I’m feeling extremely scattered today, so I thought it would be a good time to publish this piece. I love Mexico partly because of its enigmatic nature. I can rarely succinctly summarise what is going on there, politically or otherwise, and when I am actually in the country I understand even less. I believe that this is because Mexico is a country that defies easy definition.
So it is only fitting that I have written an article with which I’m sure some, though not all, Mexicans would disagree. I wish now that I had acknowledged the unrest that did continue after Pena Nieto’s election–first from residual #yosoy132 protests, but now from teachers in Guerrero furious over a proposed education reform. Compounded with lawless chaos in Michoacan and the usual disappearances (though new, “revised” figures released by the government claim that many less disappeared than was thought), Mexico’s grave security problems are adding another facet to the general unrest there.
In depicting #yosoy132 as a failed movement, I was mainly drawing upon what I observed of the trajectory of the #occupywallst movement. I would be interested to know if #yosoy132 continues to be active. The bias of this article is likely a reflection of my skepticism regarding the capacity of people to effect change through revolutionary means, as well as a general pessimism toward human nature. I am quite fond of people, but I deeply doubt their ability to act rationally or in their own best interest. I also had the opportunity to read many interviews with Mexicans on this subject, and many were dismissive of the staying power of the movement. So with that in mind, here is my take on the events that led up to the 2012 election of Enrique Pena Nieto:
After igniting a flurry of protest, the #yosoy132 movement comes to naught
At its peak, the #yosoy132 movement was billed as the “Mexican Spring.” Social media sites were inundated with a steady stream of high revolutionary rhetoric, and mass demonstrations throughout Mexico made it seem indisputable that a new era of participatory democracy had dawned in Mexico.
Almost a year on, this is no longer the case. The movement has fallen into obscurity as the protestors’ pet target, PRI presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto, has taken power. A visit to the movement’s official website defines #yosoy132 as a “social network.” This is fitting, if not ironic, as the movement spread primarily through social networks—that it was able to circumvent traditional media channels was hailed as proof of the movement’s mettle.
Last June, this scenario would have been unimaginable. The movement began when, on a campaign stop at the Ibero-American University in Mexico City, students grilled Peña Nieto about an incident in which, as governor of the state of Mexico, he authorised police to use excessive force on protestors, resulting in two deaths and numerous human rights violations. His answers did not appease the students, whose ire forced Peña Nieto to hide in the bathroom and sneak out the back door.
As more disenfranchised groups joined its ranks, #yosoy132 became a fragmented movement lacking a unified message. One of the only common grievances was the political influence that media conglomerate Televisa enjoys in Mexico.
Mexicans elected Peña Nieto anyway, and since he was sworn in December of last year, everyone seems to be on board—or at least indifferent—as the President tones down his predecessor’s “war on drugs” rhetoric, declares Mexico open for business, and selectively targets corrupt officials.
Peña Nieto’s once-vocal detractors have gone quiet. One theory is that this silence is forced. #yosoy132 spokesperson Aleph Jiménez disappeared in September of last year only to re-emerge days later, claiming that threats on his life had forced him into hiding. However, it is unlikely that the PRI would risk drawing attention back to protestors just as public interest in them had begun to wane. Any threats are probably unsanctioned by PRI officials.
Another spokesperson, Antonio Attolini, has (ironically) been given his own television program on Televisa, while many of the students that fuelled the movement have simply lost interest. In a trajectory reminiscent of the #occupywallst movement and, to some extent, the Arab Spring, the more noise that is made, the more deafening the silence after it is realised that change initiated by social media must be backed up by real world action, too.