SEATTLE — In Mexico City, street vendors make up a significant portion of the economy. In 2003, the number of vendors was estimated at 199,328.
The Borgen Project had a chance to speak with Miriam Rel, a local vendor selling wrestling masks in the crowded streets of downtown Mexico City. Racks filled with bright colorful masks of famous Mexican wrestlers filled her stand.
“We have Blue Demon, El Santo, Mistico,” Miriam said, passionately describing some of her masks.
Dating back to 1863, wrestling has become a part of Mexican culture. Otherwise known as Lucha Libre, wrestling is a highly popular form of entertainment that also encompasses significant historical value.
“Wrestling is unique to Mexico,” she said. “In fact, my father was a wrestler many years ago.” Although it was a Wednesday afternoon, Miriam’s 11-year-old brother stood next to her.
“Wrestling masks, El Santo, Blue Demon!” he yelled.
Daniel is just one of the hundreds of thousands of children working on the streets. Mexico is among the top 14 richest countries in the world by GDP, yet over half its population of 53 million people live in poverty, forcing many children to end their education early in order to help their family make ends meet. According to a study released by UNESCO, 21 percent of all Mexican youths between the ages of seven and 14 drop out of school.
“For me personally, in comparison to the previous years, the economy has slowly been falling down because the forms of watching wrestling keep on changing. Wrestling before used to be at its peak, and now it’s dying out,” Miriam said.
Income inequality in Mexico remains a major issue. Being among the richest countries in the world and also having one of the highest poverty rates entails extreme forms of inequality; 1 percent of its population owns half the country’s wealth.
“Evidently, here in Mexico there are a lot of zones where you have very rich people, and next to them you have really poor people. So there isn’t really a middle class, there’s either an upper class or a lower class. The problem of income inequality in Mexico needs to be addressed.”
Moreover, Mexico has been overwhelmed by violence in the last decade, following the government’s crackdown on drug cartels. Since 2006, organized crime has accounted for 40 to 50 percent of all homicides.
“The violence has worsened; in the north and south there is a lot of violence, but in the center, it’s rather calm.”
The drug war has opened the door for more corruption inside the government. It has also heightened inequality in Mexico; research points to a causal relationship between crime and income inequality.
“It’s something that is inevitably part of Mexico; I think it’s part of the government,” Miriam said.
– Marcelo Guadiana