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Maria Hinojosa: Querido y querida listener there is a little warning because there are mention of rape and sexual abuse in this episode. Take care.

“We just arrived in the Zócalo, ah, is really crowded, a lot of people walking around.”

It’s March of 2024, and I’m with my colleague co-producer of Latino USA. Her name is Peniley Ramírez. And right now, we’re in one of my favorite places in the city where I was born, it’s called El Zócalo, which is the main public square in Mexico It’s literally, el corazón, the heart of the city.

“Congelada de a cinco, de a cinco, de a cinco pesos.” 

El Zócalo is where everything happens in Mexico City so maybe one day there’s a Concert by Paul McCartney or Rosalía. And maybe another day like today, you’re gonna see dozens of police officers barricading the main buildings surrounding this plaza. Today is two days before the International Women’s Day March and so right before us, is this large group of police officers.

“Can I ask you a question? ¿Qué están haciendo? What are you doing?”

Police men: “Ah, poniendo vallas. Esas estructuras metálicas.” 

A young police officer that I walked up to, is actually laying steel fences all around the Zócalo. He tells us that this barricades are meant protect the surrounding buildings, all of this in anticipation of the upcoming International Women’s Day March.

“They got massive flyers, ok here they gonna put another part of the wall together, here we go” 

Now you may be asking yourself why are Mexican police putting up steel barricades through all of downtown Mexico City for women who are celebrating International Women’s Day. And what you will hear is that the police will say that during this protest some women, some radical protesters do get a little violent. They have been accused, for example of destroying store fronts or of writing the names of their abusers or rapist on the monuments as they march along the streets. But for some women, they actually believe that the government puts more money and  effort into protecting buildings and store fronts than into protecting women and their safety and wellbeing.

(MUSIC)

Now while Mexican women are getting ready to take part in what will be a massive march, as usual, there’s something else that’s happening in the country that is completely new. That is Mexico’s presidential campaign, and two women are the frontrunners.

On June 2nd Mexico will elect a female president for the first time in history.

Susana Ochoa: “Mexico is having an historical process. Right now I think Mexico it like faro de luz. It’s a lighthouse.” 

We meet up with Susana Ochoa. She’s a young political activist. She’s glad about having a woman in the highest position as the president of Mexico, but she also believes there’s got to be a lot of grassroots activism still. But not everyone feels the same way.

While we were in the Zócalo my college and I, remember, Peniley Ramírez. So Peniley walks up to a man who’s in a wheelchair, and she asks him how he feels about the upcoming election. 

Peniley Ramírez: “Are you gonna vote ?”

Men in wheelchair: “Eh? Pues, ¿Votar por quién o por qué? Cuando desgraciadamente México está de la fregada, la economía está de la fregada.”

Peniley Ramírez: So this man the Zócalo says that the Mexican economy is in a bad shape and that he’s not planning to vote. But if you see the data, actually the Mexican economy is doing generally well. So it seems like his problem is not with the economy Maria, but with the candidates themselves. 

“What do you think about a woman running your country?” 

Men in wheelchair: “Cómo va a gobernar una mujer? Vergüenza, vergüenza, vergüenza me da porque…” 

Peniley Ramírez: He told us that he is not okay with a woman running for president and he went on to say that it is “a shame, a shame, a shame.”

 And this is the paradox, Maria, because the reality is that Mexico will elect a female president before the United States. And it’s true, it’s not just the presidency, right now we have a woman leading the Supreme Court, we have a woman leading the National Institute of Elections, and half of the Congress is female. 

Maria Hinojosa: You know that’s right. Mexico has women in positions of power, but at the same time the truth is that it is lingering sexism, there is this macho culture that is ever present, and frankly violence against women is out of control. Ten women are killed every day in Mexico, making it the 4th most dangerous country worldwide in which to be a woman just after South Africa, Brazil and Russia.

So to understand this paradox of how a country with such a violent history against women is now going to elect a woman president, this hour we’re gonna be reporting from my home country and understanding everything leading up to this historic election in Mexico. (THEME MUSIC) From PRX and Futuro Media, it’s Latino USA. I’m Maria Hinojosa and today we are covering the presidential elections in Mexico. (THEME MUSIC) 

I traveled to Mexico with my colleague Peniley Ramírez to unpack this truly historic moment. And before joining Latino USA Peniley worked as an investigative correspondent in Mexico, and well, she has been writing extensively on Mexican politics for more than a decade. 

Peniley Ramírez: Yes Maria, I’m happy to go with you and to report what’s going on in Mexican politics right now. So in this episode you will hear us documenting the hope:

Susana Ochoa: “For me it’s hopeful also that a lot of young women and women 

that are really capable, that country are taking a part in politics.” 

Peniley Ramírez: The anger: 

Protesters: “¡Vivas se las llevaron. Vivas las queremos! ¡Vivas se la llevaron las queremos!” 

