A Discussion about Lesbian Roles and Depictions in Mexico


Originally published by Americas Quarterly on Aug. 18th, 2014.

LGBT cyber-activists took to the web last week to publically denounce Mexico City’s 3rd International Lesbian Festival. Through acommuniqué posted on Facebook, nearly 20 LGBT organizations and collectives and around 50 individual signatories condemned the festival as a vehicle for perpetuating misogyny and machismo. They also criticized a number of authorities for vouching for the festival and participating in its organization, including Mexico City Labor Secretary Patricia Mercado and Jacqueline L. Hoist Tapia, who is the president of the Consejo para Prevenir y Eliminar la Discriminación (Council to Prevent and Eliminate Discrimination in Mexico City —COPRED).

It sounds counterintuitive that LGBT groups would oppose an event that claims to support their cause and promote equal rights—and which could not even be hosted in more conservative cities in the country today. So why are these groups opposing the festival?

There are a number of reasons: for one, the festival’s promotional materials include highly sexualized images of women clad in lingerie, and the festival’s agenda includes an event called “The Bunny Party,” sparking comparisons to the men’s magazinePlayboy. Also drawing criticism is the festival’s “coronation ceremony” and a workshop on applying makeup.

In their communiqué, groups opposing the festival write that “while it is fundamental to have cultural, artistic, political and leisure space for lesbians, we find it appalling that these spaces are provided under the basis of gender stereotypes that are misogynistic andmachista. Instead of contributing to the empowerment and freedom of lesbian women from the roles that have oppressed us for ages […] the festival reproduces them with singular joy.” According to the communiqué, the festival’s publicity “only represents white, thin women […]showing women as objects the way male adult magazines would.”

La Tortillería Queretana, an organization that originally participated in the festival, publically bowed out of its scheduled theatrical performance, stating that, “our view is both lesbian and feminist. We are not willing to participate in a machista event.”

Parts of the festival’s agenda seem like they could be consistent with the mission to promote equality and LGBT rights. Events such as the screening of a documentary titled“Lesfriendly,” a soccer tournament, and discussions about workplace challenges and professional opportunities for lesbian women in Mexico could all be interesting or useful to those who might have attended the festival, if not for the festival’s insensitive and objectifying portrayal of women.

Yet the outcry that the festival has generated is also a testament to the progress that Mexican LGBT advocacy groups have made in the recent years in order to get their message across.  The LGBT community in Mexico City and its surrounding cities has clearly built up an effective network that not only promotes LGBT inclusion and acceptance, but also seeks to enforce the guidelines, principles and standards of said inclusion. It is no longer about recognizing the LGBT community’s existence; it’s about being portrayed the way they want to be portrayed and defying traditional stereotypes.

Whether one agrees with the collective or not, the fact remains that these conversations are finally taking place out in the open. Hopefully, this level of activism and social engagement will spread to the rest of the country in the years to come. A cultural transformation, in which Mexicans learn to be more tolerant and respect diversity of all kinds, would help alleviate some of our strongest grievances and obstacles for peaceful interaction.

The Best University Student in Mexico is an Inmate?


Here is a link to my latest article on AQBlog, titled “The Best University Student in Mexico is an Inmate?“, published on March 6th, 2014.

Please feel free to visit and comment. Here is a verbatim copy of it in case you prefer to read it on my personal blog, though I recommend actually going to the site because of additional content, other blogger’s articles, etc.


The penal system does not work; criminals that do jail time do not reform. We’ve heard these arguments in Mexico before—and for the most part, they seem to be true.

Stories abound of drug lords continuing to run their operations from within their cells by using unauthorized mobile phones, and of youth that are imprisoned for minor crimes, only to turn  into full-blown criminals once they enter the penal system.

However, one case in Baja California sheds a beacon of light that could be a sign of better things to come in the Mexican penitentiary system.

Pedro Antonio Gerardo Acosta is a 29-year-old inmate in the El Hongo jail near the city of Tecate in Baja California, serving a 20-year sentence for kidnapping. This convicted criminal also recently obtained the highest score in the countryon the national academic test for higher education (public and private), administered by the Centro Nacional de Evaluación para la Educación Superior A.C. (National Evaluation Center for Higher Education—CENEVAL).

Gerardo Acosta is one of the first inmates to graduate from a pilot program run by the Baja California State Penitentiary and the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California (UABC), which allows people serving a sentence in El Hongo to receive higher education while incarcerated.  Along with Gerardo Acosta’s amazing achievement, two of his inmate classmates also received special recognition for outstanding academic performance in 2013.

