two thumbs up for political change: ivonne ortega,
mexico’s youngest governor, after casting her vote in may.
ME X ICO’S Y UC A- attempts to paint her as part of the “old Mexico’s political wars.
t á n s t a t e h a s PRI,” her fresh face and approachable All the same, even her own party
always had a style captured popular attention. didn’t give her much of a chance.
strong independent streak (it once In fact, she benefited from the Opinion surveys showed she was
declared its independence from the reforms instituted by the PRI to 20 points behind the Partido Acción
federal government), especially in open up the once-ruling party. Local Nacional ( PA N ) ca nd id ate five
politics. Now with the youngest gov- party bosses agreed to a new system months before election day. But
ernor in Mexico, Yucatán can also of selecting candidates by public Ortega applied her talent for retail
boast of having a young, rising star. opinion polls, thus eliminating the politics and her determination—she
Ivonne Ortega, 34, elected in May as advantages of veteran backroom con- shed over 100 pounds for the cam-the state’s first woman governor, has tenders such as former PRI President paign—to emerge the victor.
already become a symbol of change Dulce Maria Sauri. Also helpful was Now she is turning the same com-at the local level and within the Parti- the fact that Ortega is a product of bination of energy and single-mind-
do Revolucionario Institutional (PRI). Yucatán’s grassroots political ferment. edness to the goal of transforming
Ortega is no stranger to politics. In 1998, she was elected mayor of her one of Mexico’s poorest states into a
She’s the niece of Victor Cervera home town of Dzemul and went on bustling economy. High on her agen-Pacheco, who served two terms as to win a seat in the state Congress in da is the construction of a high-speed
Yucatán governor (1984 to 1988 and 2001. Her upward trajectory contin- train linking the tourist center of
1995 to 2001). Still, Ortega had to leap- ued with her election to the national Cancún, the Mayan ruins of Chichén
frog over the party hierarchy to beat Chamber of Deputies in 2003. By the Itzá, and Yucatán’s colonial capital of
four candidates in the primaries and time she entered the race for gover- Mérida. Skeptics may wonder about
then emerge as the underdog winner nor, after serving a brief term in the her ability to carry through on her
in the general election. Despite rivals’ Senate, she was already a veteran of plans: Ortega never completed a term
AP Photo/IsrAel leAl
26 Americas Quarterly fall 2007