Mexico celebrates election of first woman president

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Mexico’s first woman president elect, Claudia Sheinbaum, thanks her constituents for trusting her and helping her break through yet another glass ceiling. (AP Photo: Fernando Llano)

By Wayne Campbell and Francine Mclean


“For the first time in 200 years of the republic, I will become the first female president of Mexico. I do not arrive alone. We all arrived, with our heroines who gave us our homeland, with our ancestors, our mothers, our daughters and our granddaughters.” – Claudia Sheinbaum

Women have played a fundamental role in Mexico’s independence, reform and revolution.

Unfortunately, they did not have a right to political participation. Finally, women in Mexico got this fundamental right to vote on October 17, 1953. Their struggle began during the Mexican Revolution, with the starting point being the First Feminist Congress of the Yucatan in 1916. At that historic meeting, the women gathered there demanded equality, education and citizenship in order to build together with the men in a responsible manner.

Historically, Yucatan was the first state to recognize women’s right to vote in 1923. Claudia Sheinbaum has been elected as Mexico’s first woman president in an historic landslide win. Mexico’s official electoral authority said preliminary results showed the 61-year-old former head of government of Mexico City winning between 58 percent and 60 percent of the vote in the June 2 election. It was a landmark vote that saw not one, but two women vying to lead one of the hemisphere’s biggest nations.

Sheinbaum’s election will see a Jewish leader at the helm of one of the world’s largest predominantly Catholic countries. Mexico has a population of over 129 million people. In a country with one of the highest rates of murder against women in the world, Sheinbaum’s victory underscores the advances women have made in the political sphere.

Both of her parents were scientists. Sheinbaum studied physics before going on to receive a doctorate in energy engineering. Sheinbaum is accustomed to breaking the proverbial glass ceiling. In 2018 she became the first female head of government of Mexico City, a post she held until 2023, when she stepped down to run for president.

Nearly 100 million people were registered to vote in the election, but turnout appeared to be slightly lower than in past elections. Voters were also electing governors in nine of the country’s 32 states, and choosing candidates for both houses of Congress, thousands of head of government positions and other local posts, in the biggest elections the nation has seen.

Jewish ancestry

Sheinbaum, whose Jewish maternal grandparents immigrated to Mexico from Bulgaria fleeing the Nazis, had an illustrious career as a scientist before delving into politics. Her paternal grandparents hailed from Lithuania. An estimated 50,000 Jewish people live in Mexico. The majority are settled in Mexico City and its surroundings, with small communities in the cities of Monterrey, Guadalajara, Tijuana, Cancún, San Miguel de Allende and Los Cabos.

The first Jews arrived in Mexico in 1519 along with the Spanish colonization. The community began to grow substantially by the early 20th century, as thousands of Jews fled from the Ottoman Empire to escape instability and antisemitism.

International conflict

Sheinbaum’s win also comes at a significant time as the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip has displaced more than one million Palestinians and left more than 35,000 people dead, according to officials in Gaza. Since the beginning of the war last year, Sheinbaum has condemned attacks on civilians. She even called for a cease-fire and said she supports a two-state solution.

Without a doubt Sheinbaum is Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s political protégé. She started her political career as his environmental minister after he was elected head of government of Mexico City in 2000. She has been unwaveringly loyal ever since, even supporting his pro-oil energy agenda despite her environmental background.

It is often said that while Sheinbaum lacks López Obrador’s charisma and popular appeal, she has a reputation for being analytical, disciplined and exacting. Most importantly, she has promised to support López Obrador’s policies and popular social programs, including a universal pension benefit for seniors as well as providing cash payments to low-income residents. Under Mexico’s constitution, presidents can only serve one six-year term.

This is indeed a proud and momentous moment for gender equality and female empowerment not only for the region but the entire world. Mexico is known for its strong patriarchal structures. Sheinbaum’s election to the presidency speaks volumes regarding the advancement women have made in Mexico since Universal Adult Suffrage.

The election of Sheinbaum will undoubtedly provide hope to thousands of Mexican girls in particular and girls in general that their biological sex is not an indicator of what they can achieve.

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Mexico celebrates election of first woman president

By Jackson Advocate News Service
June 25, 2024