Rosaura Barahona, renown editorialist for El Norte newspaper, commented that El Hongo’s educational program is part of a number of changes in the state’s penal system, which is migrating away from a “lock them up and throw away the key” strategy toward a transformative strategy of rehabilitation-and-reinsertion.

“Educating someone is never a waste of time” said Barahona, noting that Gerardo Acosta earned his degree despite having eleven more years to serve behind bars.

Felipe Cuamea Velázquez, Dean of the UABC, agrees with Barahona and congratulated Gerardo Acosta for this achievement. “It represents a great step in his life and an important tool towards his reinsertion into society,” said Cuamea Velázquez.

Of course, the educational program will never be bulletproof, and there is no evidence to say that someone who goes through it will never commit a crime in the future—but there is no arguing against the fact that it is better than the alternative of doing nothing.

Moreover, the three students’ success is proof of the seriousness with which the state penitentiary is taking this program seriously. It is not a PR ploy for authorities to boast that they are trying to reinsert convicts into society, but is actually a legitimate project that provides access to top-level education to people who never had it before.

The way I see it, a person who is in jail but who is studying hard enough to receive better scores than non-criminals is also an inmate who is staying away from trouble; someone looking to better himself because he wants a different life after he serves his sentence.

Baja California’s El Hongo is the first state penitentiary to initiate a program like the one with the UABC—and although it has only graduated ten students thus far, imagine the possibilities if this program were to be implemented at a national scale.

What if a young guy who committed a minor crime served his sentence—and instead of having learned to be a more effective gang-banger, he came out a university graduate?

Transforming Monterrey’s Landscape


I had forgotten to post a link to this article on AQBlog, titled “Transforming Monterrey’s Landscape“, published on February 26th, 2014. Please feel free to visit and comment.

Also, here is a verbatim copy of it in case you prefer to read it on my personal blog, though I recommend actually going to the site because of additional content, other blogger’s articles, etc.


Monterrey, one of the largest cities in Mexico, has recently become a hotspot for criminal activity and host to a number of violent incidents. An ambitious urban development initiative, however, is set to change the city’s deteriorating reputation.

Seventy years ago, an institution that transformed the educational system in Mexico was bornTec de Monterrey, an icon of entrepreneurial spirit and industrial development success based in the city of Monterrey. Dubbed by many of its alumni as the “MIT of Latin America”, Tec was founded in 1943 by Don Eugenio Garza Sada, an MIT graduate himself.

Tec de Monterrey is much more than a university, it is a nation-wide system of high school, university and post-graduate campuses with a common mission: to develop human and professional potential in its students. Its headquarters and most important campus is the Campus Monterrey, located in the valley of the famous Cerro de la Silla of southern Monterrey, an  area that has hosted violence, including the tragic deaths of two students in a 2010 shooting.

However, Tec de Monterrey recently presented a 500 million dollar urban development project which will, among other things, reclaim public spaces of 17 neighborhoods in the vicinity of the Monterrey Campus. The money funding the project will come predominately from donations and proceeds from the annual Sorteo Tec,  a lottery system similar to state-run lotteries, that is privately organized by Tec de Monterrey.


“District Tec” as it is being called, will include drastic improvements to surrounding roads and infrastructure to be built over the next 15 to 20 years. A large public park is part of the project, as is the renovation of the campus’ library. The old football and soccer stadium, currently home to the Rayados de Monterrey professional team, will be demolished and replaced by sports facilities, leisure areas and an underground parking lot.

José Antonio Fernández, President of the Tec de Monterrey Board, said that the university “will work hand in hand with the community and authorities in order to transform this part of the city into a safe, attractive and inspiring place where talent can be attracted and retained.”

District Tec is a scarce but valuable example of visionary collaboration between the private and public sector and the communities. It will certainly pose its set of implementation challenges, but while many efforts to curb violence and insecurity—such as government crack downs on illegal casinos and brothels—have been short-lived, the brilliance of the District Tec is its focus on a long-term solution.

Mexican society has traditionally played the victim when it comes to dealing with issues of insecurity. It is far too easy to blame the government while we see our communities deteriorating. District Tec shows only too well what city leaders should be paying attention to—if you’re not part of the solution then you are part of the problem. Congratulations to Tec de Monterrey for its commitment to this bold effort in making their neighborhood safe again. I look forward to my children enjoying their university experience the way that I did back when it was much safer to live in Monterrey.

Narcocorridos Drum up Support for the Knights Templar in Michoacán


Here is a link to my latest article on AQBlog, titled “Narcocorridos Drum up Support for the Knights Templar in Michoacán“, published on February 6th, 2014. Please feel free to visit and comment. Here is a verbatim copy of it in case you prefer to read it on my personal blog, though I recommend actually going to the site because of additional content, other blogger’s articles, etc.

