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In ‘Macho’ Mexico, a Historic Stage is Set for the Mexico’s First Female President

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In the heart of Mexico, a nation known for its vibrant culture, rich history, and a long-standing patriarchal society, a remarkable transformation is taking place. The political landscape is undergoing a tectonic shift as it prepares to potentially elect its first female president. In a country where traditional gender roles have often limited women’s opportunities, this impending change signifies a monumental step towards gender equality and empowerment.

The Rise of Claudia Sheinbaum and Xochitl Galvez

As the sun sets on Mexico City, the political stars have aligned for Claudia Sheinbaum and Xochitl Galvez, two women who have shattered the glass ceiling of Mexican politics. It’s worth noting that when they embarked on their political journeys at the turn of the millennium, more than 80% of senators in Mexico were men. Fast forward to today, and the majority of these esteemed positions are held by women. Claudia Sheinbaum, the former Mayor of Mexico City, and Xochitl Galvez, a businesswoman-turned-senator, represent not only a generational shift but also a seismic change in the perception of women in politics. Their journey from newcomers to presidential contenders is emblematic of Mexico’s rapid transformation towards a more inclusive and equal society.

A Watershed Moment in a Patriarchal Society

In a nation deeply rooted in patriarchal traditions, the emergence of these two formidable women as the front-runners for the presidential race is nothing short of extraordinary. Josefina Vazquez Mota, who herself made history in 2012 as the first female presidential candidate for one of Mexico’s major parties, aptly describes this moment as a “watershed” in the nation’s history. Both Sheinbaum and Galvez represent the center-right National Action Party (PAN), which ruled Mexico from 2000 to 2012. Their nomination as leading candidates for the June 2 election occurred in close succession to the Mexican Supreme Court’s historic decision to decriminalize abortion, a move that has been widely celebrated by women’s rights advocates.

Empowering the Majority

With women constituting 52% of Mexico’s population, there is a palpable sense of hope that the incoming government, scheduled to take office in October 2024, will champion their cause like never before. The prospect of having a female president in a country often associated with machismo culture is met with enthusiasm by many, including Maria del Carmen Garcia, a 70-year-old secretary who emphasizes the need for gender pay parity.

The Road Ahead

The latest polls suggest that either Claudia Sheinbaum or Xochitl Galvez is poised to become the next president of Mexico. However, the political landscape remains dynamic, with respected former foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard potentially entering the race as a rival candidate. While several Latin American countries, including Brazil, have already elected female heads of government, Mexico and Canada have yet to follow suit. If either Sheinbaum or Galvez secures victory, they will not only make history as the first women to win a general election in their respective countries but also challenge deeply ingrained gender norms.

Overcoming Historical Obstacles

Mexico’s transformation from a predominantly patriarchal society to one that embraces gender equality has not been without its challenges. For centuries, the Catholic Church exerted significant influence on Mexican society, often limiting women’s roles to the confines of their homes. It was only in recent decades that Mexico began to witness a gradual shift away from these traditional values. The Virgin of Guadalupe, a central figure in Mexican Catholicism, played a pivotal role in bridging the gap between Mesoamerican and European cultures during the Spanish conquest. Her significance as a unifying symbol contributed to Mexico’s eventual conversion to Catholicism.

Women’s Struggle for Recognition

Throughout Mexico’s colonial era, women were largely marginalized in public affairs. However, notable exceptions like Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, a 17th-century nun, writer, and poet, challenged the Church’s restrictions on women’s access to knowledge. Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz remains an inspirational figure for feminists advocating for women’s rights. Pressure to grant women voting rights began to build in the early 20th century, particularly in the state of Yucatan. However, clashes between anticlerical factions and the Church in the 1920s and ’30s temporarily halted progress, as it was feared that women, deemed more devout than men, might impede the government’s revolutionary agenda.

The Long Road to Equality

Mexican women had to wait until 1953 to gain full voting rights, a staggering 33 years after their counterparts in the neighboring United States. With the end of one-party rule in 2000 and global advancements in women’s rights, Mexico embarked on a journey to empower women politically. By 2019, Mexico had enshrined parity of representation in its constitution. Political parties that fail to field at least 50% women candidates risk being barred from competing in elections. According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Mexico currently ranks fourth globally in terms of female representation in its national parliament, surpassing countries like Brazil, Britain, and the United States.

The People’s Voice

Public sentiment in Mexico reflects a strong desire for female leadership. A study by the national statistics agency INEGI found that over 90% of the population strongly or somewhat supports the idea of having a woman president. This groundswell of support is a testament to the evolving attitudes towards gender roles and political representation in Mexico.

A Glimpse into the Future

Mexico’s journey towards gender equality is not limited to the political sphere alone. While progress has been made, there is still much work to be done in other aspects of society. Economic disparities persist, with working poverty affecting nearly 38% of the population. Gender wage gaps and underrepresentation of women in corporate leadership positions remain significant challenges. However, as Mexico inches closer to potentially electing its first female president, the nation stands at a pivotal crossroads. The political victories achieved by women like Claudia Sheinbaum and Xochitl Galvez are part of a broader transformation that Gabriela Cuevas, the first Mexican to head the Inter-Parliamentary Union, aptly describes as a journey that extends beyond politics.

In Conclusion

Mexico’s transition from a patriarchal society to a more inclusive and egalitarian one has been marked by significant milestones. The prospect of electing a female president is a testament to the nation’s evolving values and aspirations. While challenges remain, Mexico is poised to take a historic leap forward, potentially paving the way for a more equitable future.
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