Despite the lack of quantitative research in this area, there are women in Mexican politics. Exactly where these women hold positions, where they come from, their age and education and their previous political experience are matters which this chapter will explore. To do so I will rely upon a database of women who have attained elective and appointed positions at the elite level, and echelons just below what is considered the elite level, in the Mexican federal government.(1)

Besides the basic questions of what positions women have held and how the level of female participation has changed in the different branches of the Mexican government, I will address to what extent the Mexican aphorism "la participación de la mujer en la política es flor de un sexenio" holds true. Female and male politicians will be compared as to age, repeat-office holding, and the length of political career.

Distribution of Women in the Mexican Federal Government

Legislative Branch

In Mexico, Congress has long been a common path for politically ambitious women. It contains many more women than either the executive or judicial branches. Election to the Senate and Chamber of Deputies is party-based. That is, the voter selects a party slate rather than voting for an individual. Therefore, party affiliation is a more important aspect of any aspiring legislator's career than it is for other government officials. This will be discussed below, in Chapter 4.

Figure 3-1 illustrates how the number of women in the Chamber of Deputies has increased dramatically since the entry of the first woman in 1954. The total number of deputies in the Chamber has changed over the years, increasing to allow for greater representation of opposition parties.
Figure 3-1: Number of Women in Senate and Chamber of Deputies, 1952-1994

Changes made for the 1988 elections increased the number of Deputies elected to the Chamber to 500, while the number of Senators elected remained at two for each of the 32 Mexican states.

Deputies hold a three year term. They are elected at the same time as the president and then midway through his term. Senators hold six-year terms. Until 1988, they were always elected at the same time as the president. The 1988 electoral reform which increased the number of deputies also altered Senate terms, staggering them so that half of the senators are elected at the same time as the president and the other half during the mid-administration elections. A more accurate reflection of the presence of women in the Senate and Chamber of Deputies is reflected in the percentage of women in each term for the Chamber, and for the Senate by presidential administration (Figures 3-2 and 3-3).

Figure 3-2: Women in the Chamber of Deputies, 1954-91

Mexico selects alternate deputies and senators who take over in the event that their elected counterpart is unable to continue in office. Since 1955, the number of female alternate deputies usually has been higher than the number of female deputies (Figure 3-1). Unfortunately, information for alternates is not available for the 1982 and 1985 elections.

Figure 3-3: Women in the Senate, 1952-91 (%)

The percentage of female Senators during Salinas' administration (1988-94) increased sharply over all previous administrations.(2) This figure is slightly inflated because of aforementioned changes in 1988, which staggered Senate terms for the first time.(3) Overall, there have been more women in the Chamber of Deputies than in the Senate. This was also the case in the U.S. where one author noted that it was "much more difficult for a woman to win a seat in the Senate by her own efforts than a seat in the House of Representatives."(4)

Ironically, the changes intended to increase opposition party representation actually decreased the representation of women when it took effect in 1991. The change affected almost all of the ten women elected to the Senate in 1988, the largest group in Senate history (16.8 percent). In 1991, the number of women in the Senate dropped from ten to four, or approximately 7 percent.

Several female politicians who were elected to the Senate at the beginning of Salinas' administration won deputyships for the 91-94 term. These politicians include Laura Alicia Garza Galindo, Blanca Ruth Esponda Espinosa, Julieta Guevara Batista, and Graciela Larios Rivas, while María Cristina Sangri Aguilar, a deputy for the 1988-91 term, became a Senator in 1991.

Executive Branch

In the executive branch, the total number of women in elite positions has gradually increased with each administration, although not at the same rate as the legislative branch. As discussed above, the elite-level positions in this branch include: secretary, subsecretary and oficial mayor.(5) Because of the fluctuation in the number of Secretariats and number of positions available, it is no small feat, and of dubious value given the low number of women who have attained these positions, to provide the percent of women who have held top decision-making positions in the Executive branch over the past forty years. For example, there is often more than one subsecretary post, but usually only one Secretary and oficial mayor per Secretariat.
Table 3-1: Women in Elite-Level Executive Branch Posts of the Mexican Government (1964-1994)

