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Stay in your place… Guanajuato’s anti-Indigenous human rights

7 April 2016

I always found it strange that the most “liberal” of foreigners live in the most reactionary place in Mexico, Guanajuato. While the charms of San Miguel, and the state’s capital city are undeniable, little noted by foreigners is the overt racism of its leaders. Case in point: Luz Elena Govea López, the president of the state legislature’s Commission on Human Rights and Vulnerable Groups told an indigenous leader’s group meeting that, as indigenous people, they should stick to making handicrafts and growing nopales.

She added she could no more see herself cleaning toilets than she could see “them” working in a factory or in an office. “I imagine them on the field, I believe the belong at home making crafts, I think of them and I visualize them doing the work of their indigenous communities.”

Her rationale? The indigenous would lose their culture! Their culture apparently meaning hard work, poverty, and a short life-span.

While I shouldn’t have been surprised (this is the state where the head of the state commission on women said women with tattoos could be denied public services, and where the municipal president of the state’s capital tried to outlaw public displays of affection) that Ms. Govea couches her argument for what amounts to racial segregation in terms of “protecting culture”, I am a bit surprised to find she is a PRI office-holder.

Govea (center in white blouse) with the people she seems to think shouldn't even be in town except to sell trinkets.

Govea (center in white blouse) with the people she seems to think shouldn’t even be in town except to sell trinkets.

Guanajuato was the center of the Cristero movement of the late 1920s, the “traditional values” counter-revolutionary uprising, that defined itself as defending the Catholic Church against the secularist revolution. With the collapse of the Cristeros, the counter-revolutionaries turned to “Synarchism”, which in Mexico — like the Falangists in Spain — combined conservative Catholicism with fascism. While not as hung up on “race” as other fascist movements, the Synarchists oddly enough believed in ballot-box democracy and in rule by a traditional elite. One should be able to vote, but one should be bound to the place reserved to you by tradition. Odder still, the Synarchists inherited from the Cristeros a commitment to women’s suffrage. The Cristeros saw women voters (presuming women were naturally more devout and traditional than men) as a means to create more Catholic voters; for the Synarchists, there was the added assumption that a women from the elites was still a better leader than any commoner of whatever gender.

Although the Synarchists have pretty much disappeared as a political force since their zenith during and after the Second World War (spoiler alert: they backed the wrong side), their ideology lived on, both through church groups like the Legionaries of Christ and in the PAN party. That’s why Ms. Govea’s political label somewhat surprised me. The ideology she embodies is that of a group that was born out of resistance to the policies of PRI’s founder, Plutaro Elías Calles, and today is represented in the party said to offer an alternative to PRI.

With PRI and PAN (and, for that matter, PRD) all having ameliorated their differences in recent years, perhaps the original ideological rationales for the major parties no longer matter. What does matter, however, is the much older ideological split between tradition and modernity.

SinEmbargo, 6 April 2016: “Diputada de Guanajuato pide a indígenas que “no busquen otros espacios” y se dediquen al campo y las artesanías“)

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