10 Ways Mexicans Can Reclaim Their Troubled Country, According to Denisse Dresser

Denisse Dresser. Photo by Pablo H. Originally published in Flickr under Creative Commons License.

Denisse Dresser. Photo by Pablo H. Originally published in Flickr under Creative Commons License.

During the presentation of her book “Mexico, el país de uno” (the country of one's own), political commentator and author Denisse Dresser shared with attendees of her talk as well as YouTube viewers 10 ways she thinks that citizens can “regain Mexico”, a country that according to the author “has been rented to its inhabitants for far too long”. For Dresser, Mexico has for far too long “belonged to its religious leaders […] to its conquerors, to its liberals, to its dictators, to its PRI partisans, to its imperial presidents, to its monopolists, to its political parties and to its elites”.

Dresser makes reference to the ills that have made Mexico's recent history full of difficult challenges. From corruption in politics to social inequalities, Mexico's path has not been free of hardship, specially for the poor. The most recent troubles are deeply connected with drug-related violence, and the war on drugs. This has also resulted in what Dresser sees as a certain indifference that needs to surpassed, so Mexico can get back to its real owners: its citizens.

Dresser’s words are addressed to a society in difficult times; her ideas are based on facts that very difficult to be ignored. However, the challenges she listed and the hardships she reflected on can easily be those of many other countries both in the region and the world:

México vive obsesionado con el fracaso, con lo que pudo ser, pero no fue… con lo perdido, lo olvidado, lo maltratado […] Estos son tiempos nublados de muertos y heridos, de poderes fácticos y reformas que realmente no los confrontan del todo.

Mexico is obsessed with failure. With what could have been, but wasn’t. With what was lost, forgotten, mistreated […] These are foggy times of the dead and the wounded, of factual powers and reforms that don’t really deal with them completely…

 Thus, to “regain Mexico”, Dresser proposed 10 simple steps, summarized here:

  1. To be irreverent to power: “It’s vital to be a full embodied citizen”.
  2. To vote and “understand the candidate, scrutinize him/her […] to know where he/she comes from and where she/he goes”.
  3. To be informed: “I wish you’d understand that if you get most information from TV, you won’t be exposed to big pieces of the country’s reality. I wish you’d understand that the strongest limits to free speech come frequently from [the TV networks]  Televisa and Television Azteca.”
  4. To engage with and evaluate your legislator, municipal representative or governor: “I wish you’d understand this person is your employee, because his and her salary comes from the taxes that, I hope, you’re paying”.
  5. To understand that “this famous war on drugs […] has not produced the results that were expected of it [but has instead] worsened the problems it had set out to solve”.
  6. To understand that Mexico “will only prosper when its people are educated, and quite well educated”.
  7. To oppose monopoly: “There’s no easier way to become rich in this country than being licensed to manage some public asset”.
  8. To collect the garbage outside your home: “To become responsible for that public space that is your country”.
  9. To connect with others through online citizen media: “I wish you’d understand that it is fundamental to strengthen the attachment between new technologies and the exercise of political and civil rights in Mexico”.
  10. To recognize “that it is our duty to give something back to our country. To give some of our time, our talent, our energy”.

The full speech, in Spanish, can be seen here:

Throughout her speech, Dresser reflected on what it means to be a citizen nowadays, and what the challenges for Mexico’s new generation of citizens are. She mentioned examples, recommended authors, films, readings, and online newspapers that could encourage this change in people’s mentalities. 

Another important point of the talk were the vices that have come from Mexico’s political history. Dresser laments the comeback of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI, in Spanish), the political party that ruled the country for over 70 years and which returned to power with Enrique Peña Nieto’s presidency:

Vivimos de paliativo en paliativo, del “Laberinto de la soledad” al yugo de las bajas expectativas. Y aunque es cierto que algunas de las prácticas del pasado han sido enterradas, numerosos vicios institucionales asociados con el autoritarismo y el viejo PRI siguen ahí, coartando la representación ciudadana, y la gobernabilidad democrática.

