What a female president could mean for a country that defines machismo

For the first time in history, both frontrunners for the Mexican presidency are women. Photo: Courtesy

There is something unique about Mexico’s upcoming 2024 federal election — female candidates. 

Women vying for Mexico’s highest office and even running for the presidency is nothing new. But in all previous cases, these candidacies were a long shot, to put it lightly. 

But this time around, even over a year before Mexicans head to the polls, the fact that the country will have its first female president is considered a fait accompli.

This is because both of the race’s frontrunners are, for the first time in history, women.

The candidates, Claudia Sheinbaum and Xóchitl Gálvez are both very accomplished politically, with the former serving as the mayor of Mexico City and the latter being a senator and an influential, though relatively new face in national politics. 

Regardless of which of these two women takes up the mantle of president, their gender is likely to put them under increased scrutiny.

There is also the fact that expectations are high on the part of civil society all around the country that a woman president may turn the tide of horrific violence against women, which has plagued the country.

Violence against women in Mexico is a serious problem. According to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI), 7 out of 10 women over the age of 15 have experienced violence in their lifetime.

According to INEGI, only 10% of reported crimes against women are prosecuted. This lack of accountability creates a culture of impunity and makes it more likely that perpetrators of violence will go unpunished.

Both Sheinbaum and Gálvez have stated that their agenda as president will address the persistent inequalities between genders in México, as well as continue to work in favor of policies like extended parental leave and LGBTQ+ rights.

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That said, Sheinbaum’s politics are generally considered to be more progressive. She strongly advocates for social justice, environmental protection, and economic equality.

During her tenure as mayor, Sheinbaum has doubled the budget for women’s shelters in Mexico City and has also increased funding for other support services for women, such as legal aid and counseling.

Sheinbaum also created a citywide agency for Women’s Safety, Equality, and Development responsible for coordinating and implementing the city’s policies on violence against women and gender equality.

Xóchitl Gálvez is currently a senator in the Mexican Congress, representing the PAN. In 2023, Gálvez was designated as the presidential candidate of the Frente Amplio por Mexico, a broad coalition party notable for the lack of any ideological cohesion, including the likes of the PAN and its historical arch nemesis, the PRI. 

Because Sheinbaum has the backing of the popular current President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and the backing of the MORENA party, which he founded, Sheinbaum is very much seen as the favorite.

Given the many mega-projects begun during López Obrador’s tenure, including the Tren Maya and the Dos Bocas oil refinery, many could be abandoned and become white elephants. 

López Obrador, MORENA, and his mega-projects are far from being universally loved — which is something Gálvez is counting on to pull off a win. 

Gálvez has stated that if elected president, she would focus on job creation and putting Mexico on a track toward financial and political stability.

But the more right-wing politics of Gálvez, combined with comments praising the tenure of former PAN presidents Calderon and Fox, have recently got her in hot water politically.

Though much can happen in less than a year, the June 2, 2024 election will be historic. 

Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy, and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway.
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