Narcocorridos—songs that celebrate drug dealers as folk heroes—have been a part of Mexican culture for as long as the illicit activity has existed in the country.  Attempts to censor them from reaching radio airwaves have triggered debates over freedom of speech, as well as outcries from the more liberal media.

But as a recent concert in Morelia, the capital city of Michoacán, shows, there is a fine line between painting a pretty picture of criminality and actually engaging in direct support for organized crime groups that have brought parts of Mexico to unmanageable levels of violence.

The state of Michoacán has been in the spotlight for almost a year now, due to a complete degradation of the rule of law. A clashing arena for a number of criminal organizations including the Familia Michoacana, the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación, the Zetas and the Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar), Michoacán is a case study where criminality has grown larger than the state itself.

Given the dire situation, self-defense groups have taken up arms in rural areas throughout the state, claiming they are ready to do the job the government won’t in order to protect their families and communities.  José Manuel Mireles, one of the leaders of the Consejo Ciudadano de Autodefensa (Citizen Council of Self Defense Groups), famously said that the self-defense movement “[…] started when the narcos started abusing our women and daughters.”

However, organized crime is so embedded in Michoacán life that on February 2, one of the capital city’s main entertainment venues hosted a Narcocorrido lineup whose outright and explicit support for the Knights Templar would chill any law-abiding citizen. The concert was approved by the state authorities and state police officials were on hand to ensure that the event ran smoothly.

The headliner group, “Los de la A,” started their concert by yelling out to an audience of nearly six thousand: “If they chop off my head, I won’t care. Knights Templar all the way!” receiving cheers and jeers from the riled-up crowd.

“Los de la A” originate from Apatzingán, Michoacán, one of the towns currently controlled by the self-defense groups.  After a couple of songs, the lead singer known as “El Komander” addressed the crowd, encouraging them to support the Knights Templar in reclaiming control of that town: “We’re recruiting people to go to Apatzingán and kick some a** over there!”

Half-way into the show, envelopes filled with cocaine started making their way through the crowd. Concert-goers snorted the drug right in front of police officers, who did nothing to stop them, even after the lead singer of the band cheered, “Bring out all the drugs! Let’s all get crazy tonight!”

Granted, the violence and drug problem in Michoacán and the country will not disappear by censoring narcocorridos, in the same way that inner-city violence has not disappeared since they stamped those “Warning: Explicit Lyrics” stickers on gangsta rap CDs in the U.S., but when a person is allowed to take the stage in a state-owned forum and motivate his fans to take up arms and shoot civilian groups to support a drug trafficking organization, the issue is larger than freedom of speech.

Mireles says that self-defense groups will “put their weapons away once rule of law is re-established in Michoacán.” The essential ingredient for this to happen is the generalized adoption of—or at least, sympathy for—a culture of lawfulness in the communities.

As long as there are people who are convinced that the narco way is best, there will be no peace in Michoacán. Unfortunately, those who would support the re-establishment of order and harmony in the state don’t have folk musicians to hold concerts at their beck and call.

Mexican Drug Cartels use Christmas to Expand their Fan Base


Here is a link to an article I published in January for AQBlog, titled “Mexican Drug Cartels use Christmas to Expand their Fan Base” I had forgotten to re-post it in my personal blog so here it is in case you missed it. I’m posting a verbatim copy of it in case you prefer to read it here, but I recommend actually going to the site because of additional content, other blogger’s articles, etc.

They might be taking their cues from legendary Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, who was famous for helping out numerous communities in Colombia and donating parks and recreation centers to unprivileged communities. Or maybe they’re inspired by the legend of Jesús Malverde, the so-called narco-saint folk hero from Sinaloa, sometimes seen as a Mexican version of Robin Hood. On the other hand, they may feel threatened  by  the “self-defense” groups spawning in Michoacán and Colima—civil vigilante groups  that have taken up arms against the cartels after declaring that local authorities are unable or unwilling to tackle organized crime battles head-on.

For whatever reason, drug cartels in different parts of Mexico took to the streets this holiday season in order to “give back,” and—ironic as it may sound— spread holiday cheer.

In the southern state of Oaxaca the impoverished communities of Viguera, Bugambilia and Calicanto were surprised on Three Kings Day (January 6) withbundles of toys, which mysteriously appeared in different points of the city, some with signs explaining that they were left there “so that people can see that the Zetas support humble people. ” Not surprisingly, these images did not make it into mainstream national media but were shared via Twitter.

The eerie irony behind these charitable acts is that the Zetas are known for being one of the most cold-blooded criminal groups of the country, often resorting to torture and public displays of their victims.