Peniley Ramírez: And you will be from the two female candidates themselves.

Maria Hinojosa: The front runner is Claudia Sheinbaum. Her main opponent is Xóchitl Gálvez. And while we’re talking Mexican politics, we’re actually gonna start reporting in New York City, and I’m gonna hand it over to my colleague, Peniley, who’s gonna report from there first. 

It’s February 2024, and I’m in downtown Manhattan entering a restaurant. 

““It’s a cold sunny Saturday, and we’re here because Xóchitl Gálvez is been having an event with Mexicans that live in New York.” 

I’m surrounded by mostly upper class Mexicans like business people, like lawyers and even architects . And they’re gathering here today to meet in person with Xóchitl Gálvez, and she’s the Mexican leader opposition candidate. 

Public: “¡Presidenta, presidenta, presidenta!” 

Peniley Ramírez: Many of the people here believe that Xóchitl is the hope that their country needs after six years of the presidency of Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his party Morena. 

Xóchitl supporter: “Honestly Morena or the ruling party right now is not showing what real Mexico in the future can be.” 

“I was invited to met Xóchitl who I’m a great fan of. I’m not happy with the current Mexican government, and that’s why I’m here. I wanted to thank her, for being an inspiration.” 

Peniley Ramírez: In 2018 López Obrador became the first Mexican president in this century who won the election representing a coalition that was mainly lefties parties. And now a woman with in indigenous roots who almost all the time is wearing a huipil, which is a traditional Mexican dress, is trying to challenge him and his party. And this is the opposition candidate Xóchitl Gálvez. 

Xóchitl Gálvez: “Muchas gracias la verdad, muchas gracias a los que hicieron.”

Maria Hinojosa: So Peniley again, you’re an expert on Mexican politics so fill us in on what you can about Xóchitl Gálvez. 

Peniley Ramírez: Well, she’s a computer Engineering and also a business woman. And she says, Maria that when she was starting to pay for her education she was selling jello. 

Maria Hinojosa: You mean jello like the dessert jello, yeah.

Peniley Ramírez: Yes but now she has been in politics for the last two decades and she was a mayor of one of the boroughs of Mexico City. And she also was a senator. And the thing is that she has this kind of unique way of approaching politics.

Maria Hinojosa: I mean it’s unique. It’s particular. It’s attention grabbing. So for example in June of 2023, when Xóchitl Gálvez was a senator, she dressed up as a dinosaur to criticize electoral reforms proposed by López Obrador. 

News clip: “No puede la senadora Xóchitl Gálvez”.

Maria Hinojosa: Now, we say dinosaur because in Mexico when  we refer to politicians who have been around a long time, we call them “dinosaurios.”And so yeah! She kind of stood out on the Senate floor holding a sign that read “Jurassic Plan” all of this while wearing a dinosaur costume. 

Peniley Ramírez: And of course something like this will grab the attention of the media so it worked for her. But what even worked better is when she publicly took on president López Obrador.

Maria Hinojosa: Oh yeah, I remember that because Xóchitl Gálvez arrives at the National Palace of Mexico. She’s banging on the door after riding up on her bicycle.

Xóchitl Gálvez: (KNOCKING DOOR SOUND) ” Jesús, levántate. Ábreme tu cadena. Ay sí. (LAUGHS). 

Maria Hinojosa: What Xóchitl says is that she wanted to set the record straight about an accusation that the president had made about her and that she expected the president to open the door for her. But he refused and this brought her, well a lot of kind of performative attention. 

Peniley Ramírez: Yeah! Of course it became a viral hit and from that moment the popularity of Xóchitl among the opposition in Mexico grew like crazy.

News clip: “¡Xóchitl, Xóchitl, Xóchitl! A politician who seemed to come from nowhere to secure the candidacy of a coalition of parties for the country’s presidential elections. She’s Xóchitl Gálvez, a plain speaking, part indigenous senator, who started off as a street vender and now runs two tech companies.”

Maria Hinojosa: And just a few months after being chosen as the opposition candidate Xóchitl Gálvez is on a plane heading to New York City and her first stop is in the Bronx at the Hunts Point Vegetable Market.

Xóchitl Gálvez: “¿Ya hay tacos o no?” 

Street vendor: “Hasta las 11.” 

Maria Hinojosa: And she was at the market where she made up with some Mexican voters who live in New York. 

Peniley Ramírez: And then she took a bike, and she went to the New York Times to meet with reporters.

Maria Hinojosa: So Xóchitl Gálvez seems to really like riding her bike to important places.

Peniley Ramírez: It definitely gets her some attention. So after the New York Times she toured New York for six days, and then she went off to Washington D.C. and she met with congressional committees and more members of the media. And all of this is an effort to court Mexican voters that are living in the United States. And this voters matter, Maria.

