The wife of the governor of Zacatecas found herself in hot water after comments she made to high school students at a cultural event provoked an outcry on social media, leading her to apologize for her words.
Cristina Rodríguez, who is also the state president of the DIF family services agency — the organization that hosted the event last Friday — told students at the Suave Patria school in Tabasco that they looked like sicarios, which means hired assassins or hitmen, after they performed a dance while wearing military attire.
The students had also concealed their faces with balaclavas and kerchiefs.
The performance was based on the video clip of the popular song “That Power” by will.i.am and Justin Bieber.
After watching the dance, Rodríguez took the microphone and offered some criticism.
“The enormous effort made by these young people was evident but I would have much preferred to have seen them dressed in Mexican clothing, dressed as engineers, because I saw the faces of all the women that were here and many of the men’s and I saw a sadness and enormous concern because the young people looked more like sicarios than people who tomorrow could be an example to others.”
She went on to say that “We need to change this culture . . . you are young people, you are valuable, you need to aspire and dream of being something different, you need to be an example to others.”
Later in her speech she diverted her disapproval to the dancers’ educators.
“It really concerns me that school authorities haven’t taken care in this matter because in the end . . . we’re supposed to be educating the youngsters, we have to guide them.”
The first lady’s comments began to circulate on social media and the controversy grew further when Evalia Nuñez, a school director responsible for 14 distance-learning secondary schools, including the one where the dancers study, hit back.
She labeled the words “a serious lack of respect” and wrote that Rodríguez “had abused her power and the microphone to shame them for the clothes they were wearing.”
Nuñez rejected the claim that educators were to blame saying that she had seen rehearsals prior to the performance and only detected enthusiasm rather than a problem.
In a five-point rebuke of Rodríguez’ statement, Nuñez countered that no one has the right to judge someone for the clothes they wear, argued that her position didn’t give her the right to offend, called on her to apologize, defended the students and residents of the community and stated that the students were imitating military personnel rather than sicarios.
Federal Deputy Jorge Álvarez Maynez added his voice to the debate, announcing that he had made complaints to both the National Human Rights Commission and the National Council to Prevent Discrimination (Conapred) as he considered Rodríguez’ words to be discriminatory.
Rodríguez eventually responded to Nuñez’ appeal, making a somewhat tepid apology online in which she again took aim at educators.
“I offer an apology if somebody felt offended by my words, it’s the same apology that all of us must demand as a society from those who are apologists of crime from their classrooms.”
Her husband, Zacatecas Governor Alejandro Tello, also offered an apology.
“I don’t deny that she was misinterpreted [but] she apologizes and so does my government. I offer an apology to anyone who felt personally offended. As you well know, what she wanted to express is that today we have to direct and guide our youth towards positive themes.”