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date: 22 March 2018

Women in Mexican Politics since 1953

Summary and Keywords

Since the founding of the Mexican republic, women have been politically engaged in their respective communities. The creation of a modern nation-state during the last decades of the 19th century and first half of the 20th century marked an increase in women’s formal and informal political participation in the country. During the Mexican Revolution of 1910 and particularly in the post-revolutionary period, Mexican women took a much more active role in engaging the state, formed political alliances and organizations, pressed for labor and political rights, and worked collectively and individually to secure suffrage. Women have been part of an array of political parties and have played a key role in the slow and uneven process of democratization in Mexico. In and outside the bounds of formal political parties, and in the greater sphere of electoral politics, women participated in multiple ways in the post-1953 period. Even during the years when women lacked the right to vote, they were engaged politically in the local, regional, national, and international spheres. They did so by participating in all political parties, and participated in voting drives, actively promoted issues that concerned them, and pushed for gender equity in the greater electoral process. Despite lacking suffrage, women in Mexico were engaged citizens in the broadest sense of the word.

By the eve of the 21st century, women had served in almost all municipal, state, and government positions and had also competed for the highest office in the land. Yet the limits in electoral reform legislation, unequal and uneven economic development, gender and sexual violence, and continued distrust of the nation’s political system, as well as widespread insecurity caused by a violent drug war that was being strengthened by the influx of US weapons, remained major challenges to women’s continued participation on the country’s long road to democratization.

Keywords: women in politics, gender quotas, political parties, suffrage, Mexican Revolution

Mexican women’s history in the post–World War II period is the narrative of a long struggle for labor and reproductive rights, suffrage, and inclusion in the political system—in the broadest sense. Contemporary women’s status is rooted in crucial battles of the early 20th century fought over the thorny question of women’s place in society, particularly in view of their increased presence and contributions in various wage-earning economic sectors. The 1920s and 1930s—characterized as a period of national reconstruction after the costly but groundbreaking revolution—were crucial decades that witnessed the strengthening of a women’s movement. Women holding a variety of ideological points of view, from anarcho-syndicalist to communist to pro-Catholic and antisecular, employed a variety of strategies and pushed for greater access to political rights. Early cross-class, cross-ideological, and, in some cases, cross-gender coalitions proved crucial to women’s eventual success in earning their full citizenship rights.

Some women used the language and primacy of motherhood to claim the right to vote and participate fully in politics; others claimed rights based on their position as Mexicanas and envisioned a citizenship that would place them on par with men. Yet even before they gained suffrage, women were politically engaged citizens in their own right, as the literature in this area has revealed. Challenges and all, women soon earned seats in the Mexican Congress, became presidentes municipales and alcadesas (mayors), won successful campaigns to govern states, and competed in presidential races. Further, and of equal importance, women formed coalitions to serve as political watchdogs to combat electoral fraud; served on party committees at all levels; pushed for gender quotas, reforming party politics; and pressed for parties to recognize and address domestic violence. Women’s current efforts and successes, albeit imperfect, are a result of decades of struggle, negotiations, and grass-roots activism.

Mexican Women’s Political Activism Before the Vote

In the years leading up to, during, and, particularly, after the 1910 Mexican Revolution, women sought gender equity, fair wages, and political rights using different strategies, including by forming informal and formal networks. The ultimate prize was voting rights, yet women also sought greater political representation at all levels. As social scientist Victoria Rodríguez has noted, the years “between 1916–1934 marked the rise of the women’s movement in Mexico, concerned almost exclusively with gaining the right to vote.”1 Yet earlier forms of feminisms or expressions of a woman-centered or pro-woman agenda were visible by the dawn of the 20th century. Female anarchists of different persuasions, many of whom belonged to the working-class, used the language of labor rights to promote political rights for women. Some of the strong anarchist voices later formed part of what historians have called the modern women’s movement, which pushed for labor rights, child care, and, in some cases, reproductive rights, as they called for the right to vote to be recognized as full-fledged political beings.

The first Feminist Congress took place in Yucatán in 1916, and it was during the administration of Felipe Carrillo Puerto that the first woman occupied a municipal office. In 1923, Rosa Torres gained a seat in the ayuntamiento of Merida.2 Organizations, including the Centro Radical Femenino, from Guadalajara, and the Grupo de Socialistas Rojos, from Mexico City, joined others in the quest to demand a variety of rights, including labor and political rights.3 In the midst of post-revolutionary reconstruction, women from across the republic fought for labor rights in their communities, for example, María Arcelia Díaz from Guadalajara and the anarcho-syndicalist Caritina Piña from Tamaulipas. Both women worked alongside female colleagues to promote political rights for all women.4 The decades following the Mexican Revolution proved to be a fertile time for women’s further politicization.

By 1925, women were being allowed to vote in party elections in the states of Chiapas, Tabasco, and Yucatán. Yet even this small victory would be difficult to put in practice. There still existed widespread opposition to this new right to participate in party plebiscites. As historians Jocelyn Olcott and Esperanza Tuñón Pablos have demonstrated, women, collectively and individually, had sought to secure the right to vote and had pushed at the local, state, and national levels. Groups such as the Frente Unico Pro Derechos de la Mujer (FUPDM) included women from different class backgrounds; its members employed numerous strategies to gain suffrage. Esther Chapa Tijerina from Tampico, Tamaulipas, an ardent member of the Mexican Communist Party, and Cuca García, a colleague of Chapa Tijerina and also a member of the FUPDM, joined forces with women from distinct ideological backgrounds, including the leader of the Unión de Mujeres Americanas (UMA) Margarita Robles de Mendoza. The UMA, with offices in Mexico City and New York City, employed more-conservative tactics as suffrage remained elusive. The UMA, the FUPDM, and other organizations had to collaborate with each other because coalitions were necessary. Among the major reasons cited by opponents of women’s suffrage (both men and women) was the perceived threat that “women would support Church-endorsed candidates subverting the anti-clerical regime.”5 As scholars have pointed out, the long road to democracy in Mexico has involved “women’s ability to reconstitute politics in ways that acknowledge how they have constructed demands set forth in the political arena as gender interests.”6 The strategies employed by women varied as did their visions of and practices of citizenship.7 This early period of activism was crucial because women, despite the obstacles they faced and their struggles to gain suffrage, gained valuable leadership skills and collaborated with individuals with different ideological perspectives.

Securing Female Suffrage

Gaining the right to vote took over three decades. Male políticos in the ruling party, the Partido Nacional Revolucionario (PNR), founded in 1929, now the Partido Revolucionario Institucional8 (PRI), expressed their uneasiness over granting women full voting rights. Claims of women’s abandonment of the home and dismissal of their perceived primary role as mothers and caregivers, and of their supposedly superficial view of political issues, shaped the early conversations about women suffrage. There were some PNR adherents, however, who for a variety of reasons supported women’s suffrage, such as Lázaro Cárdenas, who claimed that women were an untapped source of political patronage.

