Mexican ruling party PRI Mayor Javier Garfio Pacheco has issued an apology after comments at a rally suggesting that female domestic employees not keep up with current events because “the news is not that good,” and instead to watch Mexican primetime soap operas, known as telenovelas.
At a rally celebrating Mexico’s Female Domestic Employee Day, Pacheco presided over raffle festivities that included a television giveaway. Describing the awards, he told the crowd:
[Plasma screens] are the most in demand for you to watch your novelas during your resting time. Don’t watch the news because don’t think the news is that good; instead watch the soap operas– and above all, the good soap operas– so I wish you all the best of luck… you can win a gift and we can pamper you all.
Garfio Pacheco, who is currently the Mayor of Chihuahua, later clarified to reporters that he had attempted a “joke” and did not mean to make a sexist comment. “We have joking moments when the atmosphere allows it and if anyone feels personally aggrieved, I offer them my apology,” he said. “There was never the intent of offending anyone, and I lament that this has elevated itself to other venues” outside of the event. Garfio Pacheco added that he believed that, if anyone in the audience were actually offended, he would have received a colder reception at the event.
Nonetheness, the leadership of the opposition PAN party has already condemned the statements and has accused President Enrique Peña Nieto of helping create an atmosphere at his party where politicians are comfortable making sexist statements. PAN Secretary General Adriana Díaz Negrete said of the statements: “this attitude, besides insulting the intelligence of citizens, gives continuity to national policies established by President Enrique Peña Nieto, by indicating that governments value entertainment over education, which Mexicans have a right to.”
The statement also alludes to Peña Nieto’s wife, First Lady Angélica Rivera, who was a telenovela star before becoming First Lady.
The PAN has had similar, if not worse, issues with its male politicians making overtly sexist statements, however. As the Mexican publication Entre Lineas notes, Baja California Governor Kiko Vega, a PAN politician, remarked at an International Women’s Day event that women “are great for taking care of children, maintaining the home, and bringing the husband his slippers.”
Feminist writers have also noted that these remarks do not exist in a vacuum, but in a society plagued with domestic violence issues. A study found that, in 2014, one woman died as a result of domestic violence every nine days in Mexico. Polls show that two-thirds of Mexican women have experienced some form of domestic violence. Nonetheless, Mexican women are rapidly surpassing their male counterparts in attainment of college education.