Mexico’s Future

 

 
Paloma Wired cover

Paloma Noyola, Wired magazine October 2013

 

Demetrio Rodríguez Farjardo

Demetrio Rodríguez Farjardo

When it comes to the young who are Mexico’s future, the media hit a mother lode of good news in October. At the 2013 Mexican Science and Engineering Fair held in Guadalajara October 3-5, Demetrio Rodríguez Farjardo took first place with his four-year-old project involving the use of scorpion venom to fight breast cancer. Rodríguez will represent Mexico in the 2014 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles, California.

Jordi Muñoz

Jordi Muñoz

On October 23, twenty-six-year-old Jordi Muñoz became the first-place winner of the 2013 Mexican Student Entrepreneur Award. In 2006, without a college degree and newly married, Muñoz began contributing to DIYdrones.com, an online community for drone enthusiasts started by Chris Anderson, editor of Wired magazine at the time. The two went on to found 3D Robotics, which raked in ten million dollars last year selling drones to clients that include Disney, the U.S. Army and universities. Muñoz and four other entrepreneur winners will represent Mexico at the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards November 22-24 in Washington, D.C.

Sergio Juárez Correa with Paloma Noyola

Sergio Juárez Correa with Paloma Noyola

The most-mined story recently has been Paloma Noyola’s. The twelve-year-old seventh-grader lives in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Matamoros, across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Texas. Her father, who died of cancer, was a pepenador. By day, he scavenged the nearby garbage dump for anything that could be sold or recycled. At night, he listened to Paloma and her  seven siblings talk about their school day. Last year with the help of teacher Sergio Juárez Correa, Paloma took first place in Mexico on the math portion of the national Enlace exams and third in Spanish. What catapulted her to overnight fame, though, was a piece in the October issue of Wired. Her photo graces the magazine cover with the article title, “The Next Steve Jobs.”

Meanwhile the Triqui basketball wonders have become media darlings since they blew by, through, around and over stellar competitors for an astounding championship in Córdoba, Argentina (see my October 21 blog post). Newspapers carry daily stories, editorial columns, letters to editors and updates about the boys and their inspiring coach, Sergio Zúñiga.

Triquis and Bayonetas with President Peña Nieto

Triquis and Bayonetas with President Peña Nieto

The Triquis have had to share some of the spotlight, though. A day after their victory, a female team of indigenous Mexicans from Puebla, the Bayonetas, won the IV World Mini-Basketball Tournament in Buenos Aires where sixty teams competed. Attention and some funding have been showered on both teams ever since. On October 24, the Triquis and the Bayonetas breakfasted at the Olympic Sports Center in Mexico City with past Olympic winners. They spent the afternoon with President Enrique Peña Nieto at Los Pinos, the official residence and office of the president.

So much heady attention so fast would leave most adults reeling. How Paloma and the basketball players deal with it in the coming months and years will be interesting to track. Already, there have been criticisms of the kids, of the politicians accused of using the kids for PR purposes and all sorts of online comments.

Case in point: Paloma and her mother have said they appreciated that the state governor did give her a laptop as promised and a monthly scholarship of $600 pesos ($47 dollars). They have gone on to say that the home internet installed by the government lasted for one day and the scholarship had since been suspended. Paloma never received a $4000 pesos scholarship that was also promised. When international talk-show host Laura Bozzo asked Paloma to appear on her highly-rated show, the girl chose Laura over a political event with the Matamoros mayor. A slighted burocrat declared to the press that there were certainly more intelligent and capable kids in Matamoros who weren’t nearly as stuck-up.   

Cartoon Run

Cartoon Run

While these young people are truly exceptional, there are millions of others not making the news for their contributions that also strengthen society. Here are two examples. On Sunday, October 27, I went out for an early walk the Calzada Del Valle Alberto Santos before the weekly San Pedro de Pinta got rolling (see my October 14 blog post). At 8:30 I came along just in time for the start of the Cartoon Run, an event for hundreds parents, kids and a bunch of characters in cartoon disguises. The 1 to 4-kilometer courses ran along the broad avenue which was closed off to vehicles.

Day of the Dead Class Project

Day of the Dead Class Project

Meanwhile a large section of the jogging track in the park-like median was filled with teenagers and teachers from a local high school. In preparation for the November 2, each student had to decorate a calavera, the whimsical Day of the Dead skulls. The results lined the jogging track on both sides for hundreds of feet. The kids called out to passersby, eager to talk about their project. One young woman explained to me that each skull represented a historical figure of Mexico. “So that’s Hidalgo,” I said, pointing to a bald crown with tufts of fluffy white hair blowing behind.

“Yep, that’s Hidalgo.”

Seeing these kids and hearing their stories, you know there’s plenty of hope for Mexico’s future.

 Below is Paloma’s interview on Laura.    

 

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