On the other side of the country, in Tampico in the northern state of Tamaulipas, theCártel del Golfo (Gulf Cartel—CDG) took to the streets on Christmas Eve and handed out gifts, food and money. The CDG had the gall to parade in pickup trucks and set up different distribution points throughout the city, never fearing an attack from the authorities. In what would seem like a well-thought-out, below the line marketing strategy, they recorded, edited and uploaded videos that later went viral on YouTube.

One of the videos shows pickup trucks outside of hospitals, the main bus station and other parts of the city, distributing food bags and giftwrapped boxes. The crowds gather around and some of the cartel members try to organize the distribution as if they are conducting an aid campaign. The clip then transitions to another part of the city, outside of a public clinic, where members of the CDG deliver dozens of pizza boxes to people who not only thank them for the gift, but even organize to yell out a “hip, hip, hooray”-style cheer: “A la bio, a la  bao, a la bim bom ba, ¡el Cártel del Golfo, ra, ra, ra!”

The video shows how children run to these criminals with smiles on their faces and exchange a thank you for a plastic toy trinket. Unbeknownst to them, the toy was bought with blood and drug money. The fact that parents would let their kids get close to the cartel members is the perfect illustration of how engrained organized crime has become in underprivileged communities in parts of Mexico.

The larger problem is not that the cartels have the audacity to do these charity runs. The real and critical situation is that, given their lack of opportunities to survive otherwise, abandoned communities have embraced the cartels and come to regard them as semi-gods and role models. Mexico has become a place where, inside a posh shopping mall in Mexico City, a soccer mom can tell her kids to take a picture with Santa Claus, while a less privileged mother might invite her own children to ask the nice drug dealer for a handout.

What an unfair situation to put a kid in. What a terrible way to sentence our children’s futures.

Happy Thanksgiving a la mexicana


Desde hace algunos años mis hermanas viven en Estados Unidos y dentro de su asimilación cultural, han integrado la celebración del “Thanksgiving”, traducido al español generalmente como Día de Acción de Gracias.

Como dicen los mismos gringos, “haters gonna hate” y siempre existirán críticos y detractores que descalifican el hecho de que mexicanos asuman celebraciones que nada tienen que ver con su historia y con su cultura. Son éstas las mismas personas que denuncian el satánico y aparentemente reprochable acto de disfrazarse, salir a las calles a convivir y divertirse y obtener dulces en el proceso “porque no es una celebración mexicana.” Son los mismos que como bien dice el meme ya “han de creer que la navidad nació en Oaxaca.”

En términos puristas, la celebración de Thanksgiving es igual de cuestionable y criticable que muchas otras (entre ellas el Día de la Raza en México), ya que muchos relacionan dicha celebración con la matanza de pueblos indígenas dentro del proceso de colonización del territorio estadounidense. Se respeta la visión y no, honestamente no creo que hace años los amigos de los sombreros chistosos se hayan sentado con los amigos de las plumas en la cabeza a echarse su pollo Kentucky y jugar a la bebeleche pero habiendo dicho esto, el significado práctico y real de Thanksgiving trasciende a su supuesto origen y es en ello en que existe mucha riqueza. Hoy, Thanksgiving más que un momento para honrar a los pilgrims y a los compadres de Pocahontas, es la excusa que se dan los estadounidenses para una vez al año,  darse el tiempo y espacio para promover la unión familiar y tener un espacio de reflexión y agradecimiento por todo lo positivo que tienen en sus vidas. Es esta práctica la que creo que rebasa religiones y nacionalidades y no veo una sola razón por la cual no debiera adoptarse, no sólo por gente como mis hermanas que no necesariamente asimilan su residencia con patriotismo yankee, sino por todos.

Habiendo dicho esto, desgraciadamente hoy no tengo la capacidad para reunirme con mi familia así que dejo este componente en pendiente (lo bueno es que los mexicanos tenemos más oportunidades de esto) pero aprovecho el espacio y el momento para hacer mi Thanksgiving a la mexicana y por esta vía de expresión, por la que creo llego a la mayoría de las personas que en este mensaje estarían involucrados, les comparto mis razones de agradecimiento:

Gracias a mi familia. En sus distintas capas y niveles, gracias porque ustedes son mi más fuerte línea de soporte y de sentido. Gracias por todo el amor, cariño, paciencia, tolerancia y hasta por las mentadas de madre que me dan con la intención de que mañana sea mejor. Sin ustedes, nada importa y nada tiene sentido.

Gracias a mi esposa y mis niños que todos los días me dan miles de razones para salir a tratar de hacer las cosas mejor que el día anterior. Ustedes me hacen la persona que hoy soy. Son mi infinita fuente de felicidad, esperanza y diversión. Me permiten cada día volver a conocer el asombro y me tienen la paciencia para dejarme ser y quererlos a mi manera. Son increíbles.