Right now, we have over a 150,000 Mexican voters registered to vote from the United States. And this number, it is important because just in 2016 Felipe Calderón won the presidency of Mexico with a super tight margin of 243,000 votes.

Maria Hinojosa: You know what Peniley that was a nail-biting election in 2016, and it’s because of that election that presidential candidates in Mexico understand full well that every single vote counts even if it’s from people living outside of Mexico. Now the thing about Xóchitl Gálvez, Peniley, is that she’s got this pretty interesting, maybe strange coalition that is backing her. It’s certainly the thing that made my eyes pop when I first heard about her candidacy. 

Peniley Ramírez: It is a coalition that I will never thought I will see in my life.

Maria Hinojosa: And since Peni you’ve been covering Mexico for half of your career as a journalist, why don’t you give us a quick rundown of Mexican politics as fast as you can for our listeners. 

Peniley Ramírez: Yeah of course so this is the story: (MUISC) Most of the 20th century, Mexico was ruled by a party called Partido Revolucionario Institucional or the PRI. And for seven decades, they run the country on a nationalist platform. Then in the year 2000, the right wing party Partido Acción Nacional or PAN won the presidency, and this is the moment that Mexicans call the transition to democracy.

Vicente Fox: “Protesto guardar y hacer guardar la constitución política de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos.” 

Peniley Ramírez: But the corruption was rampant both in the PRI and in the PAN, so in 2014 another party was founded and it’s called Movimiento de Regeneración Nacional or Morena. And who do you think founded this third party, Maria?

Maria Hinojosa: I’m gonna take a big guess and say it is the current president, his name is Andrés Manuel López Obrador. 

Andrés Manuel López Obrador: “Y desempeñar leal y patrióticamente el cargo de Presidente de la República que el pueblo me ha conferido.” (MUSIC) 

Peniley Ramírez: And his platform is been really anti PRI and anti PAN, but now, time has passed and Morena has been dealing with his own corruption scandals. It’s also true that despite all of this, in just a decade Morena rose from being a street focused social movement, to becoming in this huge ruling party that has been winning the presidency, winning most of the governorships, and also representing more than half of the Congress. 

Public: “¡Es un honor estar con Obrador, es un honor estar con Obrador!” 

Maria Hinojosa: That’s true Peniley, it really was quite a rise for Morena to come from the streets all the way to the presidential Palace. So we have these two candidates, the two women, but there’s also a third candidate. He’s a man. His name is Jorge Álvarez Maynez, and he really wasn’t getting much attention at all until he released a song that went viral. 

Music: “Presidente Maynez, Maynez, Maynez, Maynez presidente, de ¡México! Uh!” 

Peniley Ramírez: Yeah, it is a song called “Presidente Maynez,” and now it has millions of views on Youtube and on Tik Tok.

Maria Hinojosa: But, let’s get back to Xóchitl Gálvez who is the main opponent here, and let’s talk a little bit more about that strange coalition of the PRI and the PAN. Dear listener, you may be saying what does that really mean? It would essentially mean as if the Democrats and the Republican party would run on a joint ticket. That’s how strange this coalition is. 

Peniley Ramírez: So we decided to go straight to the source and ask Xóchitl directly. 

Maria Hinojosa: And that’s coming up after the break. Stay with us. ¡No te vayas!

 (MUSIC) 

Hey welcome back. It’s Latino USA. I’m Maria Hinojosa, and I’m with my colleague Peniley Ramírez. Today, we’re covering the Mexican presidential elections, which are historic because in 2024 Mexico, a country of more than 120 million people and one of the top commercial partners for the United States, will be electing its first-ever woman president. Peniley… 

Peniley Ramírez: Yes Maria. So far we met up with supporters for the opposition candidate, Xóchitl Gálvez, in a restaurant in Manhattan. And now we’ll be talking to the candidate, herself 

Maria Hinojosa: In fact, we got a chance to do a full sit-down interview with her in a Midtown Manhattan Studio late one evening in March. 

Peniley Ramírez: “Preferimos que te sientes tú acá -ajá- para que nos pueda a ver de frente a las dos.”

Maria Hinojosa: She came in surrounded by her campaign staff, which to me was a little surprising because it was all men, except for one woman who was carrying her clothes. Now Xóchitl was very approachable when we all first arrived, so right off the bat we asked her what she would do differently as the leader of this interesting coalition. 

“So, Xóchitl to be honest with you, I  said wait a second, Xóchitl is running,but the PRI is supporting her. The PAN is supporting her, and I have a little bit of a, of a brain explosion. I was like what am I seeing? 

Xóchitl Gálvez: “Yo no soy responsable de lo que pasó atrás…”

Maria Hinojosa: Xóchitl told us that she is not the one who is responsible for the corruption that is brought on by these parties in the past. Then she doubled down, and she said that if there was corruption in this coalition that she would punish this person even if it’s within her own group.

