La Primavera Mexicana

25 May

I spent most of the month of April in Mexico waiting for something interesting to happen that I could write about in The Global Kiosk. I chatted about the upcoming elections with cab drivers, hairdressers, friends and neighbours, and everyone said more or less the same thing: that they were not going to vote for the Institutional Revolutionary Party’s Enrique Peña Nieto, but that he would undoubtedly win. Early surveys – the election is July 1 – also put him 20 points ahead of the next candidate down for the race to the presidency.

Then, in May, I come to Haiti – and interesting things start bubble up in Mexico. A bit of a kerfuffle for Peña Nieto at an elite university, the Ibero Americana. Okay. Maybe a bit of an embarrassment for a man who disdains education and use of the brain in decision-making, but no big deal. The young people shouting “Out Peña Nieto” were but a rabble-esque minority, said his campaign people and the self-styled pundits at the country’s main television news provider, Televisa. Let’s get on with our taking over the country again.

Then, as I say, the reactions started to bubble up, and seep into the national conscience. The tech-savvy Ibero students began to counter the image invented for them by the PRI and their wealthy mouthpieces at Televisa. They began to put out the real story on Twitter and Facebook and even made a short film – 131 Students of the Ibero Respond – that got more than 1.2 million views within a week.

Then the street protests began, with student marches in more than 20 cities on the 19th. Another big demonstration in the Zocalo of Mexico City the following day organized by the PRD contender, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador – a candidate whom the students were clear about indicating they wouldn’t necessarily back. And then another big anti-establishment – for lack of a better word – demonstration last Thursday night.

Suddenly we are paying attention.

And the details to which we are paying attention are interesting: as a new article by my husband, Luis Porter, in U2000 points out, if the original rejection of Peña Nieto had occurred at the country’s largest public university, the UNAM, it would have died on the spot. People expect that kind of thing from the leftist hotbed it is supposed to be.

But the kids at the Ibero are the children of Mexico’s ambitious middle and upper classes. They study hard, work hard and want to succeed in life. (In every issue of business magazine Expansion’s annual list of the nation’s top entrepreneurs, almost everyone is an Ibero grad.) They aren’t used to being shoved to the sidelines with the suggestion they don’t know what they’re talking about or have been bought off by Peña Nieto’s opponents.

But it is now clear that this sense of youthful indignation is not confined to students whose parents can afford to send them to a private university. It is being felt by young people all over the country. They all want their vote to mean something. They are all fed up with being told what to think by a media empire (and how the on-going Rupert Murdoch saga now springs to mind as well) that trades in cheap sentiment and biased reporting in lieu of informing a populace so that it can make its own decisions. They are not buying the soap opera narrative of the young, good-looking politician with the actress wife and lovely family returning the country to the stability of days gone by.

In fact, there is much about the protests that remind me of the Occupy movement. Somewhat like Occupy’s “We are the 99%,” the movement in Mexico is calling itself “I am #132,” each protestor adding him or herself to the original group that pointed out that they had the right to voice an opinion, to demand more than good looks and mega-corporate backing as qualifications to run their country.

They’re not telling anyone who they should vote for, or even who they will vote for, only that times have changed. That they represent a new generation of Mexicans that has gone outside the traditional media to inform themselves, and that they care about the direction their country is going.

And it’s pretty clear that they don’t want a society where illegal immigration is the normal response to low wages or unemployment, where monopolies and duopolies hog economic activity, and public spending is a till filled with the many hands of the corrupt. They don’t want to be told that the July 1 election is already, as so often in the past, a fait accompli.

They are so far the sole indication that business as usual, whether by the dinosaurs of the PRI or any self-interested politician, is standing on ever more fragile legs in Mexico right now.

Is this the sign of  a Mexican Spring? We don’t know yet. But the power of mobilization the youth of Mexico have brought into play is, I think, something no one is going to denigrate, or forget, anytime soon.

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2 Responses to “La Primavera Mexicana”

  1. Luis Pirter May 25, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

    I am happy to read this good summary in English. I fwd it to my students and friends. We are all amazed of what is happening in México. You have to imagine, in a country with encasing bad news ever day, erasing all hope and confirming the decomposition of its society, the uprising of the fresh and energetic voice of the students, is a breath of new oxygen. We are sure the evil forces are now working in the counter-struck, using their sick and polluted minds. We fear the next move from the PRI and high spheres. The struggle is on. We have to be aware and ready. The universities are now a source of light.

  2. Yolanda Vilchis May 25, 2012 at 6:56 pm #

    The following blog, maybe it’s not enough, but it has some points to consider. Cheers. link: oceanosdeesperanzas.blogspot.com

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