.”

Facing manipulative media coverage, 131 university students published a video on YouTube:

in which they exhibited their teaching credentials of the Universidad Iberoamericana, and read their names to criticize the politicians who had accused them of being violent and not affiliated with the university. This act of reclamation of identity marked the beginning of the movement. 

These 11 minutes are powerful because they build an event where individual responsibility is assumed and students talk from a “place of identity” (Reguillo, 2012), contrasting the official media discourse, reclaiming their agency, and using mass self-communication (Castells 2009) to trigger collective identification processes. The phrase “131 Students from Ibero” quickly became one of the trending topics on Twitter in Mexico and worldwide.2  Other students began to join the protest, stating, “I’m one more of you,” “I'm 132,” thus leading to the creation of the Twitter hashtag #YoSoy132, which went on to identify the whole movement. 

The YouTube video that started it all: 131 students of the Universidad Iberoamericana respond to the critiques by exposing their university credentials. 

Media democratization and Mexican telecracy 

From its emergence, the central concern of the #YoSoy132 movement has been the democratization of the Mexican media. As stated in their manifesto3 the movement “wants the democratization of the mass media, in order to guarantee transparent,  plural and impartial information to foster critical consciousness and  thought.”

This emphasis on media democratization is perfectly understandable in the Mexican context, where two media giants (Televisa and TV Azteca) encompass 99% of the audience and advertising market (Huerta and Gómez, 2013), and where 76% of the population acquires political information through television (INEGI - SEGOB, 2012: 2). Televisa, the most powerful media corporation in the country, is considered the central agent within what has been defined as the Mexican telecracy—i.e. the imposition of the interests of the advertising dealers of the TV monopolies over the interests of the whole Mexican society and public interest (Esteinou and Alva de la Selva, 2011). As Villamil has shown, the PRI party and Televisa carefully constructed the image of EPN over six years (Villamil 2010). His findings were supported by other evidence presented by The Guardian—which exposed how Televisa designed an undercover strategy to present EPN in various TV programs in a positive way, while at the same time developing a strategy against AMLO (Tuckman 2012). 

Civic media and youth agency 

#Yosoy132 embodies the perfect example of a contemporary networked movement: to fight against the concentrated Mexican media system and to reclaim media democratization and pluralism, it unleashes the full potential of social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, in order to spread critical messages, organize and coordinate mobilizations, cultivate collective identities, build counter-hegemonic spaces, forge transnational connections, and increase civic engagement and participation (Treré 2013). Corporate social networking platforms have been appropriated by the Mexican movement as civic media,4  and are used to strengthen youth agency. In recent years, a vibrant digital sphere has emerged in Mexico, where young urban middle classes—especially university students—are increasingly using social media to acquire and spread critical contents. In 2011, Internet World Stats estimated that the Internet penetration in Mexico was 36.9%.5  According to AMICPI, in the same year 90% of Mexican Internet users used social media (Facebook being the most used online platform).6 

Activists of #YoSoy132 also created their own citizens’ media (Rodriguez 2001), such as magazines, gazettes, alternative radio stations, and fanzines. 
The first number of the Megáfon132 gazette of #YoSoy132.
The second number of the Megáfon132 gazette of #YoSoy132.

The number 0 of the Cientotreintaydos (132) magazine.

The number 1 of the Cientotreintaydos (132) magazine.
Furthermore, the movement represented an occasion for young Mexican artists to apply their skills to the production of graffiti, posters, and performances; many of these artistic productions also signal the power of civic media to travel beyond the technical limitations of the online realm and infiltrate other territories, as the creation of the HASHTAG magazine7  and other forms of art indicate. 

"Esperanza" (Hope), "Hope will always be more powerful than fear", by artist Luis Emilio Lepine

#YoSoy132 is part of a cycle of contention (Tarrow 1998) that has shaken the world since 2011, from the Arab Spring to the Brazilian revolts. Like many of these uprisings, #YoSoy132 was mainly comprised of a young, urban, and networked middle class that successfully merged online and offline actions in order to fight against the worn mechanisms of contemporary neoliberal democracies. Its original trait has been situating the dangerous interconnections between media and politics as the central obstacle to the production of an informed and conscious citizenry.


Castells, Manuel. 2009. Communication Power. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Esteinou Madrid, Javier and Alva de la Selva, Alma Rosa. 2011. Los medios electrónicos de difusión y la sociedad de la información. Mexico, DF: Dirección General del Acervo Histórico Diplomático, Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores. 

Huerta-Wong, Juan Enrique and Gómez, Rodrigo. 2013. “Concentración y diversidad de los medios de comunicación y las telecomunicaciones en México.” Comunicación y Sociedad 19: 113–152.

INEGI-SEGOB. 2012. Encuesta Nacional Sobre Cultura Política y Prácticas Ciudadanas ENCUP 2012. Mexico: Segob. 

Reguillo Cruz, Rossana 2012. “Reflexiones iniciales en torno a #YoSoy132” Magis, Guadalajara, 28 May.

Rodríguez, Clemencia. 2001. Fissures in theMediascape. An International Study of Citizens’ Media. Creskill, NJ: Hampton.

Tarrow, Sidney. 1998. Power in Movement: Collective Action, Social Movements and Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

Treré, Emiliano. 2013. “#YoSoy132: la experiencia de los nuevos movimientos sociales en México y el papel de las redes sociales desde una perspectiva crítica.” Educación Social. Revista de Intervención Socioeducativa 55: 112–121. 

Tuckman, Jo. 2012. “Mexican media scandal: secretive Televisa unit promoted PRI candidate.” The Guardian, June 26. Accessed June 16, 2014.

Villamil, Jenaro. 2010. El sexenio de Televisa: Conjuras del poder mediático. Mexico: Grijalbo. 

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