12 March 2007

The Politics of Mexico City: An Analysis of Protests.

I thought that as I write my paper on the research I've been doing, I would post what I've written so far and receive coments, questions and concerns about what I've said. It'll make it easier on the reader if I do it this way so that you don't feel overwhelmed by a fifteen page post all in one day. So, here it goes....
Introduction –

Reminiscent of many newly democratized governments before it, Mexico currently seems to be facing a political crisis and possible de-democratization after only experiencing one free and fair election (footnote 1). This emerging trend can be traced along the lines of Mexico’s expansive history of protest. This particular lineage serves as the pH paper in a test of Mexico’s governmental capacity and its extent of protected consultation (footnote 2), the result of which may explain the fallout of the 2006 election and the country’s renewed dissatisfaction with the government.

After dozens of restricting presidencies and a few dictatorships that more than frowned upon civil society and organization, and once the citizenry was free to express itself without the fear of granaderos, incarceration or worse, Mexico City quickly became the proverbial nucleus for activists throughout the entire republic. It is important to take into consideration and be sure to not underestimate the importance of this rich culture of struggle for the right to organize in protest because “to think of Mexico in one epoch or another is to lose sight of it entirely” (footnote 3). For this reason, this paper is outlined in a compare and contrast manner using the political, economic and social differences between the successful protests of the past as well as those of the present, whose participation seems to be waning (footnote 4).

The Beginning – Cananea, Sonora

Although there was plenty of governmental dissatisfaction before the Presidency of Porfirio Diaz, some consider the strike at Cananea, Sonora to be one of the first steps toward the Mexican Revolution. Even though the 1906 protest didn’t directly occur in Mexico City it is noteworthy being that this particular confrontation aroused “anti-foreign sentiment and helped justify revolutionary legislation that rescinded concessions to foreign firms, increased corporate taxes and gave more rights to mine workers” (footnote 5).

After a long bout concerning wage inequalities with an American copper corporation located in Sonora, mine workers began a mass protests. During the presidency of Porfirio Diaz, protests were almost always shut down, often violently and the protest at Cananea was no different; what made it exceptional was illegal United States intervention. According to Michael Gonzales, “the presence of armed US troops on Mexican soil – breaking the heads of nationals – was a major embarrassment to the Diaz government, and graphically illustrated the power and independence that foreign firms had achieved (footnte 6);” this great controversy ignited a wave of protests throughout the country and served as an immense uniting force between the conservatives and liberals of the time.

The triumph of these particular protests wasn’t the miner’s protest (in fact, Gonzales points out that the miners returned to work without gaining any ground as far as their demands) but rather, the overall raised awareness and unionization of the press and population. The major problem in any state is the complete political chasm and in Mexico especially, the ever-growing gap not only between liberals and conservatives but also between the individual differences among citizens themselves, a problem always put on the back burner when protests are successful.

1. The presidential election in 2000 is considered to be the freest and most fair election Mexico had ever conducted. Taking into consideration the great controversy surrounding the 2006 election, I’m counting the 2000 election as the only truly free and fair election.
2. Concept from Tilly, Charles. Inequality, Democratization, and De-Democratization. Social Theory, Vol. 21, No.1 (Mar., 2003). Tilly describes protected consultation as “the combination of breadth, equality, consultation, and protection” (pg. 38).
3. Shorris, Earl. (2004), Pg. 12
4. For simplification purposes, I will focus this paper on protests taking place in Mexico City.
5. Gonzales, Michael J. (1994) (pg. 667)
6. Ibid. (pg. 667)

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