The Future That Happened (& The Future That Didn’t)

“A great science fiction detective story” – Ian Watson, author of The Universal Machine
Luck and Death at the Edge of the World

This site is concerned with the future of Mexico. It will necessarily dip into the past from time to time — the best futurists are always good historians — but the focus will be the future.

Any aspect of the future is fair game: technology, the arts, social development, whatever. I am interested both in what will actually happen and what is predicted to happen by political pundits, military planners, and science fiction writers. (If you’re curious about why, read the About This Blog page.)

To set things in motion, I want to introduce a moment in Mexican history by way of a video and some photos from several years ago. In 2006 the current president of Mexico (Felipe Calderón) beat his rival candidate (Andrés Manuel López Obrador, commonly referred to as AMLO) by about 0.58% of the vote to become leader of the country by an extremely narrow margin.

Or did he?

There were widespread allegations of vote tampering and López Obrador and those who had voted for him demanded a recount. They then descended on Mexico City (or the Distrito Federal, known colloquially as the DF) from all over Mexico and occupied 12 kilometres (about 7.5 miles, for those who don’t speak metric) of the Paseo de la Reforma, one of the major thoroughfares in the city, home to embassies (U.S.A. and Japan), the stock exchange building, and several large hotels and banks.

A tent city within the city. Protestors set up large tents along 12 km of the Paseo de la Reforma and camped out for months.

A tent city within the city. Protestors set up large tents along 12 km of the Paseo de la Reforma and camped out for weeks. Photo (c) Nassau Hedron.

(The location of important institutions is likely the same reason that it’s been chosen again as a site of occupation during the recent protests spun off from Occupy Wall Street.)

I want to be very clear that for the purposes of this site I’m staying strictly neutral on the issue of who was right or wrong about the allegations (as well as the methods used to confront Calderon about them). I visited the DF during the height of the protests and spent most of my time on the Reforma talking to protestors as well as to people who opposed the protest, so I have my own impressions, but I’m no expert and the truth or otherwise of the vote-rigging allegations has nothing to do with my point.

The only thing I want to highlight is the fact that this moment in history represented a fork in the road for Mexico, a choice between two possible — and possibly very different — futures.

Protestors at the Zocalo (the central square in Mexico City). This photo is courtesy of an acquaintance from the DF, Mariana, who got a vantage point I never did. (Aug 13, 2006).  Photo (c) Mariana Vargas.

Protestors at the Zocalo (the central square in Mexico City). This photo is courtesy of an acquaintance from the DF, Mariana, who got a vantage point I never did. (Aug 13, 2006). Photo (c) Mariana Vargas.

Calderon was very much the favourite of the Bush administration and his power lay substantially with big business. Lopez Obrador was a reformer with two power bases: the poor in the countryside and many the residents of the capital, where he had previously served as a very popular mayor. These characterizations are both broad generalizations and there were lots of exceptions to the rule, but by and large that’s how it broke down.

Many people expected Lopez Obrador to come to office on the wave of reform that was passing through Latin America at the time — the same wave that saw the elections of relatively moderate reformers, like Brazil’s Lula, and more radical ones, like Venezuela’s Chavez. It didn’t happen in the election and after the election the protestors never did get the recount they wanted, despite occupying and paralyzing a huge portion of downtown Mexico City for weeks on end.

A view down the centre of la Reforma, with tents receding into the distance.

A view down the centre of la Reforma, with tents receding into the distance. Photo (c) Nassau Hedron.

What would Mexico be like now, almost six years later, if Lopez Obrador had won?

And with Calderon’s term expiring and new elections around the corner in 2012, how will the electoral debate between factions within Mexican society shake out this time? Bear in mind how close the contest was last time, whether anyone cheated or not. The question is not simply one of who will win, but whether there be more controversy or an unambiguous result.

Finally, once the electoral results are in, what roads into the future will have been selected, and which ones rejected and left for us to specualte about?

A view inside one of the protestors' tents

A view inside one of the protestors' tents. Photo (c) Nassau Hedron.

The video is called The Great Mexican Standoff, by Journeyman Pictures. You can watch it here. An image from it appears below, followed by images of mine from the occupation.

Lopez Obrador in The Great Mexican Standoff

Lopez Obrador in The Great Mexican Standoff

Addendum: Just days after I first wrote this post, it was announced that Lopez Obrador would once again be a presidential candidate in 2012. He is starting out well behind in the polls, but he’s not letting that slow him down. Admirers and detractors agree that he is nothing if not persistent (or stubborn, depending on your point of view). He has already announced that the current wave of drug-related violence in the country could be cleared up within six months of his election by replacing the soldiers presently deployed around the country with social workers and job creation programs. Once again it appears that he is fuelling an election with starkly competing visions for the country.

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This entry was posted in Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Election 2006, Election 2012, Felipe Calderon, Occupy Mexico, Occupy Wall Street. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Future That Happened (& The Future That Didn’t)

  1. Pingback: Mexico City Plans Underground “Skyscraper” Under the Zócalo | Once & Future Mexico

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