Then I ask Xóchitl Gálvez about what this particular historic election means.

“Did you imagine that a Mexico could exist, where a woman could be running for president in your lifetime.”

Xóchitl Gálvez: “No me imaginaba ni siquiera que las mujeres podíamos llegar al poder.” 

Maria Hinojosa: She says that she never imagined that women could be in such positions of power in Mexico, as they were always subjugated to the domestic sphere making tortillas, bringing in the firewood. So I asked how she defined herself, and she says that she considers herself a woman of the center left.

“And how do you define feminism?” 

Xóchitl Gálvez: “Osea, yo creo en la igualdad sustantiva en todos los temas en nuestra vida personal.”

Maria Hinojosa: She said that she believes in equality for all women in terms of political, economic and reproductive rights. And to emphasize why this matters to her she told us, she suffered violence as a child. 

Xóchitl Gálvez: “Porque tuve un papá alcohólico y era brutalmente violento.”

Maria Hinojosa: This story has become a part of Xóchitl Gálvez’s stump speech. Her father, she says was a violent man who terrorized her as a child. One time, she tells us in the interview, he pointed a shotgun at her mother and threatened her. She says that they escaped, but that this experience marked her. And then I asked her what she thinks the solution might be for this kind of gender-based violence in Mexico.

Xóchitl Gálvez: “Entonces, creo que las mujeres deben de tener la certeza.” 

Maria Hinojosa: What Xóchitl said to us was that women in Mexico need a support system in cases of violence. And that men need to know that if they commit violence against women. they will be prosecuted. Then we moved on to another topic which actually matters to Mexican voters in the U.S. 

Here’s my college Peniley. 

Peniley Ramírez: “So what are your thoughts regarding immigration?” 

Xóchitl Gálvez: ” A mí me parece que México cometió un grave error cuándo acepta ser tercer país seguro.”

Peniley Ramírez: She said Mexico made a big mistake when it agreed to the Remain In Mexico program.

Maria Hinojosa: Now remember Remain In Mexico was a policy implemented by Donald Trump. It required migrants seeking asylum to remain in Mexico as they waited their court days in the United States, which had never happened before.

Peniley Ramírez: So basically what she is proposing is that Mexico continues with the program as long as the United States gives money so that Mexico, and I’m going to emphasize this because it is a direct quote from her, “Treats immigrants with the dignity that they deserve.”

Maria Hinojosa: Now that’s an interesting choice of words, so then I asked her what she would plan to do instead.

“So what is your fresh new approach towards the issue of immigration?” 

Xóchitl Gálvez: “Primero, entender que el fenómeno de la migración es un fenómeno mundial.”

Peniley Ramírez: Now, she did not really answer the question, but she did say to us that we needed to understand that immigration is a worldwide problem and therefore the solution she said was to “sit and talk.”

Xóchitl Gálvez: “Entonces no nos sentemos, no hablemos, no hagamos cooperación profunda y se van a seguir muriendo jóvenes en este país.”

Maria Hinojosa: She replied that if we don’t sit and have a dialogue young people will keep dying on both sides of the border .

Peniley Ramírez: For over an hour, we spoke about Mexican politics, and we questioned her plans for the government if she was to come into power. 

Maria Hinojosa: Then in the middle of it all, kind of out of nowhere, the candidate Xóchitl Gálvez threw some serious shade at her opponent, Claudia Sheinbaum. 

Xóchitl Gálvez: “Yo creo que Claudia Sheinbaum no va a venir una entrevista como esta.”

Maria Hinojosa: Xóchitl Gálvez told us that her rival would never give us a chance to do an interview like the one she did with us (MUSIC) “

Well obviously we wanted to get that interview with Claudia Sheinbaum, and we wanted to talk with other Mexican voters on the ground witnessing this historic election. 

Peniley Ramírez: So we got on a plane and we traveled to Mexico City. (MUSIC) 

Maria Hinojosa: “So we are beginning our first day of reporting on the ground in Mexico City, y para variar. We are stuck in traffic. The smog is pretty intense…” 

Peniley Ramírez: “…and it’s pretty hot.”

Maria Hinojosa: It’s very hot actually…”

Peniley Ramírez: We were on our way to a market in Ixtapalapa, and this is one of the poorest and biggest towns of Mexico City. The population here is over 1.8 million.

Maria Hinojosa: We had heard that Xóchitl Gálvez was having an event here. 

“We are now coming upon the part of the market. And there are people gathered. They are all Xochitl supporters. I see a man carrying a flag of the PAN. the Partido Acción Nacional.”

Peniley Ramírez: We approach a 50-year-old woman. She is a street vendor. She’s selling tostadas. And she says that she’s a strong Gálvez supporter.