Women’s contributions to Mexican politics were varied and took place in multiple places. Middle-class women and conservative Catholic women lent their support to the opposition political party, the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN), founded in 1939. Rooted in the conservative Catholic-centered movement as a counternarrative to the new social commitments of the revolutionary party after the Mexican Revolution, groups of women in religious political groups such as the Unión Femenina Católica Mexicana (UFCM) began to assume a more prominent role in party politics. By 1936, the UFCM counted 67,775 members, surpassing the more radical FUPDM by close to 20,000 members.9 Even though women had still not gained the right to vote, many of the UFCM members lent support to the conservative, Catholic-based PAN. These “Catholic women activists lent these political parties (PAN) logistical and financial support.”10

With president Lázaro Cárdenas on its side, the FUPDM played a crucial role in the eventual success in securing the vote, but only after there had been numerous public debates in Congress, households, communities, and union halls. In what seemed like small steps at the time, women’s coalitions and groups made progress. In 1947, women were allowed to hold municipal positions in all states, and finally, in 1953, Mexicanas were granted the right to vote and to serve as congressional representatives.

Recent studies on women’s participation in the PAN suggest that the party’s political platform, which emphasized women’s traditional role and placed “family values, morality, and honesty” at the forefront, played a direct role in limiting women’s full political participation. Party members maintained that “women are content to stay confined to their roles as mothers, homemakers, and wives, leaving politics to men.”11 The PAN’s stance on women’s reproductive rights, aligned with that of the Catholic Church, “stymied the repeated and unsuccessful attempts by leftist political forces to put abortion and family planning on the political agenda.”12 Yet other conservative women have been attracted to the PAN’s message.

The first woman to serve as an alcadesa in Mexico took office in 1955, in the wake of the recently secured women’s suffrage. A native of San Luis Potosí, Socorro Blanc Ruiz was a lawyer and teacher and became the first female mayor—interina (interim). Within two years, in 1957, Orfelinda Villarreal became the first female appointee to a mayoral office when she was named mayor of the town of Higueras, Nuevo León. And the following year, in 1958, Victoriana Martínez was elected mayor of the town of Doctor González in the same state, and María del Carmen Martín del Campo became mayor of Aguascalientes.13 Soon thereafter, in 1967, another northern town claimed a female mayor. That year, Norma Villarreal de Zambrano, representing the PAN, was elected to serve as mayor in San Pedro, a suburb of Monterrey, Nuevo León.14 Throughout the country, women claimed seats in local governments, mostly representing the dominant party, such as Caritina Galeana Gómez. The Guerrero native, who was born as the country was witnessing the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution, earned a seat on the Zihuatanejo city council representing the PRI where she dedicated her career to improving literacy throughout the late 1950s and the 1960s.15

During the Gustavo Díaz Ordaz administration (1964–1970), the country entered a new economic and political phase. Growing agrarian unrest, particularly in the southern part of the country; the deployment and use of federal military forces to quell political unrest; and a widening gap between the rich and poor, as well as people’s growing tiredness of the PRI machine, would taint the Díaz Ordaz administration’s legacy. Only ten days before Mexico opened its doors to athletes and tourists for the 1968 Olympics, the Díaz Ordaz administration had deployed the military to quell what had been a rising youth movement. The bloody attack on the protestors forever changed the face of the nation and people’s trust in their government. Although the PRI would not be ousted until 2000, albeit temporarily, which would signal what social scientists termed the “democratization” of Mexico, other writers pointed to the Taltelolco Massacre of 1968 as “the historical moment during which the transit from authoritarianism to democracy took place.”16 Women’s activism in social and political grass-roots movements, such as the student uprisings of the 1970s, sent a strong message to federal authorities that women were still a political force to be reckoned with.

Of particular significance to women’s incorporation and participation in politics at the local and regional levels were their grass-roots strategies to gain access to arable land. Since the passage of key legislation in 1915 to reform Mexico’s agrarian system in the form of ejidos, or communal plots of land, women have been active participants, demanding land and consequently shaping the larger conversation about women’s place in politics. During the 1970s and 1980s, the Mexican state established Agro-Industrial Units for Women. These were collectives comprised of women that offered training and create a direct line of access to rural women’s political patronage. Although research indicates that the government’s creation and expansion of the units was strategy to harness the political power of rural women, the women used their participation in these units to improve their socioeconomic conditions, hone their productive skills, and play more central roles in ejido politics. As Lynn Stephen has indicated, these units paralleled the ligas femeniles in agrarian communities during the immediate post-revolutionary period. In many ways, the activism that emerged in the 1920s and 1930s foreshadowed women’s engagement with politics in these agro-units decades later.17

Although few women had been elected to Congress or as mayors or governors in the 1970s and 1980s, women nonetheless were participating local politics. One organization that brought women together in politically driven community events was the Desarollo Integral de la Familia (DIF), founded in 1977 (and still active in the 21st century). Since its founding the DIF had for the most part been the purview of the wives of the mayors and presidential first ladies. Carmen Romano (de López Portillo) wife of then president José López Portillo created the organization for the welfare of Mexican families. And in the coming decades, both the ruling PRI party and opposition parties, including the PAN and, later, the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD), would hold events catering to women voters that emphasized their role as the primary caregivers of the nation. Political events usually were held at local DIF centers.18 The media of the period described these events as examples of public outreach by the wives of mayors, [those] “respectable ladies, social advocates,” and cited the “great example of two exemplary women, María Esther Zuno de Echeverria . . . and Carmen Romano de López de Portillo, who [have] dedicated [their] li[ves] to serving the children of Mexico.”19 Women were also politically engaged in DIF-related activities or those that promoted civic activities for young people and women.

Throughout the country, the planning and opening of civic community centers to promote active lifestyles among citizens preoccupied the agendas of governors and politicians. In Tamaulipas, for example, the opening of the Centro Cívico Social Cultural Deportivo “Lic. Luis Echeverría Alvarez,” in the cotton-growing region of Valle Hermoso, attracted various governors of the northern region and also state and federal politicians. In attendance were prominent individuals from Tamaulipas including Martha Chávez Padrón, the first woman to receive a doctorate in law from the national university of Mexico (UNAM), Chávez Padrón was among the special invitees.20 Martha Chávez Padrón’s attendance merits attention. The Tampico native was not only the first Tamaulipeca and first woman to earn a doctoral degree in law, but was among the select few women to hold prominent government positions. She served in the Departamento de Asuntos Agrarios y Colonización and the Secretaría de la Reforma Agraria. This was significant in a place like Vallehermoso, given the town’s origins as an agrarian colony for Mexican repatriates.21 She became a federal senator representing Tamaulipas (1976–1982) and became a diputada federal (1982–1985) elected to represent the town of Mante. In both positions, she represented the PRI. Thereafter, she joined the Corte Suprema de la Nación, in 1985, and served until 1994. Chávez Padrón actively participated in organizations such as the Asociación de Universitarias de México (she served as its lifetime adviser) and the Consejo Jurídico de la Alianza de Mujeres de México. She also assumed prominent positions in the PRI at the national level. She was the director of the Acción Social del Comité Ejecutivo Nacional, where she worked closely with the Confederación Nacional Campesina and the Instituto de Estudios Políticos, Económicos y Sociales. Chávez Padrón was among a handful of female congressional representatives during the 1970s.22

