Mexican Political Culture
► Over
100 million people in Mexico
 60% Mestizo
 30% Amerindian (Indigenous)
 10% other (European, Asian, etc.)
► Most populated Spanish-speaking country in the
► 75% of Mexico’s population live in urban areas
(Mexico City’s population is 18 million)
► Population in northern part of Mexico more
prosperous than central & southern Mexico
 Farther south you go, the greater the poverty
National Identity
Mexicans share a strong sense of national
identification based on common history,
dominant religion and language
Importance of religion (Catholicism)
Patron-clientelism (“You scratch my back, I’ll
scratch yours”)
Economic dependency
Patron-Client System in Mexico
► Roots
in warlordism and loyalty to caudillos
(political-military leaders) during 19th century
 In return for supporters’ loyalty he granted
them favors
 Led to establishment of camarillas
► Distribution of political rewards to those willing to
play by formal/informal “rules of the game”
► Keeps control in the hands of the elite
► Modernization and legitimate democracy tend to
break up the patron-client system as networks get
blurred in large population centers, and more
formal forms of participation are instituted
► Camarillas
– a politician’s personal following in a
patron-client relationship
► Exchange of offices and other benefits
► Within the PRI, up until the election of
for support
2000, most
positions within the president’s cabinet were filled
by supporters or heads of camarillas that the
president wanted to appease
► Peasants in camarillas received jobs, financial
assistance, family advice, and even food & shelter
in return for votes for the PRI
 Part of what allowed PRI to stay in power for over 70
Citizens, Society, & the State
► Traditionally
Mexican citizens have interacted with
government through patron-client system
► Because camarillas so interwoven in Mexican
politics, most people have had some contact with
government during their lives
► Clientelism has generally meant that the
government had the upper hand through its ability
to determine which interests to respond to and
which to ignore
► Role of citizens in Mexico is changing as political
parties have become competitive and democracy
becomes more firmly entrenched
Political Participation
► Historically
characterized by revolution & protest
► Mexican
citizens have generally been subjects
under authoritarian rule of the political elite
► Citizens
sometimes benefited from patronage, but
legitimate channels to policy-makers were few
► Today,
citizens participate through increasingly
legitimate and regular elections
►Tlatelolco (1968) – student protest
led to a massacre by government troops
(400 killed).
►Zapatista Uprising (1994) –
Chiapas rebellion reminded Mexicans that
some people still lived in appalling
conditions, and poverty and lack of
education were still serious problems
Citizens in Mexico directly elect the president, Chamber of
Deputy Representatives, and Senators as well as most local
& state officials
► Elections are generally competitive, specifically in urban
► Members of congress elected through dual system of
“first-past-the-post” and proportional
 32 senate seats are determined nationally through a system of
proportional representation that divides the seats according to the
number of votes cast for each party (128 Senate seats in total)
 In the Chamber of Deputies, 300 seats are determined by plurality
within single-member districts, and 200 are chosen by proportional
Voter Behavior
PRI era
 PRI controlled local, state, & national elections
 Voting rates high because of patron-client system
 Election day festive, accompanied by free food, music, and
 Corruption extensive
 Challengers easily defeated with “tacos” – stuffed ballot boxes
Post-PRI era
 Competing parties have existed since 1930s, but no real legitimacy
until 1994
 78% of eligible citizens voted in 1994
 64% voted in 2000
 Both much better than 49% of 1988 when PRI corruption was at its
Factors influencing Voters
► Age
 Younger voters were more likely than older voters to
support Vincente Fox and Felipe Calderon’s PAN, and older
voters more likely to support the PRI
► 59%
of all student voters chose PAN
► 19% voted for the PRI
► Education
 The more educated voted for Fox and the PAN (2000)
► 60%
of those with a college education voted for Fox
► 22% of college educated voted for Labastida, the PRI candidate
► Region
 PRI evenly supported throughout the regions of the
 PAN received majority of its support from the north and
center-west (better educated areas)
► Urban
vs. Rural –
Mexico’s political structure put into place in
early 20th century when most of population was rural. PRI and patron-client
system were intended to control large numbers of illiterate peasants in
exchange for small favors from politicos. Today Mexico is 75% urban, with a
literacy rate of about 90%. Urban voters less likely to support PRI, more
receptive to political and economic reform.
► Mestizo
vs. Amerindian – only about 10% of Mexicans
speak indigenous languages, but about 30% consider themselves Amerindians.
Amerindians marginalized, predominantly rural, and poor. This cleavage tends
to define social class, with most of Mexico’s wealth in the hands of the mestizo
► North
vs. South – north almost like a different country than the
area south of Mexico City. Majority of educated citizens and Mexico’s wealth
lies in the north. Southern Mexico primarily populated by Amerindians,
characterized and led by Zapatista Movement in Chiapas.

Mexican Political Culture