The Saeculum Decoded
A Blog by Neil Howe
Jun 072012

Allow me to turn our attention again to generations abroad—this time to the emerging Millennial Generation in Mexico. And to offer an account about what’s happening generationally in Mexico in the context of the 2012 general election (scheduled for July 1, 2012), I am going to quote at length from a news-rich report emailed to me by Edwin Carcano Guerra. Edwin is a Gen-X polymath:
He teaches business and economics in the International Business College of Yucatan; he starts businesses; he appears frequently in the Mexican media; and he has written books on both economics and chess (check out his study of “Bobby Fisher”). But what’s most interesting for our purposes is that he has been studying the generational history of Mexico for years—and it is in the course of that study that we met and became friends.

Before letting him speak, let me just highlight one great irony in the “Mexican Spring” he describes. Mexico’s rising Millennials—potentially a hero-archetype generation—is protesting against the political tactics of the PRI (the Institutional Revolutionary Party), which was originally created by the last hero generation during the last Fourth Turning. The one-party PRI state was the final and exhausted outcome of an era of indescribable chaos and suffering—beginning with the Mexican Revolution of 1910 and extending through the civil wars and regimentation of the 1920s and ‘30s practically until the eve of World War II.

What will be the final outcome of the era of troubles in which Mexico currently finds itself? Hard to say. We’ll have to have to watch how effectively the young mobilize—and where their mentors (like Edwin) lead them.

Now, Edwin:

For the last six years Mexico has faced tremendous challenges. The War on Drugs has taken nearly 90,000 lives. Young people no longer feel free to go out at night or have fun like students did fifteen years ago. After graduation it’s difficult to find a job. A few in power seem to get everything and the rest are on their own. Mexican youth are tired of it, and they are beginning to fight against the worst of Mexico: corruption, mass-media manipulation, and wealth in the hands of the few.

The Mexican Millennial Generation was born between 1983 and 2006. They represent the largest and most educated generation in Mexico’s history. History indicates that they may turn out to be a civic powerhouse.  The country’s previous Hero Archetype generations have produced 28 presidents and governed 73 years out of 200 since independence from Spain.

President Carlos Salinas de Gortari governed Mexico in 1994. During his term he worked hard to make the country one of the world’s strongest economies, and he spoke constantly about economic and social progress. Mexicans believed in him and the future looked very bright. That year, the number of Mexican births reached its historic peak (according to INEGI) as Mexican families looked forward to the future.

Those 1994 babies—right in the middle of the Millennial Generation—are turning 18 this year and they will be voting for the first time in a Presidential Election. The presidential candidates are prepared for “business as usual.” But they won’t get it. They have missed the generational shift from pragmatic young Gen Xers to the civically engaged Millennials. As a Hero Archetype generation, the Millennials are known for their community spirit, their technological prowess, and their support for strong national institutions.

In the 2012 presidential election we have four contenders:

• Enrique Peña Nieto (Gen Xer, born in 1966): He belongs to the PRI and is now the top contender in the polls (42.80%).

• Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (Boomer, born in 1953): This is his second run for the Mexican Presidency. He belongs to the PRD, Mexico’s left-wing party. Today he ranks number two in the polls, though still far behind Nieto (27.40%).

• Josefina Vazquez Mota (Gen Xer, born in 1961): She belongs to the right-wing party PAN. Today she ranks third place in the polls (26.20 %).

• Gabriel Quadri de la Torre (Boomer, born in 1954): He belongs to the PANAL party, which is also the Teacher’s Union Party. Today he is the last contender in the polls (3.60%).

These candidates are finding themselves embroiled in a new Millennial movement. It all started in May 11 when candidate Enrique Peña Nieto visited the Ibero University and students began shouting protests against him. The PRI tried to minimize the student revolt and the mass media ignored the students, suggesting that they were not real students but hired agitators with orders to sabotage Nieto’s presentation.

However, 131 students released a video that day identifying themselves as real student-objectors and not hired agitators. The video was uploaded to YouTube and heavily promoted on Twitter. Soon, sympathy from other students and other Universities began to mount. In order to show their support, the phrase “I am 132” gained new currency. What began as a social network movement grew rapidly into a large-scale national political movement. The Topic Trend #YoSoy132 became the number one Twitter Topic Trend not only in Mexico, but internationally, as students from around the globe gathered to support their Mexican counterparts.