Soon, by 1979, the country had witnessed the election of the first woman to a governorship. PRI candidate Griselda Álvarez Ponce de León made history by becoming the first woman governor of Colima. Before this, she had served as one of a handful of woman senators in Congress, where she represented her native state of Jalisco. By becoming governor, she was following in her great-grandfather and father’s steps, both of whom had also held that office. She served as Colima’s governor until 1985. Álvarez, a writer and poet in her own right, worked with women’s organizations, including the Centro de Atención para la Mujer. Since Álvarez, six women have governed states, including the federal district of Mexico: Rosario Robles Berlanga (PRD, Distrito Federal), Claudia Pavlovich (PRI, Sonora), Beatriz Paredes Rangel (PRI, Tlaxcala), Dulce María Sauri Riancho (PRI, Yucatán), Ivonne Ortega Pacheco (PRI, Yucatán), and Amalia García Medina (PRD, Zacatecas).23

By the 1980s, the presidents Miguel de la Madrid and Carlos Salinas de Gortari would use the memory of the Revolution to garner support for their administrations. Salinas de Gortari’s administration was focused on attracting women supporters. Salinas de Gortari’s electoral win had been questioned and, as social scientist Nikki Crane has pointed out, he zeroed in on women, as well as young people and colonos, as a relatively untapped source of political support.24 As in previous administrations during the immediate post-revolutionary years through the 1980s, gender was at the heart of Mexican nationalism as a way to bring the “Revolutionary family” together, and modernize Mexico. Women’s traditional mothering, productive roles were elevated and honored, and at the same time the larger state discourse on women’s role in making Mexico modern was expected to change and to reflect the modern, now neoliberal economic and political policies Salinas de Gortari promoted and implemented.

As Latin American countries experienced democratization, Mexico included, the central role of gender ideologies in these processes remained. As Craske rightly pointed out, “The rhetoric on women’s political status was caught up in the political discourse of many actors and, as with the revolution decades earlier, the issue of women’s rights became more than a matter of gender justice and became intimately tied up with the interests of the state.”25 The so-called women’s question that was prevalent in the 1920s was in many ways still unanswered in the post–Cold War era, and the neoliberal government of Salinas de Gortari used both the image of women as reproducers of community and women themselves to politically legitimize women. Consequently, women gained access to new political spaces, and though the federal government was an active participant in the crafting of this discourse and plan for women, women, too, employed strategies that shaped the nature of their participation. The federal government also created a neoliberal and modern vision for Mexico that would focus on social-welfare programs aimed at improving women’s socioeconomic status. Women participated in the federally financed PRONASOL (Programa Nacional de Solidaridad). In many ways, PRONASOL was a response to the detrimental consequences of the administration’s neoliberal reforms. Unemployment had increased; voter confidence was low throughout the country, and increasing social inequality placed the working poor at an even greater distance from the middle class. PRONASOL explicitly targeted women.26 In the new neoliberal reality, evident not only in Mexico but elsewhere in Latin America, the state was not the sole provider for poor women and their families (as well as poor Mexican men); this time, the vision for a modernized, progressive, and neoliberal Mexico could only triumph if women used their individual might and courage to either hone their skills or put to use new skills to climb out of poverty. Yet PRONASOL, too, emphasized women’s traditional role as mothers and caregivers and recognized women’s potential influence over children—seen as the future of Mexico (and future voters).

The emphasis on self-help and individualism as the basis for a neoliberal Mexican citizenship was a departure from the collective, revolutionary, and state-dependent foundation of Mexican citizenship. Part of the strategy to attract women was to open up party positions to loyal female PRIístas. Beatriz Paredes Rangel, whose leadership as governor of Tlaxcala in 1987 had earned her a place among powerful PRI men at that time, reaped the benefit. While in office, Rangel had promoted a variety of social projects. She also served as senator and diputada, and in 1993, President Salinas de Gortari appointed her Mexico’s ambassador to Cuba; she then served in her party’s national executive committee.27 But if there were some victories in the form of an increase of female-held political seats, overall, the large-scale move toward a “free market model of development . . . creat[ed] obstacles and disincentives for political mobilization that affect[ed] the poor more severely than other groups,” as political scientist Claudio Holzner has argued.28

On a more superficial level, political parties continued catering to women for political gain at the local level during these decades. Along Mexico’s northern border, in Ciudad Júarez, for example, municipal elections for alcalde involved politically crafty schemes to attract women voters. Here, in the country’s fifth largest city, the municipal elections of 1986 saw a showdown between the PRI and the PAN. The PRI via the Consejo Nacional de Población “sold discounted food stuffs at special community development courses focused on family planning, parenting, sewing, hair styling” among other events attractive to women.29 The PAN, for its part, targeted women in colonias, “offering similar courses through the Desarollo Integral de la Familia (DIF).”30 Reminiscent of earlier state messages, both parties underscored women’s “domesticity but also women’s paid labor.”31

However, women were also visible in “protect the vote” campaigns as they positioned themselves as public watchdogs. Nonpartisan groups, including the Asociación Nacional Cívica Femenina, were quite active in Ciudad Juárez in the days leading up to the 1986 municipal elections and on voting day.32 In early 2017, there were fourteen diputadas representing various political parties in the state of Chihuahua.33 The PRI claimed victory, and in a city historically dominated by the opposition PAN party, which included large numbers of women, people took to the streets to protest the “electoral fraud,” blocking streets and the international bridge, and participating in hunger strikes and sit-ins.34 Although the 1986 elections in this northern city elicited some of the most ardent political activism on the part of women in the years following suffrage, it did not transform politics at the local (or national) level. Whether their activism was practiced in the name of “continuity” in support of the PRI or in the name of “honest elections” as in the case of the female PANistas, women were a force to be reckoned with. Further, opposition to the ruling party was no longer confined to the northern edges of the country. The PAN and other political parties, such as the PRD, gained ground by attracting support in new segments of the country and moved closer to securing the highest office in the land.

The 1988 victory of Salinas de Gortari went down in history as a case of electoral fraud because of questionable practices at the voting polls, and his presidency exacerbated existing socioeconomic disparities and heightened anxieties among the citizenry. Despite the administration’s efforts to attract the support of women and restore confianza in the country, the questionable win along with neoliberal economic policies went a long way to widen the gap between the PRI-controlled Los Pinos and the poverty-stricken masses. The election of PRIísta Ernesto Zedillo in 1994 marked the end of a long seventy-five-year history of PRI rule in the country; the PRI, however, would control the presidency once again in December 2006. Besides opening the door to the PAN, among the long-lasting consequences of the gross electoral fraud was the founding of the PRD as another opposition party. The PRD was the first party to adopt a pro-woman agenda. It was the only party to include women’s rights in its platform, and in 1993, it was the PRD that adopted a “voluntary gender quota”—a decade before the passage of the 2003 gender quota law that sought to reform political parties and promote women in politics.35

Women’s Political Participation During the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Years

From the early 1990s, “women represent[ed] 63 percent of all registered voters,” and “their diverse responses in elections and in grassroots or organizations [were] largely a result of their socioeconomic circumstances.”36 As the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) expanded, the post-Bracero Border Industrialization Program (BIP), better known as the “maquiladora program,” women continued to make up the bulk of the labor force. Zedillo’s presidency (1994–2000) coincided with the implementation of NAFTA, which had been approved during the Salinas de Gortari years. NAFTA boosted the BIP, and by 1998, four years after NAFTA went into effect, the maquila industry employed over one million workers (over half were women). Women workers struggled to gain access to childcare and to form unions at the factories; they earned wages that averaged fifty dollars for a fifty- to sixty-hour work week. Despite the challenges posed by the BIP, and particularly as NAFTA expanded the BIP, women’s labor issues became part of some of the political platforms of female politicians. In the years following NAFTA, “only 3.4 percent (or eighty-five) of all mayors were women,” and “most of the women mayors were priístas (only fifteen women mayors represent[ed] opposition parties).”37 Thus the activism of local female organizations was crucial in pressuring male politicians to incorporate women’s issues on the agenda, given the continuing gender gap in elected positions.

