The Partido Revolucionario Institucional, aka "The PRI", ruled as a one- party government (some might say democratic dictatorship) from the 1910s until the 1990s. Since real democracy entered the Mexican political vocabulary about 10 years ago, the PRI has struggled to define itself. Last year it suffered huge losses in the federal elections--going from about 200 seats in the 500 seat body to about 100. I was invited to speak to their youth branch today--to talk about how to reach young voters.
Some were chuckling as I walked in. "They call us the dinosaurs....but don't forget those quick little raptors were dinosaurs too!" The presentation I gave was quick (less than 45 minutes of my talking) and seemed like it struck familiar themes with many in the room. The questions were fascinating, too. Hillary Clinton was once again the subject of conversation....interesting because PRI are moderate to conservative in their politics, but they see her as the inevitable Dem choice--and the best for the "world" or at least for Mexico's economy.
There was also sincere interest in motivating young voters. But how does a dinosaur persuade? One of the not-so-young members of the party (a federal congressman with lots of years under his belt) observed, "Once there were homo sapiens...today they are homo videos." I looked at him puzzled. He
explained: "All they do is play video games!" That viewpoint surely doesn't sound like it takes seriously the possibilities of the youth vote.
After this talk (which went for 2 1/2 hours!) Miriam Hamdan and I flew to Veracruz. I happen to know from my 11 year old son that Veracruz is where Hernando Cortez landed...before he began to slaughter the indigenous people and eventually die of syphillis. So I snapped some pictures of the famous port fort before meeting with the two directors of indigenous peoples programs for the state government at La Parroquia cafe.
Lupita and Elisabeth were about to leave on a 'capacity building' trip with public health officials to the mountain villages. They engaged me in conversation about Santa Anna, the leader of Mexico at the time of the "Mexican-Texas War" in their words. They spoke of the Alamo with very different emotions....I reminded them that if they had kept Texas, George Bush would be their president, not mine. Levity never hurts at delicate moments.
We left the city of Veracruz for the capital city of Xalapa in the mountains. (Prounounced like Ha-la-pa) Someone from Xalapa is a Xalapeno, or Jalapeno--you got it, that's were the pepper comes from. It's about 10pm now--time for dinner. We are staying in a little colonial of Coatepec, recently designated by UNESCO as a 'Pueblo Magico'. A busy day tomorrow....in a very different place than Mexico City.