Maria Hinojosa: “So, what in particular do you like about Xóchitl? ” 

Street vendor: “Su sencillez hacia las personas…”

Peniley Ramírez: She says that she likes Gálvez because she is humble. 

Maria Hinojosa: And then as we’re walking away another woman in the market started literally yelling a political slogan at us, all of this in support of Claudia Sheinbaum. Again she’s the candidate coming from the ruling party of Morena.

Claudia supporter: “¡Es un honor estar con Claudia hoy. Es un honor estar con Claudia hoy!”

Maria Hinojosa: Obviously we approached her to find out more because who yells at reporters just like that? 

 “Why did you start screaming for Claudia, just as we walked by?”

Claudia supporter: “Pues yo creo que ha demostrado desde que fue Jefa de gobierno el apoyo y la solidaridad también al pueblo.”

Maria Hinojosa: She tells us that she believes that Claudia is the one who has shown true solidarity with the people. (MUSIC) 

Now you might be wondering, dear listener, who exactly is Claudia Sheinbaum? She represents the party in power, but she is a candidate all on her own. So Peni, tell us a little bit more about Claudia Sheinbaum. 

Peniley Ramírez: So, Sheinbaum was born to a secular Jewish family in Mexico City. She is a scientist.

Maria Hinojosa: Actually it’s interesting because she’s a scientist, but she was a political activist and this started decades ago when she was a university student.

Claudia Sheinbaum: “No caigamos en provocaciones…”

Peniley Ramírez: And from those beginnings she went on and she became the Secretary of the Environment of Mexico City, and all this happened in the early 2000’s when López Obrador was the City Mayor, And since then, their political careers have been united.

Maria Hinojosa: Then in 2018, Claudia becomes the mayor of Mexico City. Which is huge. It’s one of the largest cities in the world. And at the same time Andrés Manuel López Obrador becomes the president. So yes their political careers are connected. They have a close relationship.

Claudia Sheinbaum: “Y el movimiento, pues, que representa eh, Andrés Manuel López Obrador y millones de mexicanos que que estuvimos ahí.”

Maria Hinojosa: The opposition likes to say that Claudia Sheinbaum got this coveted position because of her loyalty to López Obrador, and she says that claim is misogynistic.

News clip: “Pero en verdad vas a decidir tú o te van a estar dando línea “. 

“Para puntualizar…” 

“Como que hay un poco de misoginia, ahí también un…”

“Pero se aplicaba hombre con hombre siempre eh.”

Peniley Ramírez: What is true is that to this day López Obrador still has a high approval rating and now his followers are supporting Claudia as well. And we got of a sense of this when we met with this guy.

Armando Monter: “San Andrés reelígete otra vez. San Manuel, tu pueblo te ama…”

Peniley Ramírez: His name is Armando Monter, and he’s selling, well, López Obrador staff, just a few steps from the National Palace where the President lives. 

 “Tell us why you have an entire stand with AMLO souvenirs and now Claudia souvenirs?”

Armando Monter:  “Because people ask for it. I mean we started with a few things, and then people comes and “why don’t you do like keyholders and other things like magnets, and stuff…pencils, pens?”

Maria Hinojosa: So what’s going on with Claudia Sheinbaum?” 

Armando Monter: “She’s so popular right now because we expect her to be the next Mexico president. And from what we’ve seen around here, people loves her too.” 

Maria Hinojosa: “What about you?” 

Armando Monter: “People loves me too. (LAUGHS)

 (MUSIC) 

Maria Hinojosa: We left El Zócalo and continue on our tour of Mexico City, which by the way included our search to get the interview with Claudia Sheinbaum because for months we’ve been sending emails, making calls and we haven’t gotten a lot of response. (MUSIC)

Peniley Ramírez: And then, we learned that Claudia was hosting a rally in a small town in the outskirts of Mexico City. The name of this place is Tultitlán. So of course we woke up super early, we changed our entire agenda for the day, and we went there. 

“We are in front of the Palacio Municipal, and we are waiting for the moment when Claudia Shainbaum arrives. Ah we were told that between 7,000 and 8,000 people are gonna be gathering today here.”

Maria Hinojosa: This was a presidential campaign rally like so many that I covered in the United States.

So we found a supporter, who like many of these folks had traveled quite a bit to get to this rally.

 “Why did you want to come with your nephews today?”

Claudia supporter: “Ah, bueno, porque la intención es apoyar a la doctora Claudia Sheinbaum, eh, porque considero que es una buena candidata para la presidencia.”

Maria Hinojosa: She said that she plans to support Claudia Sheinbaum because she believes that she’s the best candidate for the presidency.And then, we asked another supporter who was there. 