Although women could be found in nearly all political parties, including the PRI, PAN, and PRD and, later, MORENA (Movimiento Regeneración Nacional), between 1980 and 2000 only three women governed states—and all of them represented the PRI.38 By the end of the 1990s, “women only held one-tenth of the deputy seats” or diputados.39 At the local level, women had served in municipal positions, including as alcaldesa, which became an increasingly risky position in light of the drug turf war. As the government of the PANista president Felipe Calderón unleashed its version of a “war on drugs,” increased tension between rival cartels, emerging paramilitary groups with different self-interests, and abuses by the Mexican military increased the level of anxiety and fear felt by many Mexicans and ushered in yet another wave of government distrust. Yet even in some of the most vulnerable Mexican cities, women were campaigning for mayoral offices, among other elected positions. In some instances, women also occupied positions that placed them at greater risk. In Ciudad Juarez, for example Marisol Valles García became the first female police chief in 2010, purportedly the only person willing to take the job. Since the 1990s, Ciudad Juarez, which has the largest concentration of female maquiladora workers of all cities in Mexico, has made headlines concerning the major problem of “femicide.” The rampant killing and disappearance of hundreds of women in the border town has increased fear and anxiety. Soon after taking office, and after receiving numerous threats to her person and her family, Valles García was dismissed on the trumped up charge that she failed to show up to work. She was forced to seek political asylum and migrated to the United States.

In the countryside, women veterans of political organizing helped others to hone their leadership skills and encouraged women to join the growing popular movements. In the 1980s, women attended the National Congress of Urban Popular Movements, held in the northern capital city Monterrey, and were present during subsequent efforts that led to the creation of a Women’s Regional Council out of the National Council of the Urban Popular Movement. The women on the council pressed the Mexican state to tackle a variety of issues, including domestic violence, rape, and health and nutrition.40 Although gender violence had been included on political agendas before, this was a concerted effort by women of different political persuasions to tackle this important issue as one tied to shifting societal concerns grounded in demographic changes, access to adequate education, and the growth of urban centers. This was political engagement even if it was taking place outside the bounds of state-sanctioned political parties. This engagement, however, was framed as a response to the effects of political marginalization. Gender violence in the context of larger societal problems further shaped political participation; there were women who viewed politics as something personal and therefore raised their voices to influence legislation. As urban unrest grew, so did unrest in the countryside, particularly in southern Mexico, and many of the same issues voiced at the National Congress of Urban Popular Movements resurfaced. This political participation would signal an opening up of democratization, which came to include, albeit in unequal ways, Mexican women (and men) from remote villages, who had been affected by urban growth and educational reforms and were feeling the impact of a changing global economy. It also included women who had not been as politically engaged before, regardless of political affiliation. This diversity in class and regional backgrounds, as well as a gendered and ethnic diversity in the electorate, led to new forms of activism and the introduction of new issues or of old issues cast in a different light, or both, and changed the platforms of all political parties.

The agrarian reform of the Mexican Revolution had not yet completely materialized, and this caused further rifts in the already tense situation between southern agrarians and the Mexican state. In 1991, the Mexican Congress amended article 27 of the Mexican Constitution to allow the privatization of ejido land, which had a direct consequence for communities that had experienced difficulty acquiring their own land. In southern Mexico, particularly in the already tense Chiapas region, women and their families opted to join armed struggles, mainly through the efforts of the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN), popularly known as the Zapatisa movement. Women had found new leadership opportunities in the realm of local and regional politics despite the shift to a neoliberal and global political economy. Scores of indigenous women who had participated in local councils adhered to larger peasant organizations and movements made it clear that they, too, had a voice in their home communities. Women also took part in leftist Mexican political parties, including the Mexican Worker’s Party and the United Socialist Party, with strong support in southern Mexico, Mexico City, and sectors across western Mexico.41 However, challenges remained. The launching of NAFTA, which had further influenced women’s migration, particularly of indigenous women involved in the renewed export-driven agro-sector, complicated status of women involved in the EZLN and other local pro-indigenous movements. By the end of the 20th century, only one indigenous woman held a cabinet-level position in the Mexican Congress, though almost half of the migrant population was female, majority indigenous, and from the countryside in southern Mexico.42

As the number of female migrants increased, “one of the most powerful women of Mexico” emerged from this region of southern Mexico. Considered, at least at one point, to be “the most powerful woman,” Chiapas native Elba Esther Gordillo rose to prominence in the 1980s and 1990s, yet succumbed to corruption as quickly as many of her male counterparts. Gordillo began her career during the Salinas de Gortari administration. Since the 1970s, she had served numerous times as diputada federal representing the PRI, and in 1989, she became the head of the one of the largest teachers’ unions in Latin America.43 Her tenure as the head of the National Mexican Teacher’s Union was not without intrigue and drama. After she had gradually distanced herself from the PRI and created a new party, Partido Alianza, and while she was still at the helm of the union, the authorities formally charged Gordillo with embezzlement and taking union funds (in the dollars) for personal use. Her career came to an end by 2016; given her advanced age, under Mexican law she was able to petition for and was granted a home-confined prison sentence.44

In 1991, the National Convention of Women for Democracy brought together women with left-leaning affiliations concerned about the political system and those from NGOs, who pooled their resources in an effort to address the low number of women elected officials in Congress. This coalition would move the country closer to implementing a gender quota law, a crucial issue that women had raised in earlier years. The coalition mounted an impressive show of force—thirty-nine women ran for Congress that year. The challenges, however, remained; none of the female candidates who ran for Congress were elected.45

Efforts continued as women pushed to implement of some type of gender quota system. The issue became an action item in subsequent discussions over electoral and party reform and reflected bipartisan efforts in 1992, 1996, and 1998.46 In the midst of discussions over a gender quota, the state of Yucatán witnessed its first female governor. Now a recently minted doctor of philosophy in history, in 1991, Dulce María Sauri Riancho ran a successful campaign for the governorship of Yucatán under the PRI banner. She served between 1991 and 1994 and implemented a variety of measures to improve the state’s major industries, particularly the Henequen sector. Victory would finally come in 2003, as more coalitions formed and demanded a gender quota law. The pressure came in the form of “women from 8 of the 11 parties, competing in the 2003 election . . . [that formed] the Front for the Defense of Women’s Political Rights” as they pushed to pass the quota gender law.47 In this way, Mexico followed in the steps of other Latin American countries. With the exception of Chile and Guatemala, Latin America had adopted gender quotas.48

Establishing gender quotas to promote gender equity was crucial in places like Mexico. Older, pre-1953 views that women lacked political acumen resurfaced, and as late as the 1990s, male politicians ridiculed women and reduced their political participation as elected officials to either “whores or lesbians.” Gender quotas, albeit imperfect, would be crucial to overcoming the challenges of democratizing Mexico’s political system.49

As political scientist Lisa Baldez has written of the reforms of 2002 that established a gender-quota system in Mexico, the law as it was “written and subsequently interpreted by the Federal Electoral Institute, IFE requires at least 30 percent of all the candidates for all political parties to be women, but allows an exemption for parties that select candidates by primary election or voto directo.”50 Thus the victory was bittersweet and compliance was largely dependent on political parties’ willingness to avoid primary elections, or “voto directo,” which remained undefined in the law. Despite the legal changes ensuring that female candidates were included in the mix (in federal or state legislative elections), party autonomy reigned, and party leaders could legally avoid primary elections. Much of the effort to have women included as candidates in key elections fell to the sheer willingness of the party members themselves. Political parties are still majority male; women aspiring to be serious candidates need the support of their male colleagues in order to be placed on the ballot. In this way, Baldez’s research fills an important gap in the complexities and challenges of a full process of democratization that is gender conscious.

