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Public Affairs

Raza students observe Mexican election

September 22, 2006

Photo of SF State students at one of the voting locations for the July 2 Mexican general electionThe annual "Mexico Solidarity Tour" sponsored by the Department of Raza Studies made it possible for 13 students to observe Mexico's controversial presidential election this year, in addition to meeting with activists and leaders committed to improving life in Mexico. The students returned to classes with a profound understanding of the strengths and challenges of the country's people and their democratic process.

Teresa Carrillo, assistant professor of Raza Studies and leader of the trip, also observed Mexican elections in 1997 and 2000. She said that 42 million Mexicans -- 64 percent of eligible voters -- went to the casillas (polling places) to cast their votes.

Student Marisol Miranda said she was impressed with the turnout and the patience of the voters, some of whom waited hours to vote.

"Since Mexico has the largest income gap in the world it is no wonder there are so many people trying to make a difference," Miranda said. "The only reason we in the U.S. have an education and live a luxurious life is because of the struggles our ancestors had to face. For the majority in Mexico those struggles still exist."

When it was announced that conservative candidate Felipe Calderón had won the election over leftist Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador by less than 1 percent, the results were immediately contested. The students joined hundreds of thousands who gathered at Mexico City's Zocalo (town square) to question the results.

"It was a huge but peaceful confluence of people," student José Rodriguez said. "And from each of the six streets leading into the Zocalo came people with signs and banners representing many different positions -- poor folks, rich folks, indigents, students. People in Mexico have so much to gain and so much respect for the idea of democracy."

Though swept up in pre-election appearances by the candidates and the impromptu demonstrations afterward, the group managed to keep up with a demanding schedule of planned meetings.

"We met with some of Mexico's liveliest activists in the feminist, housing, environmental, poor people's Zapatista and human rights and voting rights movements," Carrillo said . In Iztapalapa, on the outskirts of Mexico City, the students spoke with a group of women who took over 1,052 units of public housing after the government failed to respond to four applications for housing.

In Morelos, the group visited a bilingual grade school in the town of Cuentepec where the students spoke both Spanish and their native Nahuatl. Among the stops in Mexico City were a visit to the office of the secretary of foreign relations and a trip to the National Archives of Historical Documents, where students saw the original Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

Student Sonia Vasquez, a Mexican citizen, voted in Mexico during the tour. She said that voting in such a historic election was exciting but the meetings had a larger impact on her. "All the meetings we had made us think about the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico," she said. "This experience will make us act and respond within our own communities."

For more information about the trip, attend the "Mexico Solidarity Tour Report Back," from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 26, in room 116 of the Ethnic Studies and Psychology building.

-- Denize Springer


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Last modified September 22, 2006 by University Communications