Students Behind #YoSoy132 Build a Movement

YoSoy132#YoSoy132 began as the result of a demonstration on May 11, in which student activists protested a visit to Ibero American University by Enrique Peña Nieto, who has since been elected President of Mexico.Enrique Peña Nieto

Following the demonstration, the #YoSoy132 movement was born, and within a week it had gained massive traction on social media and brought tens of thousands into the streets. The May 11 demonstration was deeply rooted in a local history of political unrest, however, the #YoSoy132 movement that emerged from this event had a much broader, national context. #YoSoy132 released their official stance on May 23:

” We are a movement committed to the country’s democratization, and as such, we hold that a necessary condition for this goal is the democratization of the media. This commitment derives from the current state of the national press, and from the concentration of the media outlets in few hands.”

There is a vast amount of skepticism over what direct political impact #YoSoy132 will have, since it is a leaderless movement organized without any central demand or political affiliations. Analysts have compared the movement to Occupy Wall Street, and others have called it the “Mexican Spring”.  What has not been discussed as widely, but could be more instructive for activists everywhere, was how this movement gained so much traction so rapidly. How did #YoSoy132 evolve out of this student protest, and how did they amass such widespread support, literally overnight?

#YoSoy132 Gets Press For Policy Advocacy

The most exciting aspect of social movements like the Arab Spring and the #YoSoy132 movement is that they are able to pivot so quickly on an event and gain viral traction through smart messaging. This is most evident by the fact that the #YoSoy132 movement literally formed overnight, in response the coverage of the May 11 protest. Students who attended the protest woke up the next morning to find out that Peña Nieto had alleged the demonstration was caused by paid political operatives and outside agitators. In an effort to correct this false claim, and to make it known their protest was authentic, 131 students appeared in a YouTube video, with their ID cards, to claim responsibility for the protest.

To build off the YouTube video, the #YoSoy132 (“I am 132”) hashtag was used to build solidarity with the 131 student protesters. The messaging was adapted from a tactic used in the Egyptian uprising whereby protesters set up a Facebook page called “we are all Khaled Said” to build solidarity around the death of a young Egyptian man following his arrest.As the hashtag continued trending and the videos went viral the message of #YoSoy132 spread rapidly. The #YoSoy132 hashtag was then used to convene further demonstrations.

Word about #YoSoy132 spread quickly online and mobilized thousands. Solidarity protests emerged around Mexico, as well as in Chicago and San Francisco. Critics of “the establishment media” around the globe were excited by the students’ broad demands for a more democratic media and fair coverage of the presidential election. The students in #YoSoy132 were highly critical of the relationship between the PRI and the two major television stations in Mexico , Televisa and TV Azteca. The movement did not endorse a candidate in the Mexican elections, and Pena Nieto won in the end, but they shed light on accusations the PRI leader has paid Televisa for coverage

Achievements of campaign: If #YoSoy132 did not change the outcome of the election of defeat the PRI, what has it accomplished and how?

While many analysts highlight the lack of leadership and demands of #YoSoy132 going forward, the group did have one demand that was met; they demanded that the second presidential debate be televised and it was. Even though many supporters of the movement opposed Pena Nieto’s candidacy, the movement never formally endorsed or opposed a candidate. The group has not stopped its advocacy for a more democratic media after the election either. Videos continue to be posted on Vimeo and YouTube, and the conversation continues to build on Facebook and Twitter. While the ultimate change that comes from the movement is unclear, the goal of voicing dissent was achieved

If you don’t have specific goals, what can you achieve?

It is clear that #YoSoy132, by its organization and nature, was not seeking to endorse a candidate or change a specific policy. However, you can still attempt to measure success even if your goals may be slightly more amorphous than passing or opposing legislation. The movement rose up out of desire for students to have their voices heard, and initially they only sought to repudiate a claim that agitators had started the initial mass demonstration. Aggravated by the accusation, and out of a desire to have the truth known, students unknowingly began a much larger movement over night. Students seized upon the opportunity Pena Nieto provided in his accusation, and the subsequent attention they got their voice out AND mobilized others to express their dissent, and the movement continues to receive global media coverage.

  • The YouTube video by 131 students –> over 1 million views, over 9,000 comments
  •  Twitter: @YoSoy132  has over 100,000 followers
  •  The YoSoy132 Facebook page has almost 107K likes, 98,000+ talking about it

Two things to take away from the YoSoy132 movement:

  1. You do not always need a well-planned campaign, sometimes you just need to be able to spot a good opportunity and use it.
  2. You do not always need to build a campaign around a specific policy goal. If an opportunity presents itself, capitalize on it to build your support base, and then use that base of support when you identify a demand. YoSoy132 made the demand to televise the debate and won, and many pundits are watching what the movement will demand going forward, now that they have so much support and attention.

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