We go from palliative to palliative, from “The Labyrinth of Solitude” to the oppression of having low expectations. And even when it’s true that some of the practices of the past have been buried, numerous institutional vices associated with authoritarianism and the old PRI are still there, restricting citizen participation and democratic governability.

Mexicans have more in common with Frodo, the hobbit burdened with saving all of Middle-earth in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, than they might think, according to Dresser. She underlined how most Mexicans, like Frodo, are called to be a hero in spite of themselves:

El hobbit Frodo es un héroe renuente. Frodo no quiere asumir la tarea que le ha sido encomendada. Frodo preferiría quedarse en el Shire y vivir en paz ahí. Y en México muchos Frodos actúan así, piensan así, viven así. Prefieren criticar a los que gobiernan en lugar de involucrarse para que lo hagan mejor. Eligen la pasividad complaciente en lugar de la participación comprometida. Pero Frodo no tiene otra opción. Y ustedes, los ciudadanos mexicanos, tampoco.

Frodo, the hobbit, is a reluctant hero. Frodo doesn’t want to assume the task that has been given to him. Frodo would rather stay in The Shire and live there in peace. And in Mexico, lots of Frodos act like this, think like this, live like this. They prefer to criticize those in power instead of engaging so they can do it better. They choose obliging passivity over engaged participation. But Frodo has no choice. And you, Mexican citizens, have no choice either. 

At the conclusion of her talk, Dresser summed up in a hopeful tone, reminding what is most important:

Creo que es muy emocionante ser mexicano en esta época, aunque uno tenga que coexistir con el regreso del PRI. Yo agradezco esa dádiva. No siento que seamos incambiables, no siento que seamos inamovibles, no creo que seamos inferiores a otros ni que nos merezcamos menos. Somos de la región más transparente del aire, venturosamente, somos de México.

I think it’s very exciting to be Mexican in these times, even if one has to coexist with the return of the PRI. I’m thankful for that gift. I don’t feel we’re unchangeable, I don’t feel we’re immovable, I don’t think we’re inferior or deserve less. We’re the most transparent region of the air. We’re, providentially, from Mexico.

The video of the speech has 79,000 views on YouTube and has attracted interesting comments from concerned netizens and viewers. Most of them welcomed Dresser’s ideas and shared the 10 ways that could make a good Mexican citizen, according to her.

Nevertheless, other comments were still doubtful and pessimistic, given the difficulty of the circumstances. ThousandYoung wrote:

Toda la historia ha demostrado que sólo ha habido cambios a través de una revolución a causa de un gobierno inútil o fallido. Todos los gobiernos se corrompen después de determinado tiempo. Entonces lo que se necesita es un sacrificio y otra renovación.

History has shown that change has only come through a revolution after a useless or failed government. All governments become corrupt after a certain time. Then what is needed is sacrifice, and a renewal.

But in the end, most opinions were like Alberto Escobar's, supportive of Dresser's ideas: 

Me inspira esta mujer a exigir lo que merecemos

This woman inspires me to demand what we deserve.


  • Alfred

    Congratulations for this very useful and clear report. However, I cannot but mark out a misquotation. You cited Alfonso Reyes as the author of the expression “the most transparent region” (La región más transparente), when it really belongs to Carlos Fuentes, one of whose main books is so called. It is true that Alfonso Reyes used the expression in his works, but I rather think it is a marginal use of the expression, while in Fuentes we find the meaning that prevails today.

  • Subroutine

    Mexico is a failed state. It is corrupt from the top to the bottom. It is controlled by an oligopoly, drug lords, and a myriad group of thugs and murderers. It’s basically a North African country, not with Islam as its driving force but with dollars permeating all of government, law enforcement, and society. Wall it off and forget it.

    • KyleVPirate

      You really do not know much of Mexico if you talk like that, let alone any North African country plus it has nothing to do with religion, religion is just a tool to manipulate the masses and which is widely enforced in the middle east, it all comes to what Denise Dresser said which can be stated in any country. Greed and the lust for power is what causes such strife in countries and which causes corruption.

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