Saints and tyrants

Posted on May 3, 2007


Mexicans must be be the most patient people in the world. They have to be. There’s just no choice.

It’s not just the sheer numbers – 20 million people living in the greater Mexico City area, 4 million vehicles circulating on the city’s roads.

Part of it also has to do with the tyranny of the minority, as the city is susceptible to protests and demonstrations which could shut down parts of the city.

Just today, disruptions came in the form of protests in the city by government employees, led by teachers, against reforms in the public employees’ health and pension systems.

picture by El Universal

This didn’t just create chaos on the city’s major arteries like Contituyentes and Paseo de la Reforma, it also suspended important public transport services like the Metrobus. Some schools arranged for early dismissals so that children won’t be caught in the anticipated spiraling traffic jams.

Mexican friends tell me that it doesn’t take many people to close down roads and cause major disruptions – just 5 people protesting is enough.

And while many Mexico City residents get annoyed or feel like they’re “held hostage” to protests, demonstrations or shut-downs, most just adopt a resigned attitude to it. “Putting a happy face to disasters,” as one of my friends put it.

it’s heartening to see healthy democracy at work. It’s even more admirable the patience displayed by Mexicans. I know I’m not even half as saintly. But trust me, there are occasions when I really wish there was less of a fatalistic attitude here.