The XX Factor

Argentine President Cristina Kirchner’s Smart Advice for Mexico’s First Female Presidential Candidate

Josefina Vázquez Mota with Mexican President Felipe Calderón.

Photo by LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images

Earlier this month, Josefina Vázquez Mota became Mexico’s first female presidential candidate backed by a major party. Her nomination has been called both a step forward for Mexico and a shrewd move by the beleaguered conservative National Action Party.

In the fall, when she was still a “precandidate,” I heard Vázquez Mota speak. In a wide-ranging conversation that covered education (she used to be the country’s education secretary), the drug wars, and other topics, she also told the assembled group of journalists and policymakers about wise words Argentine President Cristina Kirchner once shared with her. Speaking about how to be a female politician in Latin America, Kirchner told Vázquez Mota, “One should govern without your mustache on”—or don’t try to be a man. (I should note here that I don’t speak Spanish, and this is how the translator rendered her words.)

It seems that Vázquez Mota has taken that advice to heart. The New York Times noted last week that she is using her gender to her advantage, “not as a feminist but as a comforting maternal figure rooted in traditional values.”

Along those same lines, NPR recently asked whether she can fight the country’s culture of machismo. NPR reports:

On the campaign trail, Vázquez Mota embraces that she’s a woman and mother, though she avoids marketing herself as a candidate specifically for women. Earlier this month, her rival Pena Nieto said he didn’t know the price of tortillas because he was not “the woman of the house.” Vázquez Mota’s response? She has raised children and kept the fridge stocked, she says — all while running the federal social services agency.