Secretariat of Agrarian Reform
-- Subsecretary (1970-76), (1982-85)
Secretariat of Agriculture
-- Subsecretary (1964-70)
-- Oficial Mayor (1983-84)
Secretariat of Communications and Transport
-- Oficial Mayor (1988-92)
Secretariat of the Controller General
-- Secretary (1988-94), (1994- )
Secretariat of Elementary Education
-- Subsecretary (1982-88)
Secretariat of Fisheries
-- Oficial Mayor (1982-88)
-- Subsecretary (1988-91)
-- Secretary (1988-92), (1994- )
Secretariat of Foreign Relations
-- Oficial Mayor (1970-76), (1976-78), (1979-82)
-- Subsecretary (1976-82)
-- Subsecretary D (1978-79)
-- Subsecretary C (1992-94)
Secretariat of Interior
-- Subsecretary (1993-93), (1993)
Secretariat of Health
-- Subsecretary (1988-94)
Secretariat of Labor and Social Welfare
-- Oficial Mayor (1978-82)
-- Subsecretary (1991-94)
Secretariat of Programming and Planning
-- Subsecretary (1976-80)
-- Oficial Mayor (1982-85)
-- Subsecretary (1983-88)
Secretariat of Public Education
-- Subsecretary (1976-80)
Secretariat of Tourism
-- Secretary (1980-82)
-- Oficial Mayor (1982-86), (1991-94)
-- Secretary (1994- )
Secretariat of Urban Development and Ecology
-- Subsecretary (1982-86)

It is beyond the limits of this thesis to attempt to assess women's participation in elite-level executive branch positions in relative terms (percentages). It would also be pointless since the number of women holding elite-level positions has been extremely low since the first female Subsecretary was appointed in 1964.

Echeverría (1970-76) appointed one woman to the position of oficial mayor and two women subsecretaries during his administration. López Portillo (1976-82) appointed the first woman to a Cabinet-level position near the end of his term, as well as three women to the each of the positions of subsecretary and oficial mayor.

De La Madrid (1982-88) appointed one woman to the position of secretary, four to the position of subsecretary, and four to the position of oficial mayor. Under Salinas, the number of women in top executive branch positions continued to grow at a sluggish pace, with one woman appointment at the cabinet level, five to the position of subsecretary and two women to the post of oficial mayor.

President Ernesto Zedillo made history in December 1994 by appointing a record-breaking total of three women to the cabinet level, doubling the total number of women who have attained that level in the history of Mexican politics.(6) However, even these figures may appear slightly inflated since only 24 women have held the 31 positions. Zedillo's female cabinet appointees were not part of my data set.

Additionally, many of the women who have held positions at the cabinet-level in the executive branch went on to hold other positions in both the executive and legislative branches. Repeat-office holding will be discussed at the end of this chapter. Below are some brief biographical sketches of women who have held multiple elite-level positions in two or more branches of government:

Graciela Aceves de Romero: first female Subsecretary, elected Deputy three times between 1967-1982. Interestingly, she was a member of the Partido de Acción Nacional (PAN) rather than the ruling Partido Institucional Revolucionario (PRI).

María de los Angeles Moreno Uriega: Subsecretary of Programming and Budgeting, Secretary of Fisheries, Deputy and President of the Chamber of Deputies. In August 1994, she won a position in the Senate.

Beatriz Paredes Rangel: one of two elected female governors, Ambassador, Subsecretary of the Interior during two presidential administrations.

Silvia Hernandez Enriquez: elected as Deputy at a young age, served two Senate terms and is currently the Secretary of Tourism.(7)

The careers of these women are impressive. Yet, repeat-office holding combined with the low numbers of women holding cabinet-level posts, which are appointed positions, shows how few opportunities really exist for women in the executive branch. This is not to say that women who are repeat-office holders are denying opportunities to other women. Instead, it illustrates the smallness of the pool of female candidates for such positions, and the likelihood that once women reach elite-level positions that they are more likely to attain other elite-level positions and continue their political careers. This might also indicate that once women have attained positions at this level, that the length of their career is not much different from their male colleagues.

Women's office-holding in the executive branch has been limited to 14 secretariats (Table 3-1). The number of secretariats that have existed since Lázaro Cárdenas first took office is approximately 40, and the number varies with each presidential administration. At present, there are 27 cabinet-level departments in President Ernesto Zedillo's regime, meaning that women hold about 10 percent of the very top cabinet level positions in his administration.

