Proceso Magazine and Mexico's Press Under Dictatorship

Mexico's dictatorship silenced the press, but Proceso magazine dared to speak. Under surveillance by the regime, it exposed the Dirty War, becoming a symbol of journalistic courage.

Proceso Magazine and Mexico's Press Under Dictatorship
A Proceso magazine cover reveals the defiant reporting that challenged Mexico's authoritarian regime. Credit: Revista Proceso

In a Mexico where typewriters clicked rhythmically instead of rebelling, the press was anything but free. The 1960s and 1970s painted a grim picture of state-controlled narratives, a journalistic narrative interspersed with the fine lines of self-censorship and dictated headlines. Newspapers weren't instruments of the truth; they were megaphones echoing the voice of power. Then, a defiant flicker appeared amidst this twilight of free expression – Proceso magazine.

Founded on November 6, 1976, by the fearless journalist Julio Scherer García, Proceso was born a rebel. It dared to speak of Mexico's 'Dirty War', a chapter stained with disappearances, torture, and a determination to silence dissent. While other periodicals bowed to the pressure, Proceso defiantly stood tall, a beacon of defiant ink defying the stifling air of mandated silence.

Think of Proceso less as a magazine and more as a quiet revolution fought with question marks and bold headlines. Its pages became a battleground for truth, each issue a journalistic hand grenade lobbed at the heart of the oppressive Mexican State. Of course, such a rebellious act didn't come without a price.

Julio Scherer García, founder of Proceso magazine, defied censorship to champion freedom of the press in Mexico.
A black and white photo of Julio Scherer García, a determined expression on his face, surrounded by stacks of papers or at a vintage typewriter. Credit: Proceso. Photo: Courtesy of the Scherer family archives

The eyes of the powers-that-be were fixed on Proceso from the beginning. Luis Echeverría, Mexico's iron-fisted president, had tentacles wrapped around the media, and his notorious Federal Directorate of Security (DFS) were the enforcers of state-mandated news. Like grotesque shadows, they clung to Proceso. Reports were filed, filled with chilling detail that might make Orwell wince:

“The magazine 'Proceso' will be published on the 6th of this month... directed by JULIO SCHERER GARCIA”

These reports were more than just bureaucratic memos – they were declarations of war. The DFS predicted Proceso's future stories, tracking journalists like hawks and interviewing their sources with an unsubtle hint of menace. This was the world Proceso existed within — a constant barrage of surveillance and thinly veiled threats.

“THE INTERVIEW WITH A GUERRILLERO”, a proposed headline blared across a leaked DFS document. “CARLOS MARIN, coordinator of the Magazine 'PROCESO' is the person in charge…”

Picture Proceso as a group of writers and editors under siege, gathering clandestine stories, huddled over manuscripts laced with danger. The very act of creating journalism became heroism, akin to a tightrope walk over a pit of government reprisal.

These leaked DFS reports, preserved in the dust-laden halls of the General Archive of the Nation (AGN), aren't just a historical footnote, they are an autopsy of fear. Through them, we see not just the mechanics of repression, but the courage it took to publish against seemingly insurmountable odds. The decision to even visit the AGN, to rifle through documents once marked 'CLASSIFIED', is itself a form of quiet defiance.

The story of Proceso is a reminder that history isn't just about grand events, but the smaller, more desperate acts of resistance. It's a reminder that a pen, when wielded with courage, can make even the most powerful regimes tremble. And maybe, just maybe, the next time you see a magazine rack brimming with glossy publications, you'll think of the phantom ink stains of the past – the stories that fought, bled, and refused to die within the pages of Proceso.