Jackson: Mexico’s nominee for ambassador to Panama, her adversaries and us

Right up there on the stage!
Thespianism — right up there on the stage! Yep. The Mexican president’s appointee for ambassador to Panama is a senator, who came to that elected post with some renown as a performing artist and activist. Elected as a suplente, she occupied the senate seat when the principal candidate left to take a post in the executive branch. Here, Jesusa Rodríguez gets into one of her controversial passions — she’s a vegan, and on ethical grounds opposes bullfighting. Born in Mexico City in 1955 as Laura María de Jesús Rodríguez Ramírez, her university studies were in drama and under the name of Jesusa Rodríguez she pursued a career as a singer, actress, playwright, theater director and performance artist. She’s a lesbian, married to Argentine singer and actress Liliana Felipe. The couple renovated an old theater in Mexico City and turned it into El Hábito, a bar, theater and center for Mexico’s alternative performing arts scenes. As a political activist, she served as master of ceremonies for the current Mexican president at the rallies in all three of his presidential campaigns. One of the causes that she promotes is the preservation of ancient Mexican strains of corn, which were being displaced on markets and threatened with extinction by plants grown with imported and generally genetically modified seeds. The law that the senator proposed passed and Mexico is now creating seed banks to preserve its agricultural heritage. Photo from Senator Rodríguez’s Twitter feed.

Why the big fuss about this lady?

by Eric Jackson

The Panama News has this website, but mostly these days plays out in blogging on its editor’s Facebook page and Twitter feed. On Facebook I posted this article about opposition both here and in Mexico to the nominee that the president of Mexico is sending to be his country’s ambassador here. A reader asked “Why now?” and what follows is my take on the controversy and some of its larger importance in my eyes.

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AMLO’s first nominee for the job ran into feminist objections here, which despite the Mexican president’s grumbling seem to be well founded.

So he then appointed a feminist — a suplente senator, performing artist, lesbian and indigenous lady with views on “culture war” hot-button issues bound to annoy the religious ultra-right that had not objected to a guy forced to resign from a university in the face of a sexual harassment investigation.

People who ought to know better jumped onto the bigots’ dogpile with arguments about how the woman is unqualified. But she has been elected to public office in her own right, which is a lot more qualification than all of the mistresses, in-laws, cousins, party donors and so on that historically have been appointed to diplomatic posts by Panama, Mexico and a bunch of other Latin American countries. (Let’s not let Uncle Sam off the hook for appointing thespians as diplomats, either.)

There is a well organized international religious right network. It has its nodes in Mexico and in Panama. See https://www.thepanamanews.com/2019/08/notes-on-panamas-religious-right-and-its-local-and-international-ties/

In Mexico the religious right carries the baggage of the Cristeros who fought against the Mexican Revolution. They have been losing the culture wars there in recent years.

In Panama the religious right has been more successful in such battles. And they have reached out to the xenophobes, racists and people who want a new constitution. Out of fear of these people, or in hopes of making political alliances with these people, some folks who have ordinarily shown a bit more tolerance have joined in the hue and cry.

I am waiting for LGBT groups, people in the performing arts, feminists and others to speak up about this. Maybe I am naïve.

Grandiose hopes? Unrealistic expectations? Apocalyptic hallucinations? Perhaps, but what I see is a broken constitutional order and a political caste that everyone hates, such that we may very well see a constitutional convention in the next few years.

It’s my hope that there will be an election to draft a new constitution. Also to see at that time a slate of progressive candidates for delegates that stands for a secular, tolerant Panama that’s not paralyzed by all of these special dibs. Maybe that’s not possible.

The indigenista senator speaks in the upper chamber of Mexico’s legislature. Mexican Senate photo.



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