Millions of Mexicans will go to the polls on July 1 to vote for a new president, state governors and city mayors among other elected positions, but in the country’s poorest municipality the elections are not getting the same attention as elsewhere in the country.
In fact, most residents of Santos Reyes Yucuná in the Mixteca region of Oaxaca are not even aware that elections are taking place, according to a report by the broadcaster Televisa.
Based on experience from past elections, it won’t be until a week before the vote that the municipal government — which is not up for reelection —informs residents of the opportunity to exercise their democratic right.
“They say they’re going to change the president,” local resident Juan Esteba told Televisa. “The truth is we don’t know. Because we don’t know very well [what is happening] . . . those who do know and understand more or less, they notify us,” he said.
For Mexicans living in most other parts of the country, avoiding any knowledge of the election in the midst of a campaign period during which television, radio and other media are bombarding viewers with political advertising is nigh impossible.
However, in Santos Reyes Yucuná — where the majority of residents live in extreme poverty — it is somewhat easier to remain ignorant, a situation many Mexicans disillusioned with politics might describe as bliss.
Only 21% of homes in the municipality have a radio, 54% have a television, 0.5% have a fixed telephone line and 30% have access to a cell phone. Very few homes are connected to the internet.
The comparatively low connectivity rates undoubtedly play a significant role in the broad unawareness and/or disinterest in the upcoming elections but another likely explanation is that residents have more pressing concerns.
Gaining access to fresh water and scraping together a living are likely at the top of the list.
Only 38% of homes are connected to the water supply, according to data cited by Televisa, while the rest of the population relies on wells, water tanker deliveries or rainwater.
One resident told the broadcaster that when it rains, she strategically places a barrel to catch run-off from her home’s roof so that she can bathe and wash clothes and dishes.
Given the lack of employment opportunities locally, many of the municipality’s 1,700 residents leave their homes every three months to seek an income in other parts of the country, mostly by selling candy, seeds or other snacks.
The only residents who remain in Santos Reyes Yucuná year-round, the mayor explained, are the elderly.
Alberto Martínez Estrada said that most of the towns’ seniors spend their days making hats out of palm leaves but even though a single sombrero takes two days to make, it’s sold for just eight pesos (US $0.40).
The mayor described the economic situation as “difficult.”
Yet another factor that impedes more widespread knowledge of the elections is that many residents in Santos Reyes Yucuná are illiterate, while some also have limited Spanish.
The Oaxaca representative of the National Electoral Institute (INE) explained that authorities have made efforts to improve their communications in residents’ native languages but added that a lack of knowledge about the electoral process and the inability to read and write did not preclude civic participation.
“. . . There are also color distinctions [for political parties and] logos that help . . . to orientate people’s participation and make it difficult for them to make a mistake in the decisions they take,” Gerardo García Marroquín said.
Source: Televisa (sp)