Claudia supporter: “Ah, todo el partido ¿no? A Morena, porque no solo es…”

Maria Hinojosa: And she responded by saying, it’s not just Claudia that she’s voting for, but she wants to vote for the entire party of Morena. 

Peniley Ramírez: And after almost two hours of waiting…

Crowd: “Es un honor estar con Claudia hoy.” 

Peniley Ramírez: Claudia finally arrived.

Crowd: “Es un honor estar con Claudia hoy.” 

Maria Hinojosa: I was expecting her to make something of a bigger grand entrance, but she kind of walked slowly through the center of the crowd waving and shaking hands, and hugging people, and taking selfies, and then she walked up to the stage.

Claudia Sheinbaum: “Los principios de la transformación.”

Peniley Ramírez: In her speech she said that this is a time for women, but then she started talking about López Obrador and his government accomplishments, and she said that she will continue implementing his policies.

Claudia Sheinbaum: ¡Qué viva la cuarta transformación!, ¡qué vivan las mujeres! ¡Qué viva México! ¡Viva! ¡Que viva México! ¡Viva!” 

Maria Hinojosa: Now dear listener, we are not gonna get into all the particularities of trying to lock down an interview with a presidential candidate. But what we did do is make the decision to go to this event and that did lead us to getting a “Yes.” We were told we get five minutes with the candidate after her speech, and well because Claudia Sheinbaum spent 4 years living in Berkeley, California when she was working on her PhD, she agreed to speak with us in English.

“It’s very emotional to think that there will a Mexican woman running the presidency. You know i’m talking to one of…the most powerful Mexican women in the country.What’s going on with you? What’s in your heart?”

Claudia Sheinbaum: “It’s responsibility. I know I represent the Mexican women. I know I represent my ancestors, and my daughter, and my granddaughters.”

Maria Hinojosa: ” What is your message to Latino Mexican voters in the United States about this election and your candidacy?”

Claudia Sheinbaum: “We’re going to fight for them, for their rights and we’re going to fight for their families in Mexico. We want welfare for all the Mexicans.” 

Peniley Ramírez: “Now you have said a few days ago that Biden and Trump should stop talking about the Mexican elections. Why you said that and what’s your plan regarding immigration?” 

Claudia Sheinbaum: “The best way to reduce migration is to invest in the country where people have to live and want to go the U.S. Either if Biden wins, or Trump wins, there are a lot of problems in the U.S.

And it’s better that their campaign not use México as the problem. We’re not the problem, we are part of the solution.” 

Peniley Ramírez: “What’s gonna be unique about your government?”

Claudia Sheinbaum: “Well, you know, I’m a scientist, so I’m going to put a lot of effort in science and development. 

We’re going to go for women rights, and we are going to to continue bringing education, a good health system for the people, housing and what I call the rights for the Mexican people.”

Maria Hinojosa: Interestingly while we were prepping for this interview, I found out that when Claudia was mayor she organized a boxing class in the middle of the Zócalo a kind of Guinness World Records competition. And well I’m a dedicated boxer, so I asked her about this at the very end of our interview.

 “Are you a boxer?” 

Claudia Sheinbaum: “Ah…I’m a fighter.” (LAUGHS)

Maria Hinojosa: And I would call that a touché. (MUSIC)

Peniley Ramírez: Well now we have the two female candidates on the record. Butthis election is not just about them.

Maria Hinojosa: So when we come back, dear listener, we’re gonna hit the streets of Mexico City. We’re gonna cover the International Women’s Day protest, and we’re gonna hear from women voters about this presidential election in Mexico. Stay with us.

¡No te vayas!

(MUSIC) 

Hey we’re back! And we’re covering the historic Mexican presidential elections where a woman will be president this year. And we’ve spoken now to both candidates Claudia Sheinbaum and Xóchitl Gálvez. And I’m reporting this story on the ground with my colleague, Peniley Ramírez. 

So Peniley Mexico is known as being  a country that is machista. But it does raise a question right? Which is how does a country get to a point where it has two female candidates running for president, I mean how does it happen? 

Peniley Ramírez: So it took a lot of years, Maria. (MUSIC) Since 2014, so a decade ago, Mexico has been approving several bills around gender parity. 

” 67 votos el proyecto decreto por el que se reforma el primer párrafo del artículo…”

It was actually female legislators who had been pushing for an amendment to the constitution and this amendment demanded that women occupy at least 50% of all nominations for office. And after years the Congress finally approved it, and it became law in 2018. 

News Clip: “Mexico is one of only six in the world to achieve gender parity in Congress.”

Maria Hinojosa: So you know, right now in the United States we like to think that there is equality, but even though we have a record number of women in the U.S. Congress, it’s only 28% of seats that are held by women. So Mexico is actually way ahead of the game compared to the U.S. when it comes to gender parity in politics.

Peniley Ramírez: And in Mexico this law applies to the all three branches of government, so the municipal, the state, and the federal.