Considering that there has often been more than one subsecretary for most of the cabinet-level agencies, the level of women holding cabinet-level positions in the executive branch in past administrations was never higher than 5 percent.

The Judiciary

The judiciary in Mexico suffers from a lack of political prestige and competition because of widely publicized allegations of corruption, and the fact that little influential legislation comes from the Mexican Supreme Court. Although the judicial branch in Mexico appears to be patterned after the U.S. judicial system, it does not function in the same capacity.

One of the reasons the Mexican Supreme Court has little influence is that it does not establish binding precedents because it rarely reaches "identical conclusions about precisely the same issues repeatedly," and rules on appeals of individuals rather than issues of constitutionality.(8) Another factor contributing to the lack of consensus is that appointments are not life-long, and are politically oriented. The judiciary generally plays a nonpolitical role and serves to affirm the decisions of the president, and to solve the problems of businessmen, landowners and members of the middle class related to taxation and other trade issues.(9)

For whatever reason, the number of women serving on the Supreme Court has only increased gradually. María Cristina Salmoran de Tamayo was the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court. She served through five presidential administrations (1961-1985). For the past two administrations (1982-88, 1988-94) women have made up 20 percent of the Supreme Court. Only one woman sat on the Supreme Court during the three presidential administrations spanning 1958-1976, and two women served during the administration of López Portillo (1976-82).

There is not much lateral mobility between the judiciary and elite positions in other branches. Only two Supreme Court members have held elite-level positions in other branches of government. Martha Chavez Padron held the position of subsecretary in the Secretariat of Agrarian Reform, and served in the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies for one term each before her appointment to the Supreme Court. Supreme Court Justice Victoria Adato Green de Ibarra was appointed Attorney General of the Federal District in the early 1980, and her assistant Attorney General was also a woman. De Silva also reports that a woman once held the position of assistant Attorney General of the Republic, although this was not confirmed by other sources.(10)

The Big Picture: The Distribution of Women in Mexican Politics

Overall, the total number of women in politics and in the political elite has slowly increased with each administration. The rate of increase has gained increasing momentum during the last three sexenios beginning with the López Portillo administration. Although López Portillo appointed the first female Secretary of a cabinet level agency, the actual number of female political elites did not increase past the level set during the Echeverría administration (1970-76).

The number of female politicians in the legislative branch has increased substantially over the past forty years, beginning with the election the first female federal deputy in 1954. The total grew to 100 female deputies during the Salinas administration, higher than the total of elites (79) for the entire period covered in this thesis (1954-1994).

The rate of entry of women into the elite level of Mexican politics via certain decision-making positions discussed above in Chapter 1 has been slower. However, both the number of female politicians and elites increased after 1976.

The number of female elites in the legislative branch held at 2 until 1964, when it rose to 8. The number then increased to 10 during the Echeverría administration (1970-76), 30 during the López Portillo presidency (1976-82), and remained at 37 for both the de la Madrid (1982-88) and Salinas (1988-94) administrations.

Out of the 79 female elite members in my data base, more than half of them obtained their first high position during either the de la Madrid (n=21) and Salinas (n=34) administrations. The number of women entering elite level political posts was very low and grew little until López Portillo's administration.

Opportunities for women to reach top decision-making positions and national elective positions appear to have increased substantially during the de la Madrid (1982-88) and Salinas (1988-94) administrations, with significant increases in both the Chamber of Deputies, the Senate, the Cabinet, Supreme Court and State governorship.

"La flor de un sexenio"

More women are elected to the Senate and Chamber of Deputies during years of presidential elections than during interim elections (Figure 3-2). This phenomenon that has given rise to the aphorism "la participación de la mujer es flor del (or de un) sexenio" (women's participation in politics is the flower of the sexenio).(11)

It appears to have a double meaning because sexenio often refers both to the presidential term of six years, and to the year during which the president is elected. Mainly, this means that the number of women elected and appointed to political office is greater during the year of a presidential election. Another inference is that women's political careers are shorter than those of men, that is, their political careers only last one presidential administration, for whatever reasons.

