Politics and women’s changing role in Mexico

articles Living, Working, Retiring

Jenny McGill

At Home in Talpa de Allende, Jalisco

In Talpa de Allende, there is a neighborhood girl who calls me her quasi-godmother. We have studied English together for the past few summers, but I find her attention span jumping about like a monkey. We decided we would study “Cooking in the Gringa Kitchen” this summer. I am not Karen Hursh Graber or Diana Kennedy, but she wanted to cook pastries.

I planned to sneak a few English words into our lessons without her thinking we were studying English. With me speaking only English, she quickly learned the difference between tablespoons and teaspoons, but she still measures cups as coops. She points out that I have forgotten to get the sugar and flour on the work table when assembling the ingredients, but also wants to put cocoa powder or chocolate chips out even if we are making lemon icebox pie.

Sometimes we chat about local politics.

Election years are as interesting in Mexico as in any other parts of the world. Foreigners are forbidden to meddle in sovereign nations’ politics, and that is good. But it doesn’t keep us from speculating and talking with our neighbors about the qualities of the local candidates.

The undercover campaign for these posts may start ten or fifteen years before the candidate finally comes out of the closet.

About twenty-eight years ago, I taught English at DIF Puerto Vallarta. The president’s husband was mayor at the time. They had a two-year old son who was just beginning to talk. His baby-sitter loved to bring him out to meet the other teachers. She would say, “Show the ladies your political smile.” The little tyke would wave his hand and smile from ear to ear. Baby boy is now mayor-elect of Puerto Vallarta and we wish him well.

His maternal grandfather built the first bridge over the Rio Cuale. The only time traffic was suspended over that bridge was over thirty years ago when there was a political squabble.

One would-be candidate for mayor didn’t get nominated by his party so his followers blocked the bridge for three days. In those days it was the only bridge across the river. Folks from the south end of town departing from the airport, at the north end of the town, were ferried by canoes and small fishing boats to a beach where the John Newcombe Tennis Club now stands. Such a display of protest would not be tolerated for thirty minutes today, much less three days, but the people’s voices were louder in those days.

On July 5, elections were held for local and state representatives.

There are eight nationally recognized political parties in Mexico: Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), National Action Party (PAN), Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), Labor Party (PT), Ecologist Green Party of Mexico (PVEM), Convergence, Socialist Democratic Party and New Alliance.

Talpa had candidates from five of these parties running for mayor this year. And one was a woman.

Women in Mexico have come a long way since 1955 when they won the right to vote. Talpa has never had a woman mayor, although many of Mexico’s city and state governments have been headed by women. Approximately 17 % of the seats in Congress are held by women. When you think that 56% of the nation’s eligible voters are women, you might wonder why more of the country is not under the rein of the feminine hand. Chairperson of PRI, Dulce Maria Sauri, may have hit the nail on the head when she said, “…the majority still thinks the woman should stay home and be a housekeeper and mother.”

Sauri is correct in how the majority thinks, but I see another generation speaking out as I did fifty years ago. If any of you are old enough to remember, women didn’t wear pant suits. How many wear dresses these days? Only ignorant female tourists entered a church in Mexico without her head covered. As I write, I blush to tell you what I see in churches today. However, I’m happy and proud to see the younger generation stepping out further than their mothers and grandmothers did.

Most of my young friends are married and have children, but their attitude is different. The day of the long-suffering wife appears to be disappearing. All my friends work outside the home. Some sell Avon, Mary Kay or other beauty products, others make and sell popsicles, shoes, bakery products, and home crafts. One is a dentist, one a general practitioner, another a lawyer. The list is long and the occupations are versatile. Their husbands are proud to have them by their side.

There was a time when women were rather limited in jobs they could hold. Mainly, they worked as nurses or school teachers, but today you will find them in all walks of life.

I don’t know where my ten-year old neighbor will go or what career she will chose, but she will, no doubt, remember how to make a pie crust and her parents will be proud of her.

Published or Updated on: September 5, 2009 by Jenny McGill © 2009
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