Celebrating Mexico’s Independence But Not Its Government

(Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

“The Cry” – “El Grito” – is the name given to Mexico’s Independence Day, observed on Sept. 16. This year, immigrants living in New York celebrated it as a party but also as a protest against the corruption plaguing their country and the fear of electoral fraud come 2018.

Signs were posted in the streets of Harlem, in Manhattan, and Queens, inviting people to celebrate the Day of Independence to the rhythm of mariachi music and the clinking of tequila shot glasses. Even the Consulate General of Mexico organized a series of events, which will run until the end of the month. The main one was held on Sept. 15 at City College’s Great Hall.

Does Mexico have anything to celebrate in the midst of the security and corruption crises it is currently enduring? Consul Diego Gómez-Pickering believes so.

“I think that, being in the United States, now more than ever we need to speak favorably about Mexico. Yes, there are many problems, but it is a very worthy country,” said the diplomat in an interview during the Mexican artist Bosco Sodi’s “Muro” – “Wall” – exhibit in Washington Square Park, created as a protest against President Donald Trump’s border plan. “We cannot join the voices degrading the Mexican community. We have been called thieves, we have been called rapists, we have been called illegal people. Many grandiloquent nicknames that are, in general, lies.”

The consul avoided getting into the corruption problems within the government he represents, but there is no way to ignore the fact that every study carried out around the world places Mexico high on their lists.

Losing billions to corruption

In 2015, the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (Instituto Mexicano para la Competitividad AC, or IMCO) published a study whose title paraphrased a popular proverb that roughly translates into “If you don’t cheat, you don’t win.” The “Corruption in Mexico Report: We Cheat and We Don’t Win” revealed that the country loses nearly 5 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) to corruption, or some 890 billion pesos – some U.S. $53 billion – which represents three times the budget of the department of public education (…)

Two years later, the IMCO, in collaboration with website Animal Político, conducted a study entitled “The Great Swindle,” revealing that the federal government led by Enrique Peña-Nieto embezzled billions of pesos through 11 agencies. “Upon review of the public books for the years 2013 and 2014 alone, (…) we discovered illegal contracts for 7.67 billion pesos, and the whereabouts of 3.433 billion of it is unknown.” How can such conclusive data be ignored?

For Mario Navarro, a man in his 30s who has lived in New York for three years and works as an entertainment promoter, Mexico’s social and political situation is increasingly disturbing (…) “There’s nothing to celebrate,” he said in a categorical tone. “I feel that now there is much less fear of being in that circle of political corruption. I find it extremely alarming… It begins to be seen as normal, both for people living there and for those of us who live abroad. … I don’t think we have raised our voices enough. Independence from what? The political powers continue ruling the country however they want. It would be worth considering if what we need is independence from those political powers.”

The election issue

Mexican organizations in New York, including one that sympathizes with Morena – opposition leader Andrés Manuel López-Obrador’s party – will express their point of view during the campaign. “We will organize events as a protest. We will be announcing them soon,” said Luis Godoy, a member of one of the four groups currently active in the city. “It will all be done in the context of what has been happening in Mexico in terms of security and corruption… We want to visualize the impending electoral problems we are foreseeing in Mexico in order to prevent fraud.”

Godoy’s concerns concur with those of other immigrants who are not affiliated with a party and who have obtained their documents to be able to vote for Mexico’s president from the U.S.

That is Jaime González’s case. He has lived in New York for 35 years, and even though he has been called a “hypocrite” for living in the U.S., he still has a deep love for his native country. “I don’t have anyone in Mexico,” he said. “I love my roots but, why would I go back? All my friends live here.” Asked if he is planning to vote, he replied: “Yes. In fact, I have all my paperwork ready to renew my identification documents this week so I can vote,” he said. González, who has lived in Manhattan, Queens and now in Brooklyn, believes that there is fear of possible electoral fraud. “That has always existed.”

Other people agree. Nancy, who lives in Harlem and works at a taquería, said: “It is very sad to see that this continues to be the case.” She, too, fears that the election will not be a clean one.

(…)

Mexico’s National Electoral Institute reported that, so far, 423,513 Mexican citizens have applied to obtain their documents to vote from abroad, 15,528 in New York, and 56,285 in Los Angeles, the city with the highest number of submissions.

Migrants will be crucial to the candidates. This was evidenced by the trips made by some candidates to the United States, including [conservative party] PAN’s Margarita Zavala’s visit to Washington, and a tour carried out by López-Obrador, which made a stop in the Big Apple. All of this has happened before the official start of the campaign, but the “Cry” for a vote can be heard already.

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