Maria Hinojosa: And when I think about politics in Mexico as a kid, the notion of women having parity and being in power I mean, it was like a pipe dream.

Peniley Ramírez: Yes, but  more women elected and in public service doesn’t mean that life is easier for women, in general. Violence is still very high against women in Mexico. 

News clip: “A cry for justice at the funeral for Luz Raquel Padilla. Her life was brought to a brutal end when her killers doused her with petrol and set her on fire.” 

“Tocamoss fondo como sociedad… As a society we reached our lowest point. This crime went under the radar because of all of the violence we’re surrounded by.”

Peniley Ramírez: That’s the thing María, that despite more women holding positions of power actually gender-based violence is on the rise in Mexico.

Maria Hinojosa: Yeah in fact national survey data has revealed that 70% of women in Mexico have experienced some form of violence in their lifetime and that for 40% of women that violence comes from a partner. (MUSIC) 

Peniley Ramírez: So how is it that in the same country where women are systemically abused we end up having two female presidential candidates.

 

Maria Hinojosa: And in order to understand this pretty profound paradox, we spoke with Leticia Bonifaz who is getting ready to attend the International Women’s Day march. 

Leticia Bonifaz: “Entonces, sí, voy a ir a la marcha. He ido durante los últimos años…” 

Maria Hinojosa: Bonifaz is a Mexican lawyer. One of the top experts on gender equality in all of Latin America, so we asked her about the fact that Mexico is going to have a female president before the United States. 

Leticia Bonifaz: “Si nos muestra que México llegó a un nivel…”

Maria Hinojosa: Mexico is at level, Leticia said, that is comparable to Argentina, Brazil or Chile. All of which have had female presidents.

And then she said there must be something going on in the U.S. that in this upcoming election you have a rematch between two old men, both with very polarizing policies.

Peniley Ramírez: And then she told us that there is an international bill of rights for women that protects them against all forms of discrimination. A 189 countries have signed it so far, and the United States is not one of them.

Maria Hinojosa: Well I’m sorry to say that I’m not surprised by that.

Peniley Ramírez: So yeah, on paper Mexico might seem more advanced than the United States, but as I said before, today there is still huge unresolved issues for Mexican women. Remember this, about ten women are killed every day in Mexico. Sometimes it is because of the violence related to drugs or to human trafficking. But most of the times, it is a domestic issue. So women are killed by their intimate partners or by their relatives. And impunity, for judicial cases, is still over 95%.

Leticia Bonifaz: “No hemos logrado aterrizar como el garantizar una vida libre de violencia en México.”

Peniley Ramírez: So according to Leticia, Mexico is well positioned in terms of political representation, but terrible in terms of violence against women.

Maria Hinojosa: And that’s why we decided to attend the International Women’s Day march as part of our street coverage

Sound at the march: “Esa morra, sí me representa.” 

Maria Hinojosa: So we got to the march around three o’clock, almost two hours after it started. It was packed with thousands and thousands of women. In 2016, there were six thousand people marching. This year it was over a hundred eighty thousand. 

Peniley Ramírez: And we saw women walking, dancing, holding signs, chanting, and also jumping.

Protesters: “¡La que no brinque es macho! ¡La que no brinque es macho!”

Maria Hinojosa: Ok, so this was in fact one of my favorite chants in the march and the women are saying “if you don’t jump, you’re a macho.” So of course everybody starts jumping. I mean, even me. (LAUGHS) So all around me, women are wearing purple and green which are the colors that signify justice, dignity, feminism, and support for the legalization of abortion.

I have to say we saw young women, older women, queer women. We saw women wearing well kind of racey clothes. And this is to say that when you are part of this march as a woman, you get to dress however you want. In this march you’re gonna be safe and so, women just show off their bodies.

Peniley Ramírez: And it was really something to see. 

Protesters: “Esa morra, sí me representa”

Maria Hinojosa: Now the streets were, in fact,  lined with hundreds upon hundreds of police officers. But the ones that we saw were all women. So of course we went up to speak to a couple of them.

Police woman: “Bien, bien, estoy contenta por formar parte de estas manifestaciones en donde las mujeres…” 

Maria Hinojosa: This particular officer said that she was happy to participate in the march, even if from the sidelines. She said she loved witnessing other women telling their stories and feeling free, even if just for a day.

Peniley Ramírez: From there we kept marching, and we met this young girl. And she was wearing this heavy makeup and a mini dress. And on her arm, written with a sharpie, she had her name, her phone number and message that said that she was allergic to ibuprofen she said that this was for her own safety. 

Maria Hinojosa: “What does your sign say?” 

Protesters: “You can watch me, but you can’t touch me.”

Maria Hinojosa: “The two women who are running, as a young feminist, you’re like, you’re not, you’re not buying it. Why not?”

