The papers on every news kiosk in Mexico City in late August, 2013, blared denunciations: “Imagine – Mexico Without Soccer!” screamed one newspaper. Pictures of crying children stuck outside of a stadium clutching the colors of their favorite team were plastered on the front page of another paper. The target of the media’s ire was the National Coordinator of Education Workers, or CNTE, Mexico’s nationwide teachers’ union, who had the previous day shut down a soccer match by surrounding the stadium. For weeks, crowds of teachers had been disrupting anything they could in Mexico’s capital, including the massive Benito Juarez International Airport. The teachers were out in force to protest against President Enrique Pena Nieto’s (or EPN’s) proposed changes to the country’s education system, political system, and petroleum. Named the “Pacto Por Mexico” (Pact For Mexico), an eerie echo of the U.S. Republican Party’s 1990’s “Contract With America”, these “reforms” were widely seen as blatant neoliberal attacks upon the Mexican body civic.
EPN’s plans for education were based on the government’s call to improve the admittedly-dismal state of the country’s education system. However, the proposed solution was a direct assault on the teachers’ union, with a major bone of contention being a proposed test that every teacher in Mexico would have to complete, and the union warned that those teachers who failed the test would lose their jobs. The government countered that this was fiction, and a bitter debate raged in different publications and websites, with the charmingly-named “Mexicanos Primero” or “Mexicans First” website providing a slick counterpoint to the unions’ arguments.