There are many factors which influence the level of female representation in politics. Elective positions lend themselves more readily to causal analysis due to certain variables which are easily identifiable and quantifiable. These include political system type, which in turn affects turnover or circulation and nominations for candidacy among other things.(12) Because popular wisdom often is grounded in reality, analysis of rates of success of female candidates may illuminate whether presidential campaigning is correlated with a higher awareness of and receptivity to women in politics.

The first half of the period represented in Figure 3-2 demonstrates a very slow, gradual increase. The percentage of female Deputies remained at nearly the same level for the four elections held from 1964-1973. However, there is a definite pattern in the 1976, 1982, and 1988, when the number of women elected to the Chamber of Deputies was indeed higher than in non-presidential election years. Overall, the representation of women in the Chamber continued to rise.

Interestingly, there is no mention of such a pattern in the election of women to similar legislative bodies in other countries. A study of women in the U.S. Congress from 1917-1964 notes "women have been more successful in getting elected to Congress during the years of presidential elections and during World War II; their numbers dropped in times of economic depression."(13) And more recently, the 1992 U.S. House, Senate and state governor elections received widespread media attention as the so-called "Year of the Woman." In the United States, women made up less than 6 percent of the House of Representatives from 1967 to 1989, 6.7 percent in 1991, and in 1992 a noticeable number of women were elected, raising their presence in the House to 10.8 percent in 1993.(14)

This raises some interesting questions for future research: Do voters participate in elections in higher numbers during presidential elections? Or, are voters more receptive to female candidates during presidential elections than during interim elections? It would be quite interesting to correlate patterns in voter turn-out with the patterns in the election of female candidates.
Table 3-2: Age Distribution of Male and Female Politicians in Databases (%)

                    Elite-Level       Single-Term  Female Deputies
Generation        Officeholders                       
(10 year           Male  Female      1952-91 1952-79 1982-91
 cohorts)        (N=1816)(N=79)      (N=181) (N=49)  (N=132)

1900-09           19.0    2.5          2.2     8.2 
1910-19           19.1    5.1          4.4    14.3    0.7
1920-29           14.8   20.3          7.7    20.4    3.0
1930-39           14.4   24.0         23.8    30.6    21.2
1940-49            7.5   31.6         29.3    24.5    31.1
1950-59            2.3   16.5         28.2     2.0    37.9
1960-              1.0                 4.4             6.1
                  78.2  100.0        100.0   100.0   100.0

Note: This table only includes information for valid cases in both databases, which are based on complete information available for politicians. All male elites do not total 100% because 5.6% of the individuals included in Camp's survey were born between 1880-89, and 16.2% 1890-99, but no female politicians were born during those years.

Sources: Information for female politicians from author's database of Mexican female politicians; information on male politicians from Camp, Mexican Political Biographies Project database, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA.

During the recent presidential campaigns, candidates in both the United States and Mexico have made attempts to reach out to women voters and have promised to include more women in decision-making positions. In Mexico, all parties have increasingly included women on the ballot. The dominant political party, Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), has sought to maintain women's support through the establishment of the Consejo para la Integración de la Mujer (Council for the Integration of Women) in the early 1980s.(15)

In 1991, the Consejo was given nominal independence, though it continued to use as one of its objectives "the enrichment of our democratic system and the renovation of our Partido Revolucionario Institucional to reaffirm its role in the national political vanguard."(16) The director of the Consejo, Sofia Valencia Abundis, stressed the role of the Consejo in making women more active as voting citizens and raising their awareness of political processes, as well as helping more women obtain decision-making positions at all levels of government:

We want to help make the women of our country more capable of participating politically through preparation and education. It is definitely not easy, especially from top to bottom. We have to win it by pushing from the bottom up. It is important that they demand fair-play, not just political but personal also.(17)

She stressed that her organization was working to increase the number of women in popularly elective positions, from municipal president or mayor to Senator, and also to increase the recognition of women's abilities in public administration and judiciary so that they could advance into decision-making positions.