The end of the Zedillo administration signaled the temporary end of the PRI, and his successor, the PANista Vicente Fox, signaled what some social scientists have said is the beginning of the modern democratization of Mexico. Although the PAN was not able to hold on to power at the federal level in the 2003 midterm elections that followed its presidential win, and was touted as the losing party in the media, the legislative elections involved more women, particularly in the PAN. “Women won 23 percent of the seats in this election, up 7 percentage points from the 2000 election. These results catapulted Mexico upward in the world ranking of women in legislative office, from number 55 to number 29.”51

Interestingly, the PAN led in “exhibiting the highest level of gender equity in candidate placement—and the greatest degree of overcompliance with the quota law.” Although the PAN did not place women’s rights at the center of its agenda, it complied as a way to attract younger voters. Among the women in prominent PAN positions was Josefina Vásquez Mota, a well-known businesswoman. She was the first woman to lead the Secretaría de Desarollo Social during the Fox administration, and during the PANista administration of Felipe Calderón, she served as the director of public education. In 2012, she was also the PAN’s first female presidential candidate.

The PRD was partly successful in placing women in elected positions; from 1994, the PRD led the PRI and the PAN in the number of female diputadas (elected as proportional representation delegates as opposed to single-member district representatives).. Yet in 2003, the PAN surpassed the PRI with regard to the number of female diputadas in the Mexican Chamber of Deputies. That the PRD came in dead last in 2003 raises questions about the continuing challenges and obstacles to Mexico’s democratization. Further, “female candidates reached the 30 percent threshold on only three occasions before 2003 (PRD in 1997 and 2000, and in the PRI in 2000).”52 Although gender quotas have played an important role in the gendering of the democratization of Mexico, they are imperfect and are dependent on a variety of factors. As political scientist Kathleen Bruhn has pointed out, “A leftist discourse of entitlements and egalitarianism is simply more supportive of quotas than a liberal discourse of market competition,” and “participatory definitions of democracy particularly encouraged quotas because they reject the idea that women can be truly represented by men.”53 Despite the challenges, women continue to push for more political representation.

Political Situation in the Post-2013 Period

Since the electoral reforms of 2000, the country has witnessed the creation of new political parties with continued female participation. Among the new parties, though not all are real contenders, are Partido del Trabajo (Worker’s Party), Partido Verde (Green Party), Nueva Alianza (New Alliance), and MORENA (Movimiento Regeneración Nacional, “Mexican Regeneration Movement”), which since the spring of 2017 has emerged as the country’s strong left-wing party. By the summer of 2014, there were more women serving in Mexico’s Congress and Senate than women legislators serving in the United States’ House of Representatives and Senate. Mexico’s representatives in the Congress were 38 percent female, and 35 percent of senators were female. The country witnessed the emergence of political parties capable of challenging the larger PRI and PAN.

Further, by 2014, as was the case in Costa Rica, 38 percent of local political positions throughout Mexico were held by women. Polls conducted in the summer of 2017 revealed a majority of support for MORENA. Nonetheless, the country’s oldest party, the PRI, remains quite strong, as does its main opponent, the PAN. Women representing the PRI have continued to gain political ground; in 2010 the PRI candidate for the presidencia municipal of Aguascalientes, Lorena Martínez, won with more than 55 percent of the vote.

More recently, the 2015 PRI gubernatorial candidate in the crucial border state Nuevo León was Ivonne Álvarez García. With a background in legal studies, Álvarez García, became a PRI senator in the summer of 2015 and is among three PRI senators, including Marcela Guerra and Cristina Díaz García, in the state. Álvarez García was unsuccessful in her gubernatorial run, losing by twenty-five percentage points to an independent candidate and former PRIísta, Jaime H. Rodríguez Calderón, better known as “el bronco.”54 Apart from an independent governor who now oversees Nuevo León, there was no independent female senator in the state legislature in 2017, and despite the PAN’s strength in the northern sector of the country, Nuevo León has no PAN female senators.55 This is surprising given that in 2012 women were gaining traction in terms of securing mayoral elections of major cities. Once again, a PANista, Margarita Arrellanes Cervantes, was elected mayor of Monterrey in 2012. She governed Monterrey, which ranks third in terms of population size and is among the most industrialized cities in all Latin America.

Although the PAN, as has been noted, has had the greatest impact in terms of placing women in elected office, much of this has been due to efforts within the party.56 Both Patricia Espinoza and Margarita Zavala (de Calderón), director of the National Women’s Institute during the Vicente Fox administration and director of the Women’s Division of the PAN, respectively, are examples of female PAN leaders at the national level.57 Although the PRD had the most progressive women’s agenda (particularly with respect to women’s reproductive rights), the growth of the PAN allowed it to outpace the PRD as a strong contender to challenge the PRI. Further, when the percentage of female PRDistas in the Senate, for example, was at 50 percent in early fall 2017, the PRD only had eight senators. All the major political parties have placed women as presidential candidates. Since the 1980s, these have included Rosario Ibarra de Piedra (1982 and 1988, running for the now defunct Partido Revolucionario de los Trabajadores); Marcela Lombardo, the daughter of labor activist Vicente Lombardo Toledano (1994, Partido Popular Socialista); Cecilia Soto (1994, PRD); and Patricia Mercado (2006, of the now defunct Partido Socialdemócrata). And former President Calderón’s partner, Margarita Zavala, a lawyer, has also made news as a possible candidate.58

The 2018 presidential elections include Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a MORENA candidate, who is no stranger to politics and who has surged in the polls as a staunch anti–president Donald J. Trump candidate.59 As the PAN saw a decline in poll numbers during the midterm elections in the summer of 2015, Zavala announced her interest in running via a two-minute YouTube video. While critics (inside and outside) the party questioned the timing of Zavala’s announcement, coming three years before elections, Zavala pressed on, and Mexicans are now waiting to see whether she will be the PAN candidate. Given the country’s multiple crises, particularly the public outcry over the heinous Ayotzinapa case involving the disappearance or deaths of forty-two young rural teachers-in-training and the controversies over president Enrique Peña-Nieto’s energy reforms, the majority of Mexicans await the election of Lopez Obrador (who lost his presidential race to Calderon and claimed the election had been stolen from him) but have doubts about whether or not there will be clean elections. Further, Mexicans await the ratification of the nomination of the first indigenous woman as a candidate in the presidential race. María de Jesús “Marichuy” Patricio Martínez, an indigenous Nahua who has served her community of Tuxpan Jalisco as a healer, has been collecting signatures to earn a place on the ballot. The EZLN and the National Indigenous Congress, which brings together several indigenous groups in a coalition, have endorsed Martínez. Although Martínez has publicly claimed that her main goal “is to highlight the problems that those of us at the bottom are experiencing” and not “the votes.” her candidacy can turn the tide as it has the potential to, at the very least, bring old issues about women, land, security, and employment to the fore once again, but in a new light.60

