PARIS — Political conflict and social movements around the world in 1968 made it a year for the history books. The 50th anniversary of several signature episodes are being marked throughout this year, from the Prague Spring and monthlong French student uprising of May "68, to the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy in the U.S. and black power salutes at the Mexico City Olympics.
But the upheaval that year spread beyond just a handful of internationally iconic events. Among the other notable moments and movements of 1968 are four chapters that may not have made it into your high school history textbook:
Senegal: Dakar's May "68 student movement
While revolution burned in the air of Paris, that May, the capital of Senegal had its own student uprising against the country's government. Le Monde reported earlier this month that 50 years ago, then Senegalese President Léopold S. Senghor blamed the events in France for encouraging students in Dakar to challenge the country's single party system and bans on a free press. After initially ordering a heavy-handed crackdown of the protests, Senghor eventually released arrested students, increased university scholarships and raised the minimum wage with an end also on its way to the single party system and bans on press freedom.
Léopold S. Senghor, Senegal's President from 1960 to 1980 — Photo: Roger Pic
Spain: Protests against Franco's regime
Spain was still under dictator Francisco Franco's regime in the spring of 1968 when student protests erupted to demand democracy, workers' rights and education reform. The University of Madrid was shut down for 38 days. The demonstrations also denounced police violence and the Franco regime's authorization to have a mass in honor of Adolf Hitler. It was a "youth rebellion," journalist Mercedes Cabrera wrote last month in the Spanish daily El País. A coming out moment for the "children of the victors and vanquished," as they were known, a new generation that was eager to bridge the deep divisions of the Civil War and bring an end to he dictatorship it had spawned.
Jamaica: The Rodney riots
Another lesser-known 1968 student protest were the so-called "Rodney riots' in Kingston, Jamaica in October. Dr. Walter Rodney, a Guyanese-born lecturer at the University of the West Indies (UWI) and committed socialist and Black Power activist, was banned by the Jamaican government from returning to his teaching position. The decision sparked student riots that ended with several people killed. Students started by closing down the UWI campus before heading to the prime minister's residence and, finally, to the parliament building. As the Jamaica Observer wrote earlier this year, the movement would eventually help inspire a black political and social consciousness movement across the Caribbean, which in 1970 led to the Black Power Revolution in Trinidad and Tobago.
Brazil: The "March of the One Hundred Thousand"
On March 28, Edson Luís de Lima Souto, a high school student was shot and killed by Brazil's military police at a protest in Rio de Janeiro asking for cheaper meals at a restaurant for poor students. His killing, as well as the death of 28 other people a few days later during other riots, led to one of the first major protests against the military dictatorship in the country on June 26, gathering students as well as artists, intellectuals and politicians. As the Rio de Janeiro-based O Globo recently recalled, the demonstration — dubbed "The March of the One Hundred Thousand" — is still remembered today as one of the most important protests in Brazilian history.
With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.
CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.
Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.
It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.
Abundant sunshine, low temperatures
The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.
Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.
It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.
Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park
Chinese want to expand
The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.
The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.
The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.
The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.
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