Esteves, the director the non-partisan Mujeres para la Democracia (Women for Democracy)(18), emphasized that women hold the majority in the electorate (56 percent) and consciousness-raising and mobilization of this group could result in a permanent change in Mexican "politics as usual".(19)

This interpretation is supported by Patricia Galeana Herrera, a professor at the Matias Romeo Institute for Diplomatic Studies:

It is clear that whatever party really wants to win the vote of the women, it will need a discourse that isn't protectionist like it has been up to now. Women have only been seen as mothers, baby producers, not as a conscious citizen who collaborates in a definite way in the integral development of society.(20)

Distribution of Female Politicians by Age

Female politicians in Mexico appear to be younger than their male colleagues based on cases available (Table 3-2). Tracing the progress of politicians by age cohort tells less about the social prerequisites of career-building than about the mechanisms of political ascent.(21) This will allow analysis of the amount of time necessary to attain elite positions and the amount of circulation of different types of persons in top decision-making positions.

Women born in the youngest age cohort (1960-69) have begun to enter politics, but through the end of the Salinas administration in August 1994, no female elites born after 1959.(22) Unfortunately, I cannot verify the existence of any male elite members born in the same age group in Camp's data bank.

Based on available information, younger women are testing the political waters, if not necessarily staying in politics as a long-term career. Evidence of this can be taken from higher percentages of younger women among single term deputies who held office during the de la Madrid and Salinas administrations (1982-91) in comparison with female and male elites, both of which include politicians who have held elite level office.(23)

It is interesting to note that the number of male political elites does not appear to be increasing as rapidly for the last three age cohorts, while the number of female elites and non-elites has increased with each successive generation. Politicians born since 1940 account for 48.1 percent of female elites, and 61.9 percent of legislative non-elites, compared to 10.4 percent of the valid cases of male elites.

A major factor is the fact that very few older women held elite positions. Other factors that would affect the comparability is the size of the male and the female elite populations. The total number of male elites born after 1940 is two and a half times greater than the total number of female elites. Needless to say, there are many more male politicians at the elite level than female politicians because of the fact that the men had a head start of more than twenty years over the women in contemporary Mexican politics.

Another reason for this difference might be that older male politicians are remaining in politics longer, making it more difficult for younger male politicians to access key decision-making positions. It would follow that it would be more difficult for women to obtain key decision-making positions as well, which might account for the slow growth of female elites in the executive branch. Yet another explanation might be that this difference indicates an influx of younger female politicians who are entering politics at an earlier age and remaining in political careers longer than their predecessors.

Camp predicted that the female members of the political elite would be younger than their male counterparts.(24) He reasoned that traditional sex roles in Mexico had just begun to change and this would allow more young women to become actively involved in political careers. He found that his hypothesis held true for the first two administrations in which women held political office, but due to the low number of female politicians and relatively short period of participation, he did not find a consistent age pattern.(25)

Comparing the ages of male and female deputies at the time of their first high office, Camp concluded that during administrations when the women were slightly younger than the men, it was probably due to the fact that they had gone directly into professional careers. Because of their skills and appropriate political contacts, they were able to achieve success at a young age. During periods when the women were slightly older than the men, it was probably because early marriages and later professional training got their political careers off to a later start. However, given the increase of female elites in the 15 years that have elapsed since his study, age patterns are now more readily evident.

A comparison of the generational representation in each administration illustrates the differences in duration of influence of particular generations of male and female political elite members (Table 3-3).
Table 3-3: Age of Male and Female Elite-Level Office Holders at Time of First High Office (%)


          1900-09    1910-19     1920-29     1930-39     1940-49    1950-59
Admin-    M     F    M     F     M     F     M      F    M     F     M    F
1958-64  32.6       37.9  100.0  12.9          .8      
1964-70  19.0  20.0 36.9         26.8  60.0  10.1  20.0   1.5              
1970-76   1.7  11.1 23.8   11.1  25.1  44.4  30.0  33.3   5.8         2.2
1976-82   1.7       15.7   22.2  30.9  22.2  34.7  33.3  14.0  22.2   2.8
1982-88              8.5         13.7  19.0  39.0  23.8  33.9  47.6   4.5   9.5
1988-94                          14.0   8.8  23.25 20.6  39.5  38.2  23.25 32.4
*The total percent for male elites does not equal 100% in some cases because a number of them were born before 1900. NOTE: This table only contains information for complete cases; a tiny percentage of cases used in both data banks did not include birth dates.

