Five things Friday roundup: Mexico’s new president

A campaign poster for Claudia Sheinbaum. —Andrea De Avila

There are many reasons to feel proud to be Mexican. There are also many reasons not to. However, this past week I certainly felt proud of my compatriots and my country. Mexicans celebrated something not even U.S. Americans have been able to: the election of a first female president. 

Mexico elects a new president every six years. It is unconstitutional for the same person to be reelected president, so a new candidate must always emerge. It is also unconstitutional to run for office while in office. Therefore, candidates must renounce their duties before announcing their candidacies. 

In a historic presidential race, Mexico’s two leading candidates were both women. Both of them represented a coalition of several political parties. Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo, the ultimate winner, represented a coalition that included the political party Morena. Morena, which from Mexican Spanish roughly translates to English as dark-skinned woman, was created as a civil society and evolved into a political party in 2012 with Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (or AMLO for short and sitting president of Mexico) and Claudia Sheinbaum, as founding members.

Despite Sheinbaum’s running and election being significant in itself, there are far more reasons why her win is historic. 

1. She’s a scientist

Sheinbaum attained her physics undergraduate and her master’s and doctorate degrees in energy engineering all from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. However, while working towards her doctorate, she also studied at University of California at Berkeley and Stanford University. In fact, her research residency for her doctoral thesis was at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

2. She’s a co-recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize

Although Sheinbaum has won numerous scientific awards throughout her career, the one that takes the “prize” would definitely be the Nobel Peace Prize she received in 2007. As co-author of the report “AR4” from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Sheinbaum showed her deep knowledge and passion regarding the environment and the impact energy consumption, specifically fossil fuels, have on it. 

3. She’s a former mayor of Mexico City

There has long been an understanding among Mexicans that if a person can “graduate” from being mayor of Mexico City (CDMX) with favorable approval ratings, they may have a chance at the presidency. Expectations were high for Sheinbaum as the first woman to hold the position of mayor of one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Although not free of criticisms and opposition, more than 60% of her governance approved of her tenure. She served as mayor of CDMX from 2018 to 2023.

4. She’s from a religious/cultural minority in Mexico

Sheinbaum has Jewish roots. Her paternal grandparents were Ashekenazi Jews from Lithuania who emigrated to Mexico at the beginning of the 20th century. On her mother’s side, her grandparents were Sephardic Jews that fled Bulgaria before the Holocaust. Her mother is Mexican Jewish, but she was still expected to marry a Jew. Sheinbaum, however, did not grow up under the same presumptions. Her parents were atheists. Even though she grew up knowing where she came from, Sheinbaum was disconnected from the Jewish community. 

Instead, Sheinbaum asserts that her identity has always felt 100% Mexican with origins in science, socialism and political activism. Despite all this, she has been the target of constant antisemitic attacks. This, of course, comes from Mexico’s overwhelming Christian majority. 

Yet, Sheinbaum does not deny she is a cultural Jew and “a woman of faith and science,” whose culture runs through her blood. Most importantly, Sheinbaum wants the attention to be focused on the fact that Mexico’s government is a secular one.

5. She’s a feminist and a humanist

Sheinbaum was not the only self-proclaimed feminist candidate running this election. Nevertheless, she was the only one proposing to look into the systemic issues of violence and inequality. She called this “Social Feminism,” which analyzes beyond the wage gap and the glass ceiling. This is congruent with the “Mexican Humanism” that has been in the agenda of the current government.

It would be no surprise then to hear that Sheinbaum has been vocal against the state of Israel’s violence against civilians already back in 2009 and remains consistent on that message, currently calling for a ceasefire on the conflict.

It is for that and many of the other attributes mentioned that Claudia Sheinbaum reminds me of the passage in Proverbs 31. Most folks are probably familiar with the verses 10-31 from that chapter. However, verses 1-9 are among my favorites from the Bible: A mother giving her son advice and the son as a person with social responsibility and privilege. I encourage you all to read it holding strong, smart, feminist voices in mind. 

A friend of Sheinbaum has stated that twice throughout their lives she has asked her why Sheinbaum submits herself to this life in the political sphere that can be so harsh. Her reply was, “For responsibility, because it is what must be done.”

Andrea De Avila

Andrea De Avila is an ordained minister with a Master’s Degree in Theological Studies from Canadian Mennonite University. Originally from Read More

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