Gracias a mis papás, hermanas, cuñado y sobrino por todos los momentos increíbles (ojalá pudiéramos hacer que fueran más) que me tocó pasar con ustedes. Tengo una familia como pocas y son demasiadas las cosas que he recibido de ustedes y que he hecho propias en mi ser.

En especial gracias a mi Abuelita, por todos los años que me regaló y de quien este año me tuve que despedir con todo el dolor de mi corazón. Gracias por enseñarme tanto de cómo debo de ser y tantas aspiraciones que me quedan por conquistar. Gracias a toda la familia Moreno que me permitió un espacio privilegiado para darle un último adiós. No saben lo mucho que valoro haber podido hacerlo y dedicarle unas palabras buscando honrar su memoria.

También gracias a mi familia política. A mis suegros, a mis cuñados y sus familias, porque me han bienvenido en su familia con brazos abiertos, sin prejuicios ni limitantes… y eso se dice fácil pero debo reconocer que no siempre soy la persona más fácil de tragar.

Tengo la increíble dicha de contar con un puñado de amigos y amigas a los que considero también mi familia. No necesito listarlos por nombre ya que ustedes saben quiénes son y espero se sientan aludidos en estas líneas. Gracias por todos los momentos que vivimos juntos (en persona y a distancia) este año. Gracias por ser mucho más que amigos, por darme la confianza de saber que aunque no haya línea de sangre de por medio, somos como hermanos y cuento con ustedes en todo momento. Es en verdad un privilegio que ojalá todos pudieran tener.

Gracias por las amistades. También cuento con la suerte de estar rodeado de gente que a diario o regularmente me brinda una sonrisa. Estas son mis amistades y están en muchísimos rincones del mundo. Conforme las sumo en número, me hacen volver a creer en el potencial de la raza humana porque cada uno(a) tiene muchísimas cosas positivas que aportar al mundo y en cada momento y decisión lo hace. Gracias por estar a un paso, una llamada, un mail, un tiro de piedra o una simple memoria de mi alcance. Este año ha sido más fácil por sus contribuciones a mi vida.

Gracias a la calle. Por estar siempre dispuesta y dejarme recorrer sus kilómetros en pro de mi salud este año. Por tratarme bien y no darme demasiadas lesiones. Ojalá me trate así de bien en el 2014.

Gracias por el trabajo. Tengo mucha suerte al dedicarme profesionalmente a algo que me encanta. Mi trabajo es más que satisfactorio… es divertido. Esto es un lujo. Lo que hago todavía me reta y por ende, me permite desarrollarme y crecer. Adicionalmente, mi ambiente de trabajo es productivo y laboro en un equipo en el que sin tapujos ni reservas puedo decir lo que pienso y actuar en consecuencia. Mis funciones me permiten sumar y agregar valor a los objetivos de mi empresa. Ojalá todos supieran lo que eso se siente.

Gracias por mi no-trabajo. Fuera de la oficina, tengo el gusto de poder contribuir en otras tareas que muchos pudieran considerar “trabajo” pero no lo son para mí porque son iniciativas en las participo pro-bono. Las hago con gusto porque además de alimentar mi ambición y mi necesidad nativa de contribución, servicio y trascendencia, son espacios alternos para compartir y rebotar ideas; llevar a cabo diálogos y acciones que me parecen importantes. Afortunados quienes podemos abrir nuestra esfera de impacto más allá de nuestra familia y trabajo. Gracias a mis compañeros en organizaciones e instituciones con las que colaboro y en especial gracias a quienes en el 2013 fueron vigías de mis palabras como editores de las mismas.

Gracias a quienes fueron sujeto de mis artículos este año. Especial reconocimiento a Enrique, Andrés Manuel, Elba, Angélica y muchos otros en la política, que generaron las razones para mi denuncia y evidenciaron todas las cosas que quedan por hacer y mejorar en nuestro país. Sus contribuciones a la vida pública pintan un claro roadmap para todos aquellos que queremos construir un mejor país y nos enfrentan directamente a todo lo que tenemos que cambiar. No se preocupen, no les vamos a dejar la chamba a ustedes.

Gracias a mis lectores y a quienes retaron mis ideas. Gracias a cada persona que este año ayudó a que mi blog personal rompiera record de hits, a cada persona que visitó Americas Quarterly para leer mis ideas y en especial a aquellos que se dieron el tiempo de retroalimentarlas y/o confrontarlas con otras. No hay nada más satisfactorio para quien escribe, que ser el responsable y detonador de una conversación e intercambio de ideas.  Espero poder seguir explotando estos espacios de dialogo y comunicación por muchos años más.

