A Non-Traditional View of México and Its Communities (Part 1)
Cherán, Michoacán, a town that took over its own administration to avoid tree-cutters in their forests.
México will have the 7th largest GDP in the world by 2060, smaller only than that of the US and a handful of Asian countries according to The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The country’s population, which will average 0.9% yearly growth, is projected to reach 166 million inhabitants over the same period. Despite this growth in economy, the OECD predicts per capita income to reach only into the low $20K levels, still half of what the most advanced countries in the world show today.
The relatively low figure masks a dramatic variance in income, as economic development in México is uneven. Almost 80% of the population is concentrated in 56 metropolitan areas, and the rural areas are productive only in parts of the country where water is available and financial resources exist. The urban areas range in size from the large 20-million plus Ciudad de México (now a full state as well as the nation’s capital city, with 16 municipal centers), to cities of 20,000 in population, scattered throughout the country.
Political development in México is authoritarian in style but with proto-democratic formats. Until the year 2000, one party dominated all levels of all governments. Competing parties only occasionally captured city governments or a state legislature, or even held positions in the tightly controlled state or national legislatures. The nation’s judicial system is still under the control of the same established political forces.
This authoritarian style is not new to the area. Tribes of natives developed highly sophisticated cultures under a Tatloani, or ruler of a pre-Hispanic city-state. Throughout the 16th-century period of Spanish conquest and later independence, beginning in the 19thcentury, the trend of tightly controlled leadership continued, even as the country experimented with various forms of government: two empires, five constitutions, and multiple dictatorships.
The early 20th-century revolutionary period saw this longstanding authoritarian focus shifting to more institutional forms with the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI). Enrique Krauze, in “Biografía del Poder” (Biography of Power), indicates México enjoyed rapid economic growth from the mid-20thcentury until the early 80’s and 90’s, when outside shocks forced dramatic devaluations in 1976, 1982, and continuously from then on.
México joined the NAFTA in the mid-1980’s, and for the first time the economy opened to, at least, parts of the world. These economic changes greatly affected the population: those associated with modern enterprises did well, both in urban and rural settings, while others did not.
In 2000, the Partido de Acción Nacional (PAN), under businessman Vicente Fox, promised a new way forward. His results were meager, and under cloud of trickery, his successor from the PAN became president. Felipe Calderón was moderate, and a good administrator, but his proposal of jailing the drug lords gave the impression that the country was moving towards mayhem because of a surge of violent homicides.
The PRI regained power in 2012. Corruption and a resurgence of criminal activity, as well as tepid growth in the economy, marred the administration.
This July 1, the PRI is sure to lose. There is fear of violence at local municipalities and against local authorities. The election authorities, in principle independent from the government, are not trusted to provide a credible count of votes. This election is a watershed. OECD says México is in for greater days; to this native Mexican, it does not look that way.