Sources: Author's data bank; Camp, Mexican Political Biographies Project data bank, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA.

In the Chamber of Deputies, there appears to be a trend toward earlier participation by women (Figure 3­4).(26)

For example, women born after 1939 made up nearly half of the female legislators elected during López Portillo's administration; 65 percent of the female legislators during de la Madrid's administration were born after 1939; and 48 percent of the female legislators elected during Salinas' administration were born after 1949.(27)

In the legislative branch, with the exception of the 1958­64 administration, female elites, as a group, are indeed younger than their male counterparts. In the first several administrations during which female elites held positions, their total number is very low, making comparisons to the high number of male elites unreliable and statistically insignificant.

In the three most recent presidential administrations, the increase in younger female elite members in the Legislature is significant. During López Portillo's term (1979­82), 40 percent of female elites were born on or after 1940, compared to only 13.5 percent of the men.

Approximately 60 percent of new female elite-level officeholders during the de la Madrid administration (1982­88) were born on or after 1940 compared to just under 20 percent of the men. The younger male elites seem to be catching up slightly in the Salinas administration (1988­94), making up 29.5 percent of the group born on or after 1940 compared to nearly 70 percent of the women.

A more inclusive comparison may be made by examining the age at entry into first high office over each administration for male and female political elite members of all branches of government (Table 3-3).

The female elites are younger than the male elites, as a group, with the exception of the first administration listed (1958­64). This difference is slight in many of the administrations, and may be due, in part, to the much lower numbers of women who held positions in earlier administration. During the 1964­70 presidential administration, women were much younger than their male counterparts, but again, low numbers of women entering high positions at this time make comparisons difficult.

However, the number of women entering elite positions increased over the following administrations, allowing a slightly more accurate comparison. During the Echeverría (1970­76) and López Portillo (1976­82) administrations there was little difference between the men and women who entered elite level positions, although the women were slightly younger.

During the following two administrations the number of women entering both elective and appointive positions in the Mexican government increased significantly (Figures 3­2 and Figure 3­3). Nearly 67 percent of the women in elite-level positions held their first high office during these two periods, and these women were definitely younger than their male counterparts.

This could be due to the fact that female elites born between 1920­1939, who have the highest rates of repeating in top offices, made up nearly 80 percent of female elites during the Echeverría administration and over half of the group during the next administration. The representation of women born before 1940 declines in the following two administrations, perhaps indicating that they retired from political life at the same time that younger women were entering politics in higher numbers. This also raises the question of repeat­office holding which will be discussed in the next section. Are younger women more likely to repeat office than their predecessors? Do women repeat office at lower rates than their male colleagues?

De Silva noted the "rejuvenation" of the group of female political elites over time and explained this by the increase in education and participation in the job market which helped change sex roles, thus reorienting attitudes of women (and men) regarding women in politics, permitting increased numbers of younger women to seek careers in public administration.(28)

Women who attain elite-level positions are doing so increasingly younger than their predecessors (Figure 3-4). The average age of all women who held elite-level positions, including the pioneer group, is increasingly lower for each successive generation.(29) The same holds true for women who held elite positions in the Executive Branch, who are slightly older than the average of the group overall. The same decline in age exists among first-time office-holders in the Senate: the average declines from 59 years old among the 1910-19 generation to 36.5 among the 1950-59 generation.

Repeat Office Holding

Female politicians do not have shorter careers than their male counterparts, but repeat office­holding among female politicians at the elite level may create an impression of a greater number of women in politics. The total number of elite level positions held by women (150) is nearly double the number of women defined as political elites in this study (79).(30)

Many of the women who attain elite positions repeat offices or continue careers in other branches of the government and go on to hold other elite positions. For example, Graciela Aceves de Romero, the first woman appointed to a Cabinet­level post (Subsecretary of Agriculture, 1964­70), was reelected as deputy three times (1967­70, 73­76, 79­82). Because of her repeat office­ holding, she is counted in three presidential administrations (Figure 3­1), because, unlike most of the other legislative elites, she already had reached the "elite" level before her first deputy post.

