Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo Elected as Mexico City’s First Female Mayor
Winning nearly 50% of the vote against six other candidates, Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo was elected mayor of Mexico City on July 1, 2018, at the age of 56. The city had never before had a female nor a Jewish candidate win the office.
Sheinbaum was born on June 24, 1962 in Mexico City. Her grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Bulgaria and Lithuania. She noted that she celebrated Jewish holidays at her grandparents’ homes but other than that identifies as secular. Sheinbaum studied environmental engineering, earning a Master’s at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) and a PhD at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, CA. She then worked at UNAM and later served on a United Nations Climate Change Panel, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Despite her science background, Sheinbaum launched a political career in 2015 when she became the president of the Tlapan neighborhood in Mexico City. She is affiliated with Mexico’s leftist political wing and served as environment minister in 2000 under leftist mayor López Obrador. She joined Obrador’s new National Regeneration Movement party in 2014.
During her presidential bid, Sheinbaum confronted considerable criticism for the collapse of a school in her district resulting from the September 2017 earthquake. She faced criminal charges from the families of the 26 victims who discovered the local government had issued the permits. She denied responsibility.
While Sheinbaum’s Judaism was hardly mentioned in the media during the mayoral campaign, her career exemplifies the changing face of politics worldwide. The fact that Sheinbaum – a woman and a Jew – was able to win a coveted political position in Mexico by a landslide demonstrates the expansion of the political landscape to new identities; this is especially noteworthy considering the predominance of Catholicism in the country. Her win came alongside the victories of many other female political candidates in other Mexico races and only a few months before the election of an unprecedented number of female congressional representatives in the United States.
This entry was created for This Week in History as part of a course on the history of American Jewish women taught by Karla Goldman at the University of Michigan, Winter 2019.
Sources: “5 Things to Know About Claudia Sheinbaum, the First Woman Elected Mayor in Mexico City.” Remezcla, July 2018; Kahn, Carrie. “Meet Mexico City's First Elected Female Mayor;” “Claudia Sheinbaum.” Wikipedia; Wade, Lizzie. “Can This Environmental Engineer-Now Elected Mayor-Fix Mexico City?” Science Mag, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2 July 2018.
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo Elected as Mexico City’s First Female Mayor." (Viewed on January 26, 2021) <https://jwa.org/thisweek/jul/01/2018/claudia-sheinbaum-pardo-elected-mexico-citys-first-female-mayor>.