Por último, gracias a todos los buenos mexicanos. Necesitamos más de ustedes. Muchos más.

Cerrando changarro: gracias por leer estas líneas y por compartir conmigo, un Thanksgiving a la mexicana. Ahora sí, a falta de pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce y stuffed turkey, ¡¿Ontá mi pollo con mole y mi cheve, carajo?!

Women in Mexico’s Workforce


Here is a link to my latest article on AQBlog, titled “Women in Mexico’s Workforce“, published on November 1st, 2013. Please feel free to visit and comment. Here is a verbatim copy of it in case you prefer to read it on my personal blog, though I recommend actually going to the site because of additional content, other blogger’s articles, etc.

“Women are not doing well because they want to do it all. They want to study, go out and get a job and be housewives as well. Well, that is really difficult to achieve.”

These were recent and controversial words spoken by Ricardo Salinas Pliego, president of Grupo Salinas and owner of TV Azteca, one of the two television media conglomerates in the country. Salinas made the remarks during the Mexico Cumbre de Negocios (Mexico Business Summit) on October 20-22.

Salinas went on to say that women should receive a salary from their husbands “so that their work at home as caretakers […] is monetized and better valued.”

Unfortunately, his ignorant point of view on gender equality is not as unusual in Mexico as some may think. Even in this day and age, many talented Mexican women face such myopic views as an obstacle to their professional development.

Given the growing number of women with advanced graduate degrees in Mexico—currently 50.4 percent, according to a recent study by the Asociación Nacional de Universidades e Instituciones de Educación Superior (National Association of Universities and Higher Educational Institutions—ANUIES)—forward-thinking companies have begun to understand the need to tap into a talent pool they didn’t used to, given prejudices in hiring and professional development processes.

These companies are breaking ground by incorporating gender quotas into their talent attraction and training processes. Some have also begun to explore work-from-home and flextime schemes to help working mothers split their time between professional and personal responsibilities. But are these strategies fair and effective in tackling the real problems preventing Mexican women from attaining greater professional opportunities, or are they simply temporary solutions?

The effectiveness of gender quotas is highly debatable. Those who favor them say that they allow for greater participation of women in the workforce and that they are an essential starting point for changing deep-seated behaviors in business organizations.

Those opposed to gender quotas say that they don’t promote real equality, risk attracting inferior talent and are condescending toward women.

My problem with inclusion quotas is that they don’t tackle the real issue at hand, which is the need to change the mindset of industry leaders who hold similar views to those of Mr. Salinas Pliego.

Faced with systemic prejudices and severe gender disparities, 30 percent of working women in Mexico feel that they are stuck in their profession and do not have opportunities to grow, get a salary raise or receive appropriate recognition from their employers and peers.

The message is clear. You can try to reach out and attract female talent, but you’re setting yourself up for failure if that talent is brought into a hostile environment and diseased bymachismo that can’t be cured by a quota. In fact, having a quota system could actually exacerbate discrimination by men who think quotas give women an unfair advantage.

Conscious businesses that truly want to make a positive change need to do more than just debate quotas or consider special concessions for working mothers  that would enable  them to thrive professionally. Rather, businesses should promote a cultural change that values talent regardless of gender, and that helps employees modify the often unequal gender roles at home.

Businesses must also understand that their decision to promote gender equality should not be viewed as a public relations campaign. It simply makes sense for businesses to attract, grow and retain the best talent available to them, regardless of gender. Business leaders should look to the numerous studies that have proven that a gender-diverse workforce provides better business results.

As the European Project on Equal Pay posits, there is extensive research showing “a strong correlation between a strong record of promoting women into the executive suite and high profitability.” Catalyst, a U.S. nonprofit, found in its 2011 research that there is a 26 percent difference in return on invested capital (ROIC) between companies in the top-quartile of women board representation and those in the bottom quartile (with zero women directors). According to a recent study by McKinsey & Company, the profitability of Fortune 500 companies with three or more women executives is 5 percent higher than that of their competitors.

Rather than simply implementing quotas, businesses must ensure that their male executives learn these important facts. Ongoing gender inclusion efforts, such as flexible work schemes, should not be discarded or undervalued. But if companies in Mexico are serious about effectively capitalizing on women’s professional potential, they should start with their own employees.

Mexico’s New Undead Rapist Mayor-Elect


Here is a link to my latest article on AQBlog, titled “Mexico’s New Undead Rapist Mayor-Elect“, published on July 12th, 2013. Please feel free to visit and comment. Here is a verbatim copy of it in case you prefer to read it on my personal blog, though I recommend actually going to the site because of additional content, other blogger’s articles, etc.

