Why Mexico was able to elect a female president before the United States

Mexico is set to elect its first female president on Sunday, a historic leap in a country long known for its masculine style – and a pivotal moment for North America as a whole.

From the outset of the presidential race, the only competitive candidates were two women: front-runner Claudia Sheinbaum, a climate scientist from the ruling Morena party, and Xóchitl Gálvez, a businessman representing the coalition. alliance of opposition parties.

The milestone reflects the country’s complicated relationship with women, who face widespread violence and sexism, but are also revered as matriarchs and trusted at home. positions of power.

How the country got this position vis-à-vis the United States, its largest trading partner, has a lot to do with policies forcing openness to women at every level of government, experts say. permission.

Spurred by feminists, Mexico has, over the past few decades, adopted increasingly broad laws encouraging more women to participate in politics. Then, in 2019, the country took the notable step of making gender equality in all three branches of government a constitutional requirement.

“Mexico, by this measure, is really a model for how other countries can do it,” “At the moment, there is no other country that I know of that has amend the constitution on gender equality. Is that comprehensive?”

Today, half of the country’s legislature is made up of women, compared to less than 30% of members of the U.S. Congress. The chief justice of the Mexican Supreme Court, the leaders of both houses of Congress and the governor of the Central Bank are all women. So are the ministers of interior, education, economy, public security and foreign relations.

Now a woman is set to become the most powerful person in the country, commander of the armed forces, chief executive of Latin America’s second-largest economy.

Alma Lilia Tapia, spokeswoman for a group of families searching for missing relatives in Guanajuato state, said she believes both female candidates will pay more attention to their relatives’ pleas. Nearly 100,000 Mexican families are missingcompared to their male predecessors.

The New York Times interviewed 33 Mexican women before the election who said they knew this alone would not erase many of the outrages they faced. This is still a country where Women are killed at extraordinary rateswhere they earn on average much less than men and where masculinity remains culturally ingrained.

But for many voters and the candidates themselves, a woman’s rise to the nation’s highest office carries real symbolic significance.

“For me, the fact that Mexico has a female president is extraordinary,” Ms. Gálvez said in a radio interview. “We have taken a very important step in the women’s struggle.”

Ms. Sheinbaum acknowledged what this might mean for the next generation.

“When a little girl says to you, ‘I want to be head of government, too,’ the truth is that it is incredibly emotional,” Ms. Sheinbaum told an interviewer. one interviewer, “not only for the significance of that recognition but also for seeing that a girl is thinking beyond the stereotypes that have been imposed on us women.”

While many Latin American countries pursued quotas for female politicians, Mexico was particularly aggressive in establishing them, first for local and then national governments.

By 2019, the country passed a constitutional amendment requiring equal gender division in all three branches of government.

Electing a female president “cannot happen without equality” said Mónica Tapia, who leads a group that trains women for political leadership roles in Mexico.

The United States has never introduced gender quotas in politics, which are common in most parts of the world, Ms. Piscopo said. And unlike Mexico, which elects its leaders by popular vote, the United States operates on an electoral college system. (Hillary Clinton would have won the 2016 US election if it had been based on the popular vote alone.)

The massive participation of women in Mexican politics over the past few years has been accompanied by seismic demographic and cultural shifts that have transformed the country.

Half a century ago, each Mexican family had an average of 7 children and every 10 Mexican women had 1 child. had a job. Today, Mexicans have fewer children than Americans, and nearly half of the country’s women are in the workforce.

As of 2021, abortion is banned in all but two states. Currently it is legal in most of the country.

Both candidates promote progressive social policies such as protest gay conversion therapy or create clinic for transgender and non-binary people, which has left some conservative women feeling ignored.

“We support women’s rights, but these women’s rights do not include abortion” or “transgender activities”. , in the state of Mexico. “And there are a lot of us.”

Some young feminists doubt either candidate will prioritize addressing issues important to women, such as domestic violence and the gender wage gap in Mexico.

They say both women seem to represent only men’s interests – in The case of Ms. Sheinbaum, of her teacherthe current president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and in Ms. Gálvez’s, the male leaders of the three main parties she represents.

“A woman becoming president would be of no use to us,” said Wendy Galarza, 33, a feminist activist in Quintana Roo state who was beaten and shot by police in 2020. me if she continues to suffer under the shadow of patriarchy.” officer during a protest in Cancún.

However, while it’s unclear exactly how much change there will be, there may be something transformative about a woman holding the ultimate position of power in a country where presidents enjoy widespread power and often widespread respect.

“Men will always be behind, but the leadership of a female president in power is fundamental,” Ms. Tapia said. It tells Mexican women, she said, that “your family can’t tell you where a woman’s place is — whether in the kitchen or in the home — it’s wherever you choose.”


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