Things That Matter

From Gang Member To Politician, Here’s A Brief Look At Mexican Congressman El Mijis Who Is Now Fighting For Vulnerable Communities

July 2, 2018, was a watershed moment in Mexican political history. Of course, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was elected as president after two failed attempts, and his new party MORENA became the main political force in the country. They won state governorships, the presidency and federal and state spots in senates and congresses. Perhaps one of the most controversial stories to come out of the election was that of “El Mijis”, a reformed former gang member who won a set in his state congress running on a progressive platform. Conservative commentators and politicians soon started to attack him, while others just fell in love with the second-chances narrative of “El Mijis” and his political ascent. He is very active on Twitter and you can follow his handle @mijisoficial, where he talks about Mexican political life and continues his activism. He also engages in a frank and friendly manner with his adversaries. Only time will tell if he will live up to the expectations and how far his ideals will take him. 

This is what you need to know about one of the most interesting and polarizing figures in Mexican politics. 

His full name is Pedro César Carrizales Becerra.

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He was born in San Luis Potosi, a state in Northern Mexico, in 1979.

He grew up in a broken home.

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His family experienced domestic violence and, like many young urban men, Pedro Carrizales sought refuge in a street family. This led to gang altercations and problemas con la ley.He was once addicted to drugs and alcohol like many disenfranchised youth.

He was in jail for two months.

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He acknowledges that he made some very bad decisions early in life. This led to a two-month stint in prison, which has been a controversial fact since he became a public figure. Being an ex-convict has been his Achilles heel on social media, where conservatives have used him as evidence of a corrupt political system. Don’t they believe in second chances, a key element of a healthy democracy?

He survived an attempt on his life after being elected.

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Earlier this year, on February 4, the vehicle in which “El Mijis” was traveling was shot five times. The attack was perpetrated by two men on a motorcycle. A few days later he Tweeted a photograph of himself wearing a bulletproof vest. He wrote: “I can experience fear, but not cowardice; I have never left a struggle halfway through. I will continue doing my job and following my ideals”. 

He is not new to activism, as he has been involved in community work since 2003.

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He is the leader of the Movimiento Popular Juvenil. These ideals include community work, which started soon after his mother passed away. He recalls how he chose to hang around with his gang instead of seeing his sick mother, and how the guilt and shame hung over him. He sought to end violence in his community and reached out to the San Luis Potosi state government. He wasn’t heard. He chose Morena as his party and faced stigmatization and discrimination during the campaign. He was even kidnapped, a threat that attempted to convince him to stop his candidature. At the time he said he didn’t want to become a martyr. He discussed quitting politics with his family and decided to stay put.

When he was sworn in he wore jeans and a t-shirt.

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He has made a name for himself for standing up for who he is, and for owning his past mistakes. He refused to wear a suit when he was sworn in as a legislator. He claims that he wore jeans and a t-shirt to show solidarity with those who have been excluded by the political status quo, those who remain invisible.

He is an ally of the LGBTQ community.

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As a former gang member, he knows what it means to be stigmatized and face discrimination while trying to be a member of society with the same rights as anyone else. He has shown his support for the LGBTQ community. He also supports initiatives in favor of animal rights, particularly around the criminalization of bullfighting. 

He wears his tattoos proudly.

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While many politicians and everyday men and women hide their tattoos because they are seen by some as a sign of criminality (particularly in countries like Mexico), “El Mijis” wears them proudly and shows them off whenever he can. 

He survived a machete attack.

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Since he became an overnight celebrity, “El Mijis” has told unbelievable stories of his days as a gang member. He told Nacion 321 that he once survived a machete strike on the head and that he kept fighting “like a samurai”, getting wounded on the hand as well.

His origins are as humble as they come.

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Even if he has the president’s ear today, there was a time when, as a 12 year old, he became a gang member after having begged for money juggling at traffic lights and singing in buses. How things change. 

He travelled the country with the project Un grito de existencia.

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Before being elected, he had already shown his skills for community organizing. He traveled more than 1800 kms speaking against the discrimination of people with tattoos and former gang members, advocating for social inclusion and job opportunities. 

He survived five suicide attempts.

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After his mother’s death Pedro Carrizales became depressed and almost died by suicide. He told Nacion 321that he would throw himself at moving cars and that he once tried to hang himself but the branch broke off. 

He has 12 tattoos in total.

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Among these tattoos, one represents a dream he once had: a koi fish and storming clouds surrounding it. He also has a tattoo that reads “Becerra”, his mother’s last name. Perhaps the most significant is a mythical Phoenix, a sign of rebirth.

He has experienced real struggle, and he plans to legislate accordingly.

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He argues that the beginning of change is full respect of human rights. We know he is right, but we hope that he can change the hearts and minds of so many politicians that think otherwise.

He has said he wants to be president one day, and he has been mocked for it.

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Pundits such as Ricardo Aleman have belittled Carrizales’ dream of leading the country. He has replied like a true gentleman. Here, he tells a journalist: “I am not sure what your motives are, but while you are attacking me I am defending you with a call to improve protection for journalists.” Touche! 

He plans to bike to Central America.

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Even if he is a legislator now, he has continued with his activism in favor of former gang members. He plans to expand his advocacy to Central America, a region ravaged by civil unrest and violence produced by gangs such as MS-13. This is both a smart political move given the current migratory crisis and a coherent episode of his improbable life story.

