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A Woman Could Lead Mexico, While Millions of Domestic Workers Remain in the Shadows
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By Associated Press
Published 2 weeks ago on
May 28, 2024

As Mexico approaches the potential election of its first female president, domestic workers like Concepción Alejo continue to face harsh conditions, hoping for greater recognition and improved labor rights amid the country's progress in gender equality in politics. (AP/Marco Ugarte)

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MEXICO CITY — Concepción Alejo is used to being invisible.

Alejo, 43, touches her face up with makeup on a Tuesday morning, and steps out of her tiny apartment on the fringes of Mexico City. She walks until the cracked gravel outside her home turns into cobblestones, and the campaign posters coating small concrete buildings are replaced with the spotless walls of gated communities of the city’s upper class.

It’s here where Alejo has quietly worked cleaning the homes and raising the children of wealthier Mexicans for 26 years.

Alejo is among approximately 2.5 million Mexicans — largely women — who serve as domestic workers in the Latin American nation, a profession that has come to encapsulate gender and class divisions long permeating Mexico.

Many Domestic Workers Face Very Low Pay

Women like her play a fundamental role in Mexican society, picking up the burden of domestic labor as a growing number of women professionals enter the workforce. Despite reforms under the current government, many domestic workers continue to face low pay, abuse by employers, long hours and unstable working conditions some equate to “modern slavery.”

Now, as Mexico is on its way to elect its first female president, women like her who feel forgotten by their government hope that having a female leader might shift the balance in their favor.

“I’ve never voted all these years, because it’s always the same for us whoever wins. … When have they ever listened to us, why would I give them my vote?” Alejo said. “I have hope that at least by having a woman, maybe things will be different.”

Still, as two female politicians — former Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum and former senator Xóchitl Gálvez — are leading the race to the June 2 presidential election, it’s unclear how much it will shift the realities of working women in the country.

‘Your Life Isn’t Your Own’

Born to a poor family in the central Mexican state of Puebla, Alejo dropped out of school at age 14 because her parents had no money to pay for her to continue studying. Instead, she and two of her sisters each moved to Mexico City to do one of the few jobs available to them as lower class women: domestic work.

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