Yes, you read that title correctly. The small municipality of San Agustín Amatengo in the Mexican state of Oaxaca has recently attracted national attention due to what is likely the strangest story in electoral politics in the country.

On July 7, Lenin Carballido, the candidate from a Partido Acción Nacional (National Action Party—PAN)-Partido de la Revolución Democrática (Party of the Democratic Revolution—PRD)-Partido del Trabajo (Labor Party—PT) coalition, raised his arms in victory after winning the race for municipal president (mayor).

But this should have been impossible: an official death certificate announced Carballido’s demise in 2010 from a diabetic coma.

As national newspaper REFORMA reports, the story is even more complex because investigations suggest that Carballido faked his own death to avoid facing charges of gang-raping a 30-year-old woman in the capital city of Oaxaca in March 2004.

On October 12, 2010, a judge issued a warrant for Carballido’s arrest based on “unequivocal proof that the subject at hand [Carballido], using physical violence, assisted by others and against her will, raped [the woman, whose name was withdrawn].” However, the charges were dropped when a public defender informed the judge that Carballido had died that September and thus, could not be apprehended.

Less than three years later, Carballido was healthy enough to run an effective political campaign and narrowly beat his opponent, Alfredo Jiménez Ordaz, a candidate supported by the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party—PRI) and Partido Verde Ecologista de México (Green Ecologist Party of Mexico—PVEM). Granted, Carballido only beat Jiménez by 11 votes—but it was an impressive result for a guy who had supposedly died three years earlier.

This story, fit for “Ripley’s Believe it or Not”, illustrates Mexican political parties’ lax policies for vetting candidates, as well as those of Oaxaca’s state electoral body, which accepted Carballido’s candidacy. One would expect that criminal background checks would be part of these processes—let alone ensuring that candidates are not officially dead.

Oaxaca’s Congress has asked the state attorney general’s office to re-issue its arrest warrant for Carballido. Since the story became public, the leader of the PRD in Oaxaca, Rey Morales, has told the press that the PRD was “analyzing the situation in order to determine if they can impede Carballido from taking office,” adding that the candidate “deceived the party, electoral authorities and the citizenry.” Lenin Carballido has not been available for comment.

If we’re going to have zombies running around and campaigning, they should at least be subject to our rule of law.

Mexico’s Supreme Court Ruling a Step Toward Greater Tolerance


Here is a link to my latest article on AQBlog, titled “Mexico’s Supreme Court Ruling a Step Toward Greater Tolerance“, published on March 8th, 2013. Please feel free to visit and comment. Here is a verbatim copy of it in case you prefer to read it on my personal blog, though I recommend actually going to the site because of additional content, other blogger’s articles, etc.

If there is one thing Mexico’s men are famous for, it is the celebration of being macho. We see this everywhere: In telenovelas, the butch and handsome male protagonist becomes the hero only after he conquers the lovely señorita by wooing her with his macho chivalry. It is common to hear traditional male fathers telling their sons “real men don’t cry.”

A number of consumer products also cater to this very innate part of the Mexican heterosexual male’s existence through marketing, which might be considered as sexist in other cultures. The macho element also permeates humor; viewed through the optics of U.S. culture it no doubt be deemed much more than politically incorrect. This is not a matter of right or wrong, but rather a plain and simple recognition of who we are as a culture today.

On March 6, however, Mexico’s Supreme Court of Justice (SCJN) took a decision that could lead to a shift in the way Mexican machos coexist with homosexuality, which today is regularly mocked. Mexican insults such as “maricón” or “puñal” (derogatory terms for “gay male”) are thrown around in colloquial talk with as much disdain as the word “pansy” in the English language. But the Supreme Court decided that such expressions are not protected by freedom of speech and can be subject to lawsuit on the basis of moral harm.

The split 3-2 judicial decision is probably an accurate proportion of how Mexican society would view the subject. Some view this as a step toward inclusion and tolerance. Others see this as unnecessary ruling and censorship of what has traditionally been acceptable humor.

The approved ruling states that “Homophobic expressions, that is, language consistent in inferring that homosexuality is not a valid option, but rather a condition of inferiority, constitute discriminatory manifestations. This includes the use of such terms in humorous use, given that through them, intolerance toward homosexuality is incited, promoted and justified.” The ruling goes on to acknowledge that these expressions are part of common use in Mexico’s culture by stating that, “while these expressions are strongly embedded in Mexican society’s language, practices by the majority of a population cannot validate violations to fundamental rights.”

As with most countries and cultures, gender diversity is slowly but surely (granted, more slowly than us progressive thinkers would like) moving forward.

