It’s a shame that Xóchitl Gálvez Ruiz never has been as well known outside Mexico as she deserved to be (there isn’t even a Wikipedia entry on her), and an even greater shame that her political career has come to an abrupt end due to the criminal activities of her sister.
I had mentioned Gálvez in my 2008 Gods, Gachupines and Gringos as a representative of those who were changing the social and cultural presumptions we have about Mexico and Mexicans, and the stereotypes Mexicans hold about their own.
Like the Zapotec lawyer, Benito Juárez, Galvéz began life with a strike against her… being an Indian. Unlike Juárez, her gender also stacked the odds against her becoming a national leader. From an impoverish indigenous background in the State of Hidalgo, she moved to Mexico City on her own in her late teens, while she worked as a beggar and street vendor to earn the money needed to put herself through UNAM, often splitting the costs of textbooks between her fellow squatters.
As an indigenous woman, even one with a degree in computer engineering, Galvéz found it impossible to find a job that would match her talents… so… she started her own. Her firm, “High Tech Services” was hugely successful in designing and selling process controls for office buildings and Galvéz won international recognition not only as a creative engineer, but as a sucessful international business executive. Although she had carved out a place for herself within the elites, she had continued to push for a more inclusive role for indigenous Mexicans. She founded and provided much of the initial funding for Fundacón Porvenir, which assists indigenous communities with health, education and nutrition programs, and provides academic scholarships for indigenous students.
While it was mostly a front for presenting a “leftist” version of neo-liberalism (and financed mostly by the shadowy U.S. “quasi-governmental agency, the National Endowment for Democracy) the short-lived Social Democratic Party opened the way for Galvéz to assume a role in national politics. As the “leftist” party in Vicente Fox’s presidential coalition, Galvéz along with party leader, U.S. academic Jorge Castañeda, was rewarded with a position within the Fox Cabinet.
Castañeda, of course, received a plum assignment as foreign secretary (where he proceeded to try to align Mexican policy with that of his larger neighbor to the north), while Galvéz, relegated to head of the Commission on Indigenous Affairs. Unable to force the administration to restructure the Commission and give it genuine power, she quit out of frustration.
Having come to the cabinet as a business executive, and the Social Democratic Party having disappeared, she was a natural PAN candidate, although in her run for Governor of her native Hidalgo, she ran as a PAN-PRD coalition candidate. Although defeated (seen by both PAN and PRD to have been the result of dirty tricks … including erasing her biography from Wikipedia… propagated on behalf of, or by, PRI — sound familiar?) she has remained a respected, and highly regarded natural leader for the 21st century.
Until this week. Her sister, Malanali, was arrested by federal agents as one of the ring-leaders in a kidnapping gang operating inn the State of Mexico that, among other things, sent videotapes of the abuse and mutilation of their prisoners to the families of their victims as part of their extortion scheme. Malanali was caught basically red handed, and has been whisked off to prison.
Xochitl is not implicated in any of her sister’s crimes (or alleged crimes), but is probably the most prominent of Malinali’s victims… in light of the scandal she has announced her immediate retirement from all political activity, ending one facet of Xochitl Galvéz’ quest to open the doors to Mexico leadership to all Mexicans.