READ: From Gang Member To Emmy-Nominated Actor: Here Is The Incredible Life Story Of Richard Cabral

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Mexican Politician Accused Of Rape Vows To Block Elections Unless He’s Allowed To Run

Things That Matter

Mexican Politician Accused Of Rape Vows To Block Elections Unless He’s Allowed To Run

It’s an election year in Mexico and that means that things are heating up as candidates fight for the top spot. At the same time, Mexico is experiencing a burgeoning fight for women’s rights that demands accountability and justice. Despite all the marches and protests and civil disobedience by hundreds of thousands of Mexicans, it remains to be seen how much change will happen and when. 

Case in point: Félix Salgado, a candidate for governor of Guerrero who has been accused of rape and sexual assault but maintains the support of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO). Now, after being disqualified from the race because of undisclosed campaign finances, the candidate is vowing to block any elections from taking place unless he is allowed to continue his campaign. 

A disqualified candidate is vowing to block elections unless he’s allowed to run.

Félix Salgado was running to be governor of the Mexican state of Guerrero when he was faced with allegations of rape and sexual assault. The commission that selects party candidates allowed him to remain in the race and he continues to maintain the support of President AMLO – who is of the same political party, Morena. 

However, in late March, election regulators ordered that Salgado be taken off the ballot due to a failure to report campaign spending, according to the AP. Mexico’s electoral court ordered the Federal Electoral Institute (FEI) to reconsider their decision last week. Salgado is already threatening to throw the election process into chaos.

“If we are on the ballot, there will be elections,” Salgado told supporters in Guerrero after leading a caravan of protestors to the FEI’s office in Mexico City on Sunday. “If we are not on the ballot, there will not be any elections,” Salgado said.

The AP notes that Salgado is not making an empty threat. Guerrero is an embattled state overrun with violence and drug gangs and many elections have been previously disrupted. Past governors have been forced out of office before finishing their terms. Salgado was previously filmed getting into a confrontation with police in 2000.

It was just weeks ago that the ruling party allowed Salgado’s candidacy to move forward.

In mid-March, Morena confirmed that Félix Salgado would be its candidate for governor in Guerrero after completing a new selection process in which the former senator was reportedly pitted against four women.

Morena polled citizens in Guerrero last weekend to determine levels of support for five different possible candidates, according to media reports. Among the four women who were included in the process were Acapulco Mayor Adela Román and Senator Nestora Salgado.

Félix Salgado was the clear winner of the survey, even coming out on top when those polled were asked to opine on the potential candidates’ respect for the rights of women. He also prevailed in all other categories including honesty and knowledge of the municipality in which the poll respondents lived.

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Mexico City Could Soon Change Its Name To Better Embrace Its Indigenous Identity

Things That Matter

Mexico City Could Soon Change Its Name To Better Embrace Its Indigenous Identity

Mexico City is the oldest surviving capital city in all of the Americas. It also is one of only two that actually served as capitals of their Indigenous communities – the other being Quito, Ecuador. But much of that incredible history is washed over in history books, tourism advertisements, and the everyday hustle and bustle of a city of 21 million people.

Recently, city residents voted on a non-binding resolution that could see the city’s name changed back to it’s pre-Hispanic origin to help shine a light on its rich Indigenous history.

Mexico City could soon be renamed in honor of its pre-Hispanic identity.

A recent poll shows that 54% of chilangos (as residents of Mexico City are called) are in favor of changing the city’s official name from Ciudad de México to México-Tenochtitlán. In contrast, 42% of respondents said they didn’t support a name change while 4% said they they didn’t know.

Conducted earlier this month as Mexico City gears up to mark the 500th anniversary of the fall of the Aztec empire capital with a series of cultural events, the poll also asked respondents if they identified more as Mexicas, as Aztec people were also known, Spanish or mestizo (mixed indigenous and Spanish blood).

Mestizo was the most popular response, with 55% of respondents saying they identified as such while 37% saw themselves more as Mexicas. Only 4% identified as Spaniards and the same percentage said they didn’t know with whom they identified most.

The poll also touched on the city’s history.

The ancient city of Tenochtitlán.

The same poll also asked people if they thought that the 500th anniversary of the Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlán by Spanish conquistadoresshould be commemorated or forgotten, 80% chose the former option while just 16% opted for the latter.

Three-quarters of respondents said they preferred areas of the the capital where colonial-era architecture predominates, such as the historic center, while 24% said that they favored zones with modern architecture.

There are also numerous examples of pre-Hispanic architecture in Mexico City including the Templo Mayor, Tlatelolco and Cuicuilco archaeological sites.

Tenochtitlán was one of the world’s most advanced cities when the Spanish arrived.

Tenochtitlán, which means “place where prickly pears abound” in Náhuatl, was founded by the Mexica people in 1325 on an island located on Lake Texcoco. The legend goes that they decided to build a city on the island because they saw the omen they were seeking: an eagle devouring a snake while perched on a nopal.

At its peak, it was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas. It subsequently became a cabecera of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Today, the ruins of Tenochtitlán are in the historic center of the Mexican capital. The World Heritage Site of Xochimilco contains what remains of the geography (water, boats, floating gardens) of the Mexica capital.

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