Discussion of the Literature

Since the 1970s, research based on archival documentation, oral histories, and electoral and political-based field work on Mexican women has increased. Literature on women’s participation in labor and labor activism, household dynamics, international relations, and, certainly, politics has contributed to a deeper understanding of women’s experiences in Mexican society. Since the early 1990s, there has been a growth in studies on Mexican women’s political participation. Historians Carmen Ramos Escandón, Ana Lau, Esperanza Tuñon Pablos, and others have paved the way for the growth of explorations of Mexican women’s history on topics of significance including women’s politics. Among the foundational texts for the study of women’s political participation in the second half of the 20th century are Esperanza Tuñon Pablos’s, Mujeres que se organizan: El Frente Unico Pro Derechos de la Mujer and Jocelyn Olcott’s Revolutionary Women in Post-revolutionary Mexico.61 Tuñon Pablos has provided future scholars with comprehensive history of the FUPDM, its challenges and its accomplishments, which is key to understanding the history of female suffrage. Olcott’s book is required reading given its meticulously researched history of the intersections of gender and citizenship in the greater narrative of women’s political activism. Olcott sheds light on Mexican women’s connections and collaboration with US-based women feminists as it interrogates women’s perspectives about citizenship and their role in political activism. Further, Kristina Boylan’s work on Catholic women’s leagues in post-revolutionary Mexico62 has paved the way for the study of women’s roles in conservative politics and complicated the history of antirevolutionary activism.

The historiography on women’s labor activism is also crucial to better understand the topic under examination given the close relationship between labor and politics. In this area, the research of historians Francie Chassen-López, Heather Fowler-Salamini, María Teresa Fernández Acéves, and Susie Porter is key as it has laid the foundation for women’s labor and labor activism.63 Of equal importance is the work of historians interested in the role of gender ideologies in shaping women’s place in society and how the state employed its own vision of gender to describe women’s roles, which at times complemented, clashed, and or competed with women’s own vision. Of particular significance is research by Mary Kay Vaughan, Ann Blum, and other historians of women and gender history who have studied various aspects of Mexican women’s history.64 More transnational approaches have also led to more nuanced interpretations about the role of Mexican women in politics nationally and internationally. Megan Threlkeld’s Pan American Women: U.S. Internationalists and Revolutionary Mexico offers a comparative lens with which to examine the women who form part of the larger story of suffrage.65 American women engaged Mexican feminists and despite obstacles and challenges in both the United States and Mexico, women gained political traction in their diplomatic interventions that ultimately had an impact on local and national (as well as transnational) politics. Work by non-historians, particularly political scientists, has also enriched the existing historical literature on Mexican women’s participation in the democratization of their country and has focused on more contemporary political issues affecting Mexican women. The work of Victoria Rodríguez is indispensable to understanding Mexican women’s participation in contemporary politics. Her work examines women’s inclusion in the major political parties of the country and provides groundbreaking quantitative data that has allowed other scholars to pursue research in related areas. Studies by Lynn Stephen, Lisa Baldez, and Kathleen Bruhn complement the work of Rodríguez by examining women in the context of migration, race and ethnicity, indigenous movements, gender quotas, and party willingness to adopt such quotas, as well as the various factors affecting the implementation and eventual success of gender quotas in the political system.66

Taken together, these secondary works have expanded both the content-knowledge about Mexican women and historiographical interpretations of women’s active participation in Mexico’s political system. Further, these studies point to the way in which gender still weighs heavily in state processes concerning the integration of women as full-fledged citizens. While historians have not entirely focused their scholarly energies with respect to women’s political participation on the post-1953 period, research from related social science disciplines has provided insight into this crucial aspect of Mexican history. Given these studies thus far, as well as the gradual democratization of Mexico, Mexican women’s political history is fertile ground for future inquiry.

Primary Sources

Archivo General de la Nación, Mexico City.

Various state archives throughout Mexico.

Centro de Estudios del Movimiento Obrero y Socialista (CEMOS) Mexico City.

Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Library, University of Texas at Austin.

Electronic Primary Sources

Cámara de Diputados official website.

Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI).

Senado de la República official website.

ONU Mujeres (UN Women) official website.

“Democratizing Mexico’s Politics.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin America video series.

Further Reading

Baldez, Lisa. “Primaries vs. Quotas.” Latin American Politics and Society 49, no. 3 (2007): 69–96.Find this resource:

Blum, Ann. Domestic Economies: Family, Work, and Welfare in Mexico City, 1884–1943. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2010.Find this resource:

Bruhn, Kathleen. “Whores and Lesbians: Political Activism, Party Strategies, and Gender Quotas in Mexico.” Electoral Studies 22 (2003): 101–119.Find this resource:

Bruhn, Kathleen and Daniel C. Levy with Emilio Zebadúa. Mexico: The Struggle for Democratic Development. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.Find this resource:

Camp, Roderic Ai. “The Cross in the Polling Booth: Religion, Politics, and the Laity in Mexico.” Latin American Research Review 29, no. 3 (1994): 69–100.Find this resource:

Campos Carr, Irene. “Women’s Voices Grow Stronger: Politics and Feminism in Latin America.” National Women’s Studies Association Journal 2, no. 3 (1990): 450–463.Find this resource:

Chassen-López, Francie. “‘Cheaper than Machines’: Women and Agriculture in Porfirian Oaxaca (1880–1911).” In Women of the Mexican Countryside, 1850–1990: Creating Spaces, Shaping Transitions. Edited by Mary Kay Vaughan and Heather Fowler-Salamini, 27–50. Tucson: University of Arizona, 1994.Find this resource:

Craske, Nikki. Dismantling the Mexican State? Basingstoke, U.K.: Macmillan, 1996.Find this resource:

Craske, Nikki. Women and Politics in Latin American. Cambridge, U.K.: Polity, 1999.Find this resource:

Craske, Nikki, and Maxine Molyneux, eds. Gender and the Politics of Rights and Democracy in Latin America. Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave. 2002.Find this resource:

“Democratizing Mexico’s Politics: Interview with Cecilia Soto González.” Oxford Academic (Oxford University Press). YouTube video. Posted March 31, 2017. Retrieved from

Fernández Aceves, María Teresa. Mujeres en el cambio social en el siglo xx mexicano. Mexico City: Siglo XXI Editores, CIESAS, 2014.Find this resource:

Fernández Aceves, María Teresa. “Once We Were Corn Grinders: Women and Labor in the Tortilla Industry of Guadalajara, 1920–1940.” International Labor and Working-Class History 63 (2003): 81–101.Find this resource:

Fernández Poncela, Anna M., ed. Participación política: Las mujeres en México al final del milenio. Mexico City: El Colegio de México, 1995.Find this resource:

Fowler-Salamini, Heather. Working Women, Entrepreneurs, and the Mexican Revolution: The Coffee Culture of Córdoba, Veracruz. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2013.Find this resource:

Holzner, Claudio. “The Poverty of Democracy: Neoliberal Reforms and Political Participation of the Poor in Mexico.” Latin American Politics and Society 49, no. 2 (2007): 87–122.Find this resource:

Kapur, Vatsala. “Women’s Contribution to the Democratization of Mexican Politic: An Exploration of Their Formal Participation in the National Action Party and the Party of the Democratic Revolution.” Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanas 14, no. 2 (1998): 363–388.Find this resource:

Lau Jaiven, Ana. “Mujeres, feminismo y sufragio en los años veinte.” In Un Fantasma recorre el siglo luchas feministas en México 1910–2010. Edited by Departamento de Relaciones Sociales. Mexico City: UAM-X, CSH, Departamento de Relaciones Sociales, 2011.Find this resource:

Levy, Daniel C., and Kathleen Bruhn. Mexico: The Struggle for Democratic Development (2nd ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009.Find this resource:

Macías Anna. Against All Odds: The Feminist Movement in Mexico to 1940. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1982.Find this resource:

Martínez Rosón, María del Mar. “Mujeres y política en la Américalatina.” Iberoamericana año 14, no. 54 (2014): 160–163.Find this resource:

Mitchell, Stephanie, and Patience Schell, eds. The Women’s Revolution in Mexico, 1910–1953. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006.Find this resource:

Olcott, Jocelyn. Revolutionary Women in Post-revolutionary Mexico. Durham, NC: Duke University, 2006.Find this resource:

Olcott, Jocelyn, Mary Kay Vaughan, and Gabriela Cano, eds. Sex in Revolution: Gender, Politics and Power in Modern Mexico. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006.Find this resource:

ONU Mujeres. “Declaración conjunta: Haciendo avanzar la participación política de las mujeres.” Debate Feminista 46 (2012): 213–216.Find this resource:

Oritz-Ortega, Adriana, and Mercedes Barquet. “Gendering Transition to Democracy in Mexico.” In “Living in Actually Existing Democracies,” special issue, Latin American Research Review 45 (2010): 108–137.Find this resource:

Porter, Susie. Working Women in Mexico City: Public Discourses and Material Conditions, 1879–1931. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2003.Find this resource:

Rodríguez, Victoria. Women in Mexican Contemporary Politics. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003.Find this resource:

Rodríguez, Victoria. “Women, Politics, and Democratic Consolidation in Mexico: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back.” In Oxford Handbook of Mexican Politics. Edited by Roderic Ai Camp. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.Find this resource:

Stephen, Lynn. “Gender, Citizenship, and the Politics of Identity.” Latin American Perspectives 28, no. 6 (2001): 54–69.Find this resource:

Threlkeld, Megan. Pan American Women: U.S. Internationalists and Revolutionary Mexico. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014.Find this resource:

Tuñón, Enriqueta. ǃPor fin . . . ya podemos elegir y ser electas! El sufragio femenino en México, 1935–1953. Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, 2002.Find this resource:

Tuñón Pablos, Esperanza. Mujeres en Escena: De la tramoya al protagonismo (1982–1994). Mexico City: M.A. Porrúa, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, and El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, 1997.Find this resource:

Tuñón Pablos, Esperanza. Mujeres que se organizan: El Frente Unico Pro Derechos de la Mujer, 1935–1938. Mexico City: Grupo Editorial Miguel Angel Porrúa, 1992.Find this resource:

Tuñón Pablos, Julia. Women in Mexico: A Past Unveiled. Translated by Alan Hynds. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1999.Find this resource:


(1.) Victoria Rodríguez, Women in Mexican Contemporary Politics (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003), 93.

(2.) Jocelyn Olcott, Revolutionary Women in Post-revolutionary Mexico (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006), 205.

(3.) “El Primer Congreso Nacional Socialista de Mexico City,” March 1919, book 1, PCM, CEMOS, Archivo del Partido Comunista Mexicano, Centro de Estudios del Movimiento Obrero y Socialista.

(4.) María Teresa Fernández Aceves, Mujeres en el cambio social en el siglo xx mexicano (Mexico City: Siglo XXI Editores, CIESAS, 2014), 183; and Sonia Hernández, “Revisiting Mexican(a) Labor History through Feminismo Transfronterista: From Tampico to Texas and Beyond, 1910–1940,” Transnational Feminism, special issue, Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 36, no. 3 (2015): 107–136.

(5.) Olcott, Revolutionary Women, 173; see also Esperanza Tuñón Pablos, Mujeres que se organizan: El Frente Unico Pro Derechos de la Mujer, 1935–1938 (Mexico City: Grupo Editorial Miguel Angel Porrúa, 1992).

(6.) Adriana Oritz-Ortega and Mercedes Barquet, “Gendering Transition to Democracy in Mexico,” in “Living in Actually Existing Democracies,” special issue, Latin American Research Review 45 (2010): 109.

(7.) Oritz-Ortega and Barquet, “Gendering Transition”; and Olcott, Revolutionary Women, 160.

(8.) The party went through several name changes before adopting the current name, Partido Revolucionario Institucional.

(9.) Kristina A. Boylan, “Gendering the Faith and Altering the Nation: Mexican Catholic Women’s Activism, 1917–1940,” in Sex in Revolution: Gender, Politics, and Power in Modern Mexico, eds. Jocelyn Olcott, Mary Kay Vaughan, and Gabriela Cano (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006), 210.

(10.) Boylan, “Gendering the Faith,” in Sex in Revolution, eds. Olcott, Vaughan, and Cano, 215; and David Espinosa, “Student Politics, National Politics: Mexico’s National Student Union, 1926–1943,” The Americas 62, no. 4 (2006): 535.

(11.) Vatsala Kapur, “Women’s Contribution to the Democratization of Mexican Politic: An Exploration of Their Formal Participation in the National Action Party and the Party of the Democratic Revolution,” Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanas 14, no. 2 (1998): 375.

(12.) Kapur, “Women’s Contribution,” p. 375.

(13.) I thank Professor Cesar Morado Macías for contacting cronista Leticia Montemayor who provided this invaluable information regarding women in politics in the state of Nuevo León. Kent Patterson, “The Rise of Women in Mexican Politics” (FronteraNorteSur News Report, New America Media Politics, March 8, 2012), retrieved from

(14.) José del Real, “Rinde AN homenajo a su primera alcadesa en México,”, September 8, 2013, retrieved from

(15.) Patterson, “Rise of Women.”

(16.) Oritz-Ortega and Barquet, “Gendering Transition,” 110.

(17.) Lynn Stephen, “Epilogue: Rural Women’s Grassroots Activism, 1980–2000: Reframing the Nation from Below,” in Sex in Revolution, eds. Olcott, Vaughan, and Cano, 243–245.

(18.) “Boletin de prensa,” Tamaulipas, México, Dirección de Información y Relaciones Públicas, March 18, 1977, Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Library, University of Texas at Austin.

(19.) “Boletin de prensa.”

(20.) “Boletin de prensa”; “Homenaje a la Dra. Martha Chávez Padrón,” El Buho: Gaceta Electrónica de la Facultad de Derecho de la UNAM 3 no. 4 (2013).

