Stories of underdevelopment

Juan TadeoThis post, written by Juan Tadeo, is one of three winners of the Blog Action Day 2014 competition, a movement supported by Oxfam and Global Voices, among other organizations. Juan Tadeo is an independent blogger based in Mexico. He blogs about justice, politics, transparency and sometimes music and football to make it all bearable. He joined Global Voices in 2011, but has his own blog.

Mexico, a country where the local police illegally take away the freedom of young protesters and hand them over to organized crime (Ayotzinapa); where the army takes away civilians' lives in brutal circumstances (Tlatlaya) without any senior public servant giving an explanation for the events. A country which, in 2015, will see the president take delivery of a new Boeing 787 Dreamliner with a commercial value (with no special equipment) of approximately US $257.1 million, while half the population lives in poverty, according to official figures.

Francisco and Abelarda

Mexico is the setting for these stories. The country that sees the coexistence of an individual like Carlos Slim, who has several times been named the richest man on the planet, and another such as Francisco, who has no home to live in or even roof to sleep under, which is why he sleeps on a bench in broad daylight, at one of the many public transport stations in the Mexican capital.

Other people, such as Abelarda, are living in poverty like Francisco. Many of them suffer from ancestral poverty, which afflicts millions of Mexicans, and are particularly vulnerable due to alcoholism or other addictions. They have virtually no possibility of receiving treatment from the public health services (which are allegedly universal, according to the federal government's claims) or of being helped to overcome their current situation.

Abelarda does not sleep while Francisco sleeps; she eats some food that she was able to retrieve from the bin, seated on a bridge that leads to a Metro station. Afterwards, she asks people to help her with a few coins to buy a “little atole” to drink.


Guadalupe is a woman of around 50 years of age who arrived in Mexico City from Guerrero several decades ago. She does not live in poverty; she has other problems. Of her four daughters, three are single mothers and the other is married to a man who works for a cleaning services company and receives the minimum wage. Guadalupe already has nine grandchildren, one of whom is disabled and requires special care. In order to take him to the private charity center (public health services are not an option for him) Guadalupe has to take two buses, the Metro and a trolley bus, three times a week.

After getting on the trolley bus (which did not approach the pavement or allow passengers to board in the designated area) with her daughter and grandson, Guadalupe notices a look of contempt given to her grandson by some of the passengers. Nobody offered them a seat so that they could travel to their destination more comfortably.

Íñigo and Romina

Íñigo and Romina are also Mexican, but their situation is different from that of Guadalupe, Abelarda and Francisco. They each have a place to live and never use public transport. Though they enjoy good health, the public services are not an option for them either, since when they need medical attention they are treated at Grupo Ángeles hospitals. Íñigo's father is a public servant within the legislature, where he has been paid a salary for three terms, representing two different political parties. Romina is the daughter of a single mother who has achieved a reasonable amount of success in the world of finance.

Although they have not been in a relationship for very long, they have decided that they will never have children. Íñigo hopes to secure a study grant to do an MBA in England, while Romina has not decided what career path to follow. She is in no hurry.

For them, the rain and bad weather are only a concern on days like 11 and 12 October 2014, when they went to the Capital festival after paying 1,878 pesos (US $139) each, equivalent to 27 days of the minimum wage, not including delivery costs, 100 pesos for parking and around 700 pesos spent on beer and food. They decided not to buy VIP tickets, saying “they are overpriced”. As he was leaving the event on Sunday 12, a taxi driver nearly ran Íñigo over, shouting “stuck-up bastard!” before continuing on his way at excessive speed.

Pizarrón and Pizarrín

In the midst of inequality, there are some people with a sense of humour. Pizarrón and Pizarrín are young men who live in Xochimilco, in southern Mexico City. They have left school because they each have to support their family financially. Pizarrín wanted to be an architect, but for now the only things he is involved in designing are the jokes that he and his companion tell on board the minibuses that travel to the city centre, in exchange for a few pesos from passengers.

When they take off their make-up and baggy clothes, these two young men are discriminated against because of their sexual preferences, and whenever they show their affection in public they get disapproving looks from people, at best; on one occasion they were beaten up by a group of (allegedly drunk) university students on a Metro station platform. When the police arrived, one of the officers said to his colleague: “Be careful with the blood, partner, because they probably have AIDS”.

Poverty in Mexico is no laughing matter. It is an economic problem with profound social consequences, such as discrimination and violence, which only lead to crime and impunity. In this blog, we are fighting for the creation of public policies to tackle poverty as a priority based on a high-quality, fully inclusive educational model, seeking to combat inequality and classism among Mexicans. These policies must, of course, be coherent with an effective system of accountability to which all public servants are bound.

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