Racism against native indigenous people has always been rampant. And I’m not talking about the United States, but Mexico.
I remember my days as a toddler when I refused to go to sleep, the prototype of the bogeyman my mother used was what I now consider a sheer expression of racism. “Either you close your eyes and go to sleep or I’ll bring el Indio to take care of you.” The thought of el Indio would put me to sleep right away.
“El Indio,” the Indian, was the most frightening bogeyman for me at that age and as an added comment it seems that the 10 percent of the population indigenous minority in Mexico still scares the wits out of mestizo and creole politicians.
This almost long forgotten threat comes to mind because the National Indigenous People Congress (CNI) of Mexico last Friday made the grandiose announcement that very soon they will be launching the candidacy of an indigenous woman for president as an independent candidate.
The CNI along with the National Zapatista Liberation Army (EZLN) have promised to look for the most viable candidate in “each of our geographies, territories and terrains,” really a pompous exaggeration of the area controlled by this group in the states of Oaxaca and Chiapas.
But lo and behold! Immediately the threat of the CNI launching an independent candidate — never mind her gender — struck anger in the heart of the president of the National Regeneration Movement (Morena) political party Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) who was counting on the 28 electoral districts controlled by the CNI to back him up next year in his third bid for the presidency, just as they did in 2012.
But AMLO’s cry of foul play is more about fraternal loyalty than numbers, if you take into consideration that the CNI total of the tallied vote in the past presidential election came to be just about 0.06 percent.
Although thinking on it, AMLO may not be as wrong as he lost the 2006 election against Felipe Calderón exactly by 0.06 percent.
But the members of the CNI are not made up of all the ethnic groups in the nation, which total 7.4 million and out of which 5.4 million are of voting age. But given the still high illiteracy among indigenous groups, those who really vote are a lot less.
What is different about the CNI position between now and before is that in the past, for the most part, they called for a no-vote for any of the official candidates as a rejection of the discrimination they’ve suffered for centuries at the hands of the Spanish-oriented mentality of most Mexicans.
Numbers have it that in reality the new voting and participation in national politics of the CNI will literally mean nothing in terms of election outcomes but it will in terms of gaining a moral voting presence and political weight in a society where up until to now they are nothing, but not anybody.
This could mean the beginning of an increased indigenous presence in a society that’s kept their communities in oblivion during the allegedly “democratic” history of the nation, namely since 1928, and which has been used by throngs of do-gooding political hypocrites to gain power with their presence.
By playing within and not outside society could just be the correct path to join the rest of Mexicans in their plea towards the main objective, which is gaining in education and rising up the economic ranks.
Keep in mind that the CNI people are only part of the 54 percent of the population declared poor by international organizations. They may be of a pure breed of indigenous people, and be very proud of it, but are not alone in fighting an economic system that discriminates the great majorities, regardless of race.
Seen on the discrimination side, an indigenous woman presidential candidate will surely be the target of jokes by pundits and scorn by middle and upper class women, both mestizo and white, who still see Indians as a lower class society and Indian women as female servants.
Let’s not forget that in terms of discrimination, many a business particularly in tourist hubs as Acapulco and Cancun see indigenous people as a nuisance, particularly if they are vendors.
In fact, not long ago Guatemalan Nobel Peace Prize awardee Rigoberta Menchú was denied entrance into a Cancún hotel because they thought she wanted to get in to sell rag dolls. She was rescued by her hosts as she was the keynote speaker for a human rights gathering.
Surely the independent candidacy of an Indian woman for president of Mexico will not frighten the political party establishment, but it will be most interesting what reaction a person like her would get, and most important, how many votes she’ll manage to garner. Will the bogey indigenous presidential candidate woman be a threat? Not this time around.
And by the way, the frightening Indio in my mother’s childhood threats never came.