The movement is being called “The Mexican Spring”—and it is just the tip of the iceberg of what this Millennial generation is likely to accomplish. They see their movement as an outgrowth of the financial crisis, of Mexico’s dead and abducted political activists, and of the poverty in the nation’s rural areas. They want a fair country in which the masses and not the elite elect the government. They are against Enrique Peña Nieto and protest the support he receives from the main TV stations in Mexico, Televisa and TV Azteca.

The TV Stations eventually surrendered and accepted some of the student demands, but that is just the beginning. Student protestors from 54 private and public universities recently held their first congress in the Mexican National Autonomous University. They want peace, prosperity, democracy, dignity, justice, and a Mexico free of corruption. They don’t want to live with the injustice of the past and don’t want to go back to the totalitarian regime of the 70 years of the PRI. They are committed to monitoring the elections to ensure that they are fair. After the elections, they will push an agenda to supervise the elected President and peacefully enact change.

This movement represents the political baptism of the Mexican Millennial Generation. Mexico, like the United States, is going through a Fourth Turning, which will present new challenges and opportunities for broad structural changes. This rising Millennial generation will shape 20th century politics, and help determine the country’s new direction. Thanks to Neil Howe and William Strauss, we can understand these fundamental generational shifts, understand what they mean, and look ahead to what is likely to come next.

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  • Unfortunately the #yosoy132 movement has been kidnapped by left wing candidate Lopez Obrador’s interest, allthough they say they have no political interest nor they favor a specific candidate, it is well known that some of its most visible leaders are all supporters of this leftist candidate and they are pushing the movement to support his ideas and attack anyone that thinks different. A good opportunity for real change has been lost.

  • The #yosoy132 movement should have tried to keep an impartial posture, specially in a country in which many of its problems are caused by a permanent political contamination of every issue. This contamination has caused division among mexicans. I thought this movement, being led by university students of a new generation (with the characteristic described by Edwin in the article above), would not be manipulated by politicians, but once again, a student movement falls into the service of politicians (left wing politicians)

    • And you are right, just read what my comments above and that is exactly my perception.

  • What I have
    learned in the past months and my perception of the “Mexican Spring
    Movement” is that their hidden and primarily reason of being is that they
    are asking for pluralism of the mass media. This is a direct message to someone
    inside the government in order to release the license for a new TV signal “for
    MVS”,meaning; if we look deeper MVS is owned part by Carlos Slim and over the
    last 10 years they have been fighting for a license, they need it and will make
    everything in their hands to make it happen. What does this mean? The richest
    man of the world owns Telmex, Telcel and MVS radio; he of course has the means
    to make it happen. If we look deeper into what could this mean for our society
    is the Monopoly of the Mexican Mass Media. I believe and my perception is that
    this is the objective of the movement owned by someone powerful who just gave
    the order to make it happen just before elections. Why? Because it is a
    strategy, the center of the eye will be the elections and not the possibility
    to enable another license for this new project, “the monopoly of the Mexican
    mass Media.”

  • Genaro Calderón

    I agree with the percetion , now there are some people leaving the #yosoy132 and creating a new movement called #generacionmx , it was impossible to think that the original movement  would remain without being used by opportunists on the left wing. That’s what they do,  and what they were made for.
    It is a shame that the” Mexican spring” step in a blink of an eye to a ” Mexican autumn”.

  • Erika McDonough

    I am a
    Mexican that just graduated from my studies of Chemical Pharmaceutical Biology,
    and I find it difficult to get a job during these days, therefore I think that
    our effort should be directed to do a good work and not doing disturbs in
    schools and streets. All the students confuse the civic duty of contribute
    ideas for a better government, with shouting slogans against people, instead of
    doing their job as students and workers; the government will always be “the
    government”, we cannot keep depending and relying on them, the change is on us.

    I´m not
    agree with the people of #yosoy132 movement because if you don´t think like them,
    they attack you, they do not accept others opinions. Where is the freedom to
    choose our political representatives that they profess? I know that this group
    started as a different movement but they have become a movement manipulated by other

  • Mttdrn83

    It seems Mexico appears to have a 100-year cycle based on the timing of their fourth turnings for the last two centuries.  First their was the war for independence in the 1810s-1820s, then there was the Mexican Revolution of the 1910s-1930s, and the current Mexican Spring breaking out now in the 2010s.  I’m still curious about what the generational boundries in the United Kingdom are.

    • Edwin

      There was
      also during the 1710s the War of Spanish Succession. Mexico has a Spanish
      Heritage and it has similar cycles to Spain. The War of the Spanish Succession
      was the struggle between the Habsburgs and the Bourbons to inherit the Spanish
      Crown. That War was very big and it reached every corner of the world.
      Eventually Luis XIV of France won the war. Today the Bourbons still rule in