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Young Mexican voters mixed on new president

Voters deposit ballots into a transparent box in Matamoros, Mexico on Sunday. (Samantha Esquivel/YJI)

Matamoros, MEXICO – With Claudia Sheinbaum becoming the first woman to become President of Mexico, she is welcomed with mixed feelings by some young voters.

On one side, it’s a huge accomplishment that speaks loudly about the country. On the other hand, will she be a good president?

Mexico is a country that still struggles to overcome its misogynistic past. Just a little less than 70 years ago, women were not allowed to vote. In this week’s election, two of the three candidates who ran for Mexico’s presidency were women, with Sheinbaum claiming victory and a six-year term that begins in October.

Dana Serna, a Boston University rising sophomore who is from Matamoros, described her reaction when she learned that the two most supported presidential candidates were both women. 

“It shocked me they were even considered,” said Serna, who voted for the first time on Sunday. 

As the feminist movement grows stronger in Mexico – with groups such as “werwomenonfire” on instagram gaining a lot of popularity – having the first woman president shows the progress Mexico is making.

“The U.S.A. paints us as a country of low resources and as the society of Mexico not being so advanced, when the fact is that we are about to have our first women president while the U.S.A. has barely had one woman as a vice-president,” said Salvador Salazar, a rising sophomore at Texas A&M San Antonio University who grew up near Matamoros.

But just because she is the first woman to be elected president does not mean she has gained the full trust of the citizens – especially given the close relationship she holds with President Lopez Obrador. Obrador, who is also from the Morena political party, wasn’t able to run for re-election because of term limits.

“I did not vote for Morena, [Claudia Sheinbaum’s political party], mainly because of the management of medical issues during the last six years,” said Juan Pablo Herrera Oviedo of the Matatmoros area. Oviedo, now a rising sophomore at University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley, also was a first-time voter this year.

Due to the similarities between Obrador and Sheinbaum, there is concern that the incoming president will not only follow Obrador’s past projects, but also his flaws during his presidency.

“There are no vaccines for children, such as the ones for tuberculosis, available for the public,” said Oviedo. “I have had many relatives in the IMSS (Mexican Social Security Institute) these past years and the conditions of these installations are the worst I’ve seen. Lack of personnel and medicines, buildings horribly maintained, and the lack of services available.”

Poll workers in Matamoros, Mexico on Sunday. (Samantha Esquivel/YJI)

And those who do not agree with Obrador’s socialist views are not pleased with, what he calls, his “relevo” (relay).

“Morena has communist socialist point of view,” said Salazar, acknowledging that the other parties aren’t the best.

“I don’t want to see a communist Mexico,” said Salvador. “I hope that this presidency is not like (Obrador’s term), but I doubt it will change much since they are from the same political party.”

Having the first woman to lead the country is an advancement, but it also places a heavy spotlight on Sheinbaum and her future performance as the president.

“It worries me that if she doesn’t do well during her presidency, it’s attributed to her gender rather than her leadership,” said Serna.

Unlike the past presidents of Mexico these last 200 years, none would have their gender blamed for their flaws in leadership. The same cannot be said with future president Sheinbaum. 

“However, if she does well, it can maybe have the opposite effect, and Mexican society will be more open to not judge based on gender,” added Serna. “It’s like a double-edged sword. Just like it can help, it can also make things worse.”

Those entering young adulthood tend to be united by an anger against the high femicides and Mexico’s patriarchal culture. Ten women per day being murdered in the country is too much, and they know that.

“I think the percentage of mistreated women, abused, and murdered, have been increasing with great potency and sometimes has much corruption in cases related to that,” said new voter Camila Perez, a rising freshman at Texas A&M University who is also from the Matamoros community. “I’d really like to see a change in that and for there to be no necessity to remain silent or be afraid to speak up about it.”

Although the two women candidates for presidency were not liked by everyone – either for their own ideologies or their political parties – Perez said electing the first woman president in Mexico’s history is something “exciting.”

“Perhaps a feminine presence in the presidential run is the change Mexico needs to prosper,” added Perez.

There is a long way to go for Sheinbaum to gain the trust of her citizens and, beyond making history, prove that she is a good president.

As Salazar said, “I hope that this election helps change the perspective of the world so they see that these are new times and that it is time for a woman to lead a country.”

Samantha Esquivel is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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