The antigay sentiments and comments common in previous generations are less present with youth today, even if the male macho is still a predominant figure in our culture. But the SCJN’s ruling, if harnessed correctly, can be a powerful boost toward a more open and tolerant society. If really enforced, this ruling could create a huge shift in approved TV content for example, which is a powerful vehicle in our culture. Today, many humor programs make fun of LGBT individuals by portraying them as inferior and/or exaggerating stereotypical effeminate traits, thus teaching that these expressions are acceptable in society. With the ruling, this type of humor could hold TV companies liable and perhaps motivate them to change their content. In an ideal scenario, this would extend to TV companies that shield themselves from responsibility by stating, “we give people what they want to see.”

While enforceability of this ruling in everyday social interaction and situations proves complicated, the institutionalization of hate humor in printed media and television can be affected. This is, in a way, something similar to the shift made with regard to cultural acceptance of smoking. When did smoking stop being cool? Many would say it was when we stopped seeing it as acceptable in TV and later in social occasions. Even if it takes a couple of generations to accept, typifying homophobic slurs as hate speech is a celebratory step toward social inclusion and tolerance in Mexican culture.

*Arjan Shahani is a contributing blogger to AQ Online. He lives in Monterrey, Mexico, and is an MBA graduate from Thunderbird University and Tecnológico de Monterrey and a member of the International Advisory Board of Global Majority—an international non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of non-violent conflict resolution.

Censorship in Mexico: The Case of Ruy Salgado


Here is a link to my latest article on AQBlog, titled “Censorship in Mexico: The Case of Ruy Salgado“, published on October 29th, 2012. Please feel free to visit and comment. Here is a verbatim copy of it in case you prefer to read it on my personal blog, though I recommend actually going to the site because of additional content, other blogger’s articles, etc.

Most people outside of Mexico may have never heard of Ruy Salgado. But during the most recent electoral contest here, that name not only became known throughout Internet circles in Mexico, but was arguably one of the most influential voices of opposition in the country.

Ruy Salgado, a pseudonym, has an online alias known as el 5anto. Salgado is a nonprofit video blogger whose notoriety increased during these past elections for his very critical view of both the transparency of the process and the role of the mainstream media in “manipulating the truth.” He was also one of the most vocal in denouncing what he referred to as institutionalized fraud in the results that will bring the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party—PRI) back to power on December 1.

El 5anto’s modus operandi was to webcast himself live, wearing a blue luchador mask, providing news and opinion rarely present in mainstream media. This approach was part commercial flair, part self-protection. During the time his project was online, he attracted a growing audience whose members may not have all supported his beliefs, but who did attest to the professional way in which they are always presented: stating sources, structuring analyses and providing informed and argumentative opinion.

For his views and his attempts to “provide information”—always his prime objective—el 5anto became a target of multiple death threats. At one point he even fled the country and started streaming from an undisclosed location for fear of becoming yet another communicator permanently silenced by those who have made journalism an extremely dangerous profession in Mexico.

On September 8, people who would regularly tune in to Salgado’s website, http://el5antuario.org, were suddenly cut off from the feed and his video-blog (“vlog”) channel went silent. After a couple of days without news, collaborators from his site issued a recording stating that their spokesperson had disappeared and they lost contact with him. For more than a month both his collaborators and his audiences feared the worst. While most mainstream media initially ignored the case, the buzz of social media proved too powerful as the words “Where is Ruy Salgado?” became a trending topic on Twitter—leading some television networks, politicians and pundits to finally pay attention. Despite the demands, for more than a month there was nothing but silence from Salgado.

Finally on October 20, through a Skype connection with one of his now-former collaborators who livestreamed the call, el 5anto’s voice was once again heard over the Internet. Unfortunately this would be Ruy Salgado’s last broadcast and final goodbye. In a three-hour message, he explained that he could not go into detail about his victimization during the 42 days of silence “because there is no security that what happened to me will not happen again and I cannot put my family at risk” but he did refer to a “forced disappearance” caused by Mexico being “a failed narco-state.” He went on to reiterate that the free flow of information in spite of attempts from mainstream media to manipulate it, had not been enough to prevent an electoral fraud and that “Mexico will need a lot more than what el5antuario was able to do.”

The objective of his final message, he said, was to tell everybody that he was still alive but that he had decided to cease and desist in his civil disobedience broadcasting because he felt he could no longer provide a voice to el5antuario without putting his family in danger. In this decision el 5anto called himself “a repugnant coward” and asked others video-bloggers “to be very careful.”

The content of Salgado’s final broadcast is honest and factual; his case is yet another grave example of the censorship of free speech and free ideas through violence in Mexico. In sum, the good news is that Ruy Salgado is alive and the bad news is even through anonymity divergent ideas are not safe in today’s Mexico. This country is certainly far off from the idyllic words of  Voltaire: “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”