Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Discrimination in Mexico

Dan Drezner has a long post up, from yesterday (how did I miss this?), titled So how do Mexicans view African-Americans? I can answer that query quite simply - they don't.

I have lived here, except for a 2 year hiatus back to the US, since 1994. I lived in Puebla, the 5th largest city in Mexico and in better shape than most (VW Mexico is here and no, they don't assemble the Pointer here). I now reside in Oaxaca and this is a whole different ballgame. There is no, nada, zippy manufacturing base here. They've got tourism and not much else and seem to go out of their way to try to ruin that. Having at least partially established my bonafides please allow me to talk about discrimination in Mexico.

The percentage of residents or Mexican citizens of African descent is so tiny as to be negligible. When Mexicans think of black people, they think of Africa or Brazil, not of Mexico nor of the United States. Their opinion of blacks is somewhat paralleled by that of the "old" South. Caricatures, savages, monkeys. I think that this is the stereotypical reaction of a people with a serious problem with self esteem. When Mexicans think and talk about discrimination, they look inward.

In a nationwide poll released yesterday and reported today (timing is everything, isn't it?), sponsored by the Secretariat of Social Development (Sedesol) in conjunction with the National Council for Prevention of discrimination (which I did not know existed), 5608 Mexicans gave some astonishing opinions about discrimination in their own country. To wit:
8 of 10, more than 80 million Mexicans, are victims of daily discrimination.
Women, girls, the handicapped, aborigines, adults over 60 years of age, victims of HIV/AIDS, homosexuals, non-Catholics and foreigners were categorized by those polled as being, in their opinions, victims of daily discrimination.

Relative to the aborigines, who include 10 million indians, or 10% of the population, the polled opined:
1 of 5 have not been able to find employment due to their ethnicity
3 of 4 have less opportunity for education than the rest of the country
2 of 3 say that the indians' possibilities of improving their lives are slim to none.
Then this bombshell; When the poll asked Mexicans if they agreed in general with these types of discrimination, almost 100% said, "NO." When asked if they were in agreement with Mexican "machismo", again almost 100% said, "NO." However, they were immediately asked the following question, "Do you feel that women have equal access to opportunities?" the answer was no, but also that, up to a certain point, they felt it was normal for women to be excluded or treated differently. That is exactly what "machismo" is. In other words, almost 100% felt that "machismo" was bad, but also normal.

Then another bombshell; While 8 of ten Mexicans admitted that discrimination was rife and needed to be addressed as seriously as poverty, 4 of 10 said that they could not live in the same house with someone who held different political beliefs, that was a homosexual or a foreigner.

The Secretary of Sedesol, Josefina Vásquez Mota, stated that 8 of 10 Mexicans polled believed that the task of reducing daily discrimination was as serious or more serious than that of reducing the abject poverty that afflicts the nation. She said that this snapshot of Mexican society indicates one that is wavering between the twin vices of authoritarianism (the machismo) and intolerance on the one hand and a new culture of inclusivity and tolerance on the other.

Interesting. 80% acknowledge that discrimination is a real problem, almost 100% say that it should be addressed as seriously as poverty, but 40% say they would have to discriminate in certain cases.

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