Mexico Trip Gives Students Perspective on Domestic Elections
Class Trip during summer's Mexican elections offers glimpse of alternative manifestation of democracy
October 5, 2006 8:16 PM
For a group of SF State students, what could have been a leisurely sightseeing tour of Mexico this past summer was instead a front-row seat to an erupting democratic movement in another country.
It was the day before the July 2 elections and a reported 1.5 million people squeezed into Mexico City’s Zocalo plaza and its surrounding streets to support and listen to then leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s final campaign speech.
For SF State junior Claudia Lopez, 20, the massive political rally was like nothing she had ever experienced in the United States.
“It felt like we were pancakes stuck together with syrup,” said Lopez, a sociology major.
And now, as the United States is less than a month away from its own elections, the trip and what 14 students saw of Mexico’s budding democracy highlighted, for them, the difference between just calling oneself a democracy and acting like one.
“In Mexico, people had a common goal, they felt like they had to do something right then and there,” Lopez said.
What they did the next day was vote – about 41 million of them, or 60 percent of eligible voters. After all, only six years ago the country shed itself of 70 years of one-party rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, with the election of current Mexican President Vicente Fox.
The June 26 to July 9 trip was part of SF State’s La Raza studies class, The U.S.-Mexico Connection, last spring in which students studied the culture and politics of Mexico and the impact it has on the United States.
Usually the study trip is scheduled for early June, but this year it was pushed back so the class could experience the political climate surrounding the July 2 elections, said professor Teresa Carrillo, the instructor of the class.
“There was such a great expectation for this election,” said Carrillo. “Everyday people we met everywhere were planning to vote. I had never seen anything like it.”
In Mexico, people proudly carry and show off their voter registration cards, Carrillo said.
And Lopez described seeing the spectrum of young and older-aged Mexicans dancing and singing in the Zocalo that day. She was astonished to see even pregnant women at the rally.
“Now you have a generation that believe they have a say,” Lopez said. “You would see youth everywhere.”
Along with observing the elections, the class also met with the Federal Electoral Institute, Mexico’s governing body that oversees elections, and civil outreach groups including the Independent Center for Human Rights of Morelos and a reproductive rights organization.
The enthusiasm among Mexicans to vote was a sight for Marisol Miranda, 21, that illuminated, at least partially, the difference between American and Mexican-style democracy.
“They are more politically active, and try to know more about their party,” said Miranda, an SF State international relations major. “You don’t see that here.”
And maybe standing in line for five hours to vote is a difference, too.
That’s exactly what Sonia Vazquez, 24, did. An international relations major with an emphasis on Latin America, Vazquez is a Mexican citizen studying at SF State.
Because she was in Mexico City with the group, outside the voting district of her hometown of Tijuana, Vazquez had to go to a special voting poll in the Zocalo to cast her ballot. For her and her countrymen, this election was too important to not vote.
“In 2000, everybody was so tired of the PRI, they just wanted change,” Vazquez said.
“It was the first time they voted for what they thought was better for the country,” she said of this summer’s election.
The trip is the eighth study tour to Mexico Carrillo has taken students on. Before beginning to teach at SF State in 1994, Carrillo worked on and completed her doctoral dissertation in Mexico City while working in a garment worker’s union in 1988.
It was her work in Mexico City that spurred the idea for the class.
“I wanted students to learn first hand that Mexicans are politically active and they do not have the luxury of sitting back and letting others take care of things for them,” Carrillo said.
Although the immediate aftermath of the close July 2 presidential elections were shrouded in allegations by Lopez Obrador that voting fraud took place, Carrillo said the subsequent protests by his supporters in the Zocalo and Mexico City were a sign of changing political emotions in Mexico.
“It’s a reflection of the true democratization process that is going out there,” Carrillo said.
On Sept. 5, Mexico’s Federal Electoral Institute settled the dispute concerning the legitimacy of the election naming Lopez Obrador’s rival, Felipe Calderon of the more conservative National Action Party, the winner by a relatively razor-thin margin of 233,831 votes.
“It feels sometimes that it is a done deal here,” Carrillo said. “It’s not that way there anymore.”
POST A COMMENT
|BACK TO TOP|| |
Copyright © 2008 [X]press | Journalism Department - San Francisco State University