Protesters: “Está bien, y me agrada que ahora…” 

Maria Hinojosa: She said that she’s happy about having female candidates, but she does not feel represented because of everything that is behind these candidates. 

Protesters: As we continued on, the chants were louder and louder and most of them were against violence. 

“¡Vivas se las llevaron, vivas las queremos!” “¡Vivas se las llevaron, vivas las queremos!”  

Peniley Ramírez: They were screaming “whoever took them alive, bring them back alive.”

We approached another woman and I asked her,  

“Why are you here today?” 

Protesters: “For women. For my niece, so that so that we can come back without having to tell someone that we came back safe. And  I can just wear whatever I want without feeling like someone’s gonna harass me on the street.” 

Maria Hinojosa: We marched for hours. We walked more than 1.5 miles from the start of the march at the Monument of the Mexican Revolution to El Zócalo, which is the final stop. And there we heard something called batucadas. (MUSIC AND CHANTS) 

Peniley Ramírez: And also cumbia (MUSIC AND CHANTS) 

But of course, even though we were attending the march as journalists, we also at times got emotional. Because we are not only Mexican women. In my case, I’m Cuban-Mexican. 

Maria Hinojosa: I’m Mexican-American.

Peniley Ramírez: But also because we have been living through that same violence and impunity. 

Maria Hinojosa: Now dear listener, I have to be honest with you. As a journalist, I cover protests, but I don’t really participate in them. But this was a highly emotionally charged moment and march. Suddenly I found myself with a sharpie in my hand, and I was writing the name of my rapist on one of those steel barriers. And honestly this was just a very unexpected moment.

 “So it says, and I just wrote this on the wall. It says he raped me when I was sixteen. I never said yes. I don’t have shame in saying that. And as a journalist, I have to speak the truth. I´m a survivor, and I identify with so many of the women here who have also been raped and assaulted. And part of the moment is to write his name on this wall, which I did. So, thank you”

Peniley Ramírez: Almost an hour later and just after the sunset, we finally made it to El Zócalo. We heard a chant saying, “feminism is gonna win, is gonna win.” 

Protesters: “Se va a caer, y arriba el feminismo que va a vencer, que va a vencer.” 

Peniley Ramírez: We were exhausted, but at the same time beaming with energy.

 “So we made it to the end of the march. How do you feel Maria?” 

“I feel like the women of Mexico have got so much tenacity and energy and spirit. There’s a lot of solidarity. And it’s so powerful to be here. It was something I always wanted to and now I wanna come back as a Mexican woman.” “

“Becauseif we come back next year we will see how Mexican women are reacting to having a female president inside the National Palace. And all these women here that are saying it’s not enough just to be a woman you need to do things you need to…”

Maria Hinojosa: “Have openly feminist government and having a woman president, according to the women…many of the women who are marching here, is the step, but it’s not going to solve the problems.” 

(MUSIC) 

Peniley Ramírez: But there was one thing missing in the Zócalo, Maria.

Maria Hinojosa: Yeah, and it was a big thing that’s missing.

Peniley Ramírez: Yes the Mexican flag. This huge, monumental flag that is always waving at the center of the square. And it was just not there. It’s never there for these marches because the government makes a point of removing it. So when the world sees this pictures of the women’s march, they won´t know that this images are from Mexico.

Maria Hinojosa:Well Peni, the Mexican flag might not be flying in the Zócalo but the symbolism is there regardless. And yes, well Mexico is machista country, it’s also a country filled with powerful women both in and out of politics. It’s a country where huge debates are happening now. On social justice, on political rights, militarization, feminism, class issues, human rights, I mean you name it. There will be a Mexican woman in the presidential palace elected this year. And so the question might be, dear listener, which country is more machista Mexico or the United States? (MUSIC) 

This episode was produced by Fernando Hernández Becerra, Peniley Ramírez and Roxana Aguirre. It was edited by Mitra Bonshahi. It was mixed by Stephanie Lebow and Julia Caruso. The Latino USA team includes Victoria Estrada, Reynaldo Leaños Jr., Andrea López-Cruzado, Glorimar Márquez, Marta Martínez, Mike Sargent, Nour Saudi and Nancy Trujillo Peniley Ramírez is our co-executive producer. Our marketing manager is Luis Luna. Our theme music was composed by Xenia Rubinos.

I’m your host and executive producer, Maria Hinojosa. Join us again on our next episode. In the meantime, I’ll see you on all of our social media, especially on Instagram, X, Tiktok. Ya tú sabes. ¡No te vayas! Ciao! 

Latino USA is made possible in part by the Ford Foundation, working with visionaries on the front lines of social change worldwide. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur and the Heising-Simons Foundation, unlocking knowledge, opportunity and possibilities. More at hsfoundation.org.

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