Silvia Hernandez Enriquez, the youngest deputy in Mexican political history (1976­79), was also elected to the Senate twice (1982­88, and 1988­94), and currently holds the position of Secretary of Tourism. The two women who have been elected as governors had previously held top­level positions in Congress and the Cabinet. The first female governor in Mexico, Griselda Alvarez Ponce, was elected as Senator (1976­79). Then in 1979 she was elected Governor of Colima. Beatriz Paredes Rangel held two deputyships, and was a Subsecretary prior to her election as Governor of the state of Tlaxcala (1986­92). Dulce María Sauri Riancho served as interim governor of Yucatán (1991­93), and was elected senator the following term.(31)

Little difference exists between men and women when it comes to being re­elected or reappointed: 60.2 percent of all women in this study and 63.3 percent of all men held elite positions only one time (Table 3­4 and Table 3­5).(32)

Female elite members born during the 1930­39

generation have a slightly higher repeat office-holding rate than the men of the same generation. Men repeating three or more times generally do so at higher rates than women. Among women as a group, the 1950­59 generation has a much higher level of repeat office holding. However, the numbers are still growing and there is a high likelihood that within the next six years both the 1940­49 and 1950­59 generations will see an increase in both the number of female elite members and in repeat­office holding rates. The male elite members show a generally consistent rate of repeat office­holding that will probably hold true for future female politicians.

What does this mean for female politicians? One interpretation might be that once they get into the political system that they are able to continue a political career because of the contacts they make initially. Or, since the group of women who have achieved elite positions is so small, it could be that female politicians are carefully selected for these top decision-making positions because while their presence helps legitimize the political system it is unlikely that someone who would rock the boat would be allowed to an influential post.

Smith maintains that the Chamber of Deputies functions less as a training ground for Mexican politicians than as a tool of co-optation, and he refers to it as "an institution of, by and for the ruling elite."(33) As a tool of co-optation, the Chamber of Deputies draws up-and-coming leaders with local bases of support into the promotion system and removes them to Mexico City. Once the new deputies are relocated away from their constituency and support networks, they immediately have to start looking for another job because of the principle of no-reelection. This means that the individual either has to seek a term in the Senate or get a post in the executive branch in order to wait out a term before seeking another seat in the Chamber of Deputies. Since most people are interested in moving up in their careers, "the primary hope for political survival... lies in gratifying elites up above, not representing the interests of the people down below."(34)

It is difficult to assess the characteristics of a group that is growing quite rapidly, but it is apparent that the rate at which women are entering politics in Mexico is increasing. In fact, it is gaining momentum, as evidenced by fact that 43 percent of the entire group of female elites first attained elite positions during the most recent presidential administration (1988-94). Judging by the nearly equal number of women from the 1940-49 and 1950-59 age groups who emerged as elites during this period, it appears that women in each generation are entering elite positions earlier than their predecessors.

The small number of female politicians in the first two administrations (1958-64, 1964-70) during which women attained elite positions makes it difficult to use these groups for comparison. Nonetheless, for both terms, women were between 50-55 when they entered their first high position (Table 3-8).

During the Echeverría administration (1970-76) the majority of women obtaining their first high positions were been between 40-45 years of age, although a third were younger. The concentration of young women increased in the following administration, when nearly one quarter of the women attaining elite positions were younger than 37 years old. During the de la Madrid (1982-88) administration, over one half of the women were under 42 years old, and 10 percent were under 32 years old, and from 1988-94, one third of were in their mid-thirties or younger.

What exactly is the situation of up-and-coming female politicians? While it appears that there is an increased recruitment of politically talented younger women, probably due to the increase in women attending universities and entering professions that lend themselves to political careers, women are also repeating in office at about the same rate as men. Are women being co-opted or recruited into the political system to prevent their mobilization as an interest group? Or are they entering politics based on more altruistic motives and finding themselves in a system that doesn't allow them to operate in the interests of their constituency? Without further research into the activities of women politicians in Congress and in the Cabinet it is difficult to form responses to these critical questions. However, if women are entering politics because they are motivated by altruistic reasons or are "true believers" in democracy, this might be manifested in higher rates of participation in local level politics.

The next chapter will create a broader picture of who Mexican female politicians are, based on their education, family and geographic backgrounds, and career paths.


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