(21.) Sergio Ramírez, “Semblanza de Martha Chávez Padrón,”, 728; Casey Walsh, Building the Borderlands: A Transnational History of Irrigated Cotton along the Mexico-Texas Border (College Station: Texas A&M University, 2008).

(22.) Roderic Ai Camp, Mexican Political Biographies, 1935–1993 (4th ed.) (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2011).

(23.) Oritz-Ortega and Barquet, “Gendering Transition,” table 1, p. 124.

(24.) Craske defines colonos as “people who live in low-income, often illegal, settlements, many of which have scarce basic services.” Nikki Craske, “Ambiguities and Ambivalences in Making the Nation: Women and Politics in 20th Century Mexico,” in “Latin America: History, War and Independence,” special issue, Feminist Review 79, no. 1 (2005): 127.

(25.) Craske, “Ambiguities and Ambivalences,” 128.

(26.) Craske, “Ambiguities and Ambivalences”; Kathleen Staudt and Carlota Aguilar, “Political Parties, Women Activists’ Agendas and Household Relations: Elections on Mexico’s Northern Frontier,” Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos 8, no. 1 (1992): 90.

(27.) “Las 10 mujeres más influyentes de México,” El, December 5, 2011.

(28.) Claudio Holzner, “The Poverty of Democracy: Neoliberal Reforms and Political Participation of the Poor in Mexico,” Latin American Politics and Society 49, no. 2 (2007): 91.

(29.) Staudt and Aguilar, “Political Parties,” 93.

(30.) Staudt and Aguilar, “Political Parties,” 93.

(31.) Staudt and Aguilar, “Political Parties.”

(32.) Staudt and Aguilar, “Political Parties,” 94.

(33.) “Lista de Diputados,” Congreso del Estado de Chihuahua.

(34.) Staudt and Aguilar, “Political Parties,” 97.

(35.) Oritz-Ortega and Barquet, “Gendering Transition,” 122; and Lisa Baldez, “Primaries vs. Quotas: Gender and Candidate Nominations in Mexico, 2003,” Latin American Politics and Society 49, no. 3 (2007): 69–96.

(36.) Kapur, “Women’s Contribution,” 364.

(37.) Quote comes from Kapur, “Women’s Contribution,” 365; and De la O, María Eugenia, “El trabajo de las mujeres en la industria maquiladora de México: Balance de cuatro décadas de estudio,” Debate Feminista 35 (April 2007): 31–56.

(38.) Kapur, “Women’s Contribution,” 366.

(39.) Staudt and Aguilar, “Political Parties,” 89.

(40.) Lynn Stephen, “Epilouge,” in Sex in Revolution: Gender, Politics and Power in Modern Mexico, eds. Olcott, Jocelyn, Mary Kay Vaughan, and Gabriela Cano (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006), 248.

(41.) Stephen, “Epilogue,” 253.

(42.) See Sara María Lara Flores, “Violencia y contrapoder: Una ventana al mundo de las mujeres indígenas migrantes, en México,” Estudos Feministas 11, no. 2 (2003): 381–397. Migration statistics come from the ONU as cited by Lara Flores.

(43.) Regina Cortina, “Gender and Power in the Teacher’s Union of Mexico,” Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos 6, no. 2 (1990): 241–262, esp. 241–242.

(44.) Randal C. Archibold and Elisabeth Malkin, “Powerful Mexican Teachers’ Leader Accused of Embezzlement,” New York Times, February 27, 2013.

(45.) Tuñón Pablos, Mujeres en escena: De la tramoya al protagonismo, 1982–1994 (Mexico City: M.A. Porrúa, Programa Universitario de Estudios de Género-Universidad, 1997); Baldez, “Primaries vs. Quotas,” 76; and Kathleen Bruhn, “Whores and Lesbians: Political Activism, Party Strategies, and Gender Quotas in Mexico,” Electoral Studies 22 (2003): 101–119.

(46.) Baldez, “Primaries vs. Quotas,” 76.

(47.) Baldez, “Primaries vs. Quotas,” 78.

(48.) María del Mar Martínez Rosón, “Mujeres y política en América Latina,” Iberoamericana año 14, no. 54 (2014): 161. “Venezuela estableció una cuota en 1997 pero esta fue declarada inconstitucional en 2000.”

(49.) The quote “whores and lesbians” comes from an interview with a male politician cited in Elizabeth Bruhn’s “Whores and Lesbians,” 101–119. The male politician stated his view that women in office “either slept their way into power, or are ‘masculinized’ by their sexual orientation.”

(50.) Bruhn, “Whores and Lesbians,” 71.

(51.) Bruhn, “Whores and Lesbians,” 71.

(52.) Baldez, “Primaries vs. Quotas,” 76. Baldez also writes, “Women constituted 30 percent of the electable candidates ( . . . top ten positions) in only one instance before 2003 . . . (PRD in 1997).”

(53.) Bruhn, “Whores and Lesbians,” 114.

(54.) Randal Archibold, “Tough-Talking El Bronco Wins Mexican Governor’s Race,” New York Times, June 8, 2015.

(55.) “PRI ratifica a Ivonne Álvarez como candidata a gobernadora de NL,” Excelsior, February 2, 2015.

(56.) This has been largely due to the willingness of male PAN members to support their female PAN colleagues.

(57.) Baldez, “Primaries vs. Quotas,” 85.

(58.) On the weekend of October 6–8, 2017, both Margarita Zavala and Jaime H. Rodríguez Calderón, “El Bronco,” announced their candidacies for the presidency as independents.

(59.) “Andrés Manuel López Obrador: Mexico Will Wage a Battle of Ideas against Trump,” Washington Post, May 1, 2017.

(60.) “‘Mexico Needs Healing’: The First Indigenous Woman to Run for President,” The Guardian, June 12, 2017.

(61.) Tuñón Pablos, Mujeres que se organizan: El Frente Unico Pro Derechos de la Mujer, 1935–1938; and Olcott, Revolutionary Women.

(62.) Boylan, “Gendering the Faith.”

(63.) Francie Chassen-López, “‘Cheaper than Machines’: Women and Agriculture in Porfirian Oaxaca (1880–1911),” in Women of the Mexican Countryside, 1850–1990: Creating Spaces, Shaping Transitions, eds. Mary Kay Vaughan and Heather Fowler-Salamini (Tucson: University of Arizona, 1994), 27–50; María Teresa Fernández Aceves, “Once We Were Corn Grinders: Women and Labor in the Tortilla Industry of Guadalajara, 1920–1940,” International Labor and Working-Class History 63 (2003): 81–101; and Susie Porter, Working Women in Mexico City: Public Discourses and Material Conditions, 1879–1931 (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2003).

(64.) Mary Kay Vaughan, Cultural Politics in Revolution: Teachers, Peasants, and Schools in Mexico, 1930–1940 (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1997); and Ann Blum, Domestic Economies: Family, Work, and Welfare in Mexico City, 1884–1943 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2010).

(65.) Megan Threlkeld, Pan American Women: U.S. Internationalists and Revolutionary Mexico. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014).

(66.) Rodríguez, Women in Mexican Contemporary Politics; Lynn Stephen, “Gender, Citizenship, and the Politics of Identity,” Latin American Perspectives 28, no. 6 (2001): 54–69; Baldez, “Primaries vs. Quotas”; and Bruhn, “Whores and Lesbians.”