A Woman President for Mexico? The thought intrigues
By Joe Olvera ©, 2012
To say that Mexico is a sexist nation is to put it mildly. Known for its macho tendencies, where women have traditionally taken a back seat to men in all aspects of life, except for child-bearing and child-rearing, that machismo may be on its way out. That is, if Josefina Vazquez Mota, a mother of 3 and a politically astute and experienced politician, can wrest the Presidency from her two rivals, Enrique Peña Nieto from the Partido Revolucionario Institutional and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador from the leftist group, the Partido Revolucionario Democratico. ANALYSIS
Even if she doesn’t win the Presidency, slated for July 1, 2012, Mota has already made history by becoming the first woman Presidential candidate for a major political party, the ultra-conservative Partido Accion Nacional. The politically backwards nation had not even allowed women to vote until 1953. But, is this good for Mexico? Pundits don’t give her much of a chance, but, if nothing else, it adds a new element to a fascinating race, one in which, conceivably, a woman could become the new President, joining Chile, Brazil, Argentina, and Costa Rica as Latin American nations that are led by a woman. Mota’s candidacy brings to the table an element of surprise and excitement to say nothing about the historical ramifications.
But can Mota, 51, overcome the PAN’s poor performance under current Mexican President Felipe Calderon? His war against the drug cartels, which he started in 2006, has resulted in more than 47,000 men, women, and children being killed, sometimes brutally by those very same cartels. Calderon is largely held responsible for failing to bring Mexico under control, while drug gangs fighting for lucrative trade routes have held the nation hostage. One thing in Mota’s favor, however, is that she had a falling-out with Calderon. Removing herself from within Calderon’s wing can only help her in her campaign to become Mexico’s first woman President. Although other women have run for the Presidency, she is the first to have the backing of a major political party. She won the nomination with 55 percent of the voters in the PAN’s primary opting for the woman with the ready smile.
Yet, it remains to be seen whether she can convince the electorate that she is the best person for the job, and whether tradition can be overcome. The good news is, however, that neither Nieto nor Obrador are infallible. Lopez Obrador, who lost to Calderon on the narrowest of margins, is remembered for his acts of civil disobedience when after he lost the Presidency he encouraged his followers to blockade major arteries in Mexico City. His actions did nothing to wrest the victory from Calderon, and, instead, cast him as an extremist and a poor loser. On the other hand, Nieto lost favor in some areas when he couldn’t remember the titles of at least three of the books he has read. Pulling a Sarah Palin, he could only remember that he had read the Bible. Despite this, however, he leads the polls with a 20 percent favorable rating.
Mota, however, does remember which books she has read, including one written by her titled, “God, Please Make Me A Widow,” a tome which encourages women to take risks in life and to not take a back seat to men. Instead the book tells women to defy the traditional roles which Mexican society has thrust upon them and to stop being afraid of developing their potential. Her candidacy is electrifying the woman voter. On the question of how she will manage the army if she has menstrual cramps, she replied: “I have also been asked if I will have the courage to face criminals. My answer is that courage is not a matter of gender.”
Born in Mexico City on January 20, 1961, Mota is a highly educated woman. She is the fourth of seven children born of a Mexican businessman father and a housewife mother. Growing up in a traditional middle-class family, she has captured the imagination of an entire country. A devoutly Catholic woman, she asked PAN members to first go to church on Sunday, then to go vote for her. While she doesn’t support abortion rights, she doesn’t think the practice should be criminalized. She also believes that marriage is between a man and a woman, but that gay couples deserve respect. But, only time will tell whether she can make history in Mexico – a nation on the verge of breaking out of its sexist past and into a new society where both men and women can be considered equal.