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A historic first as Mexico elects its first female president

A MARTÍNEZ: OK, here's the sound of history being made in Mexico City.

CLAUDIA SHEINBAUM: (Speaking Spanish).

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Presidential candidate Claudia Sheinbaum says women have reached the presidency of the Mexican Republic for the first time in 200 years. She said las mujeres got there - women, plural - now that election results show that Sheinbaum herself is heading for a landslide victory.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Eyder Peralta joins us now from Mexico City. Eyder, Sheinbaum has been the favorite for months, so the results aren't necessarily a surprise. But tell us what it was like. Describe that moment.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Well, look, the electoral commission took unusually long to announce its results, but just before midnight, the commissioners came on TV and said that according to preliminary results, Claudia Sheinbaum had achieved an irreversible lead. I was at the Zocalo, which is Mexico City's main square, where many of her supporters had gathered. And it was an emotional moment. There were little girls with their moms, older women with their adult daughters. And it's hard to overstate what this moment meant for them. It has been just over 70 years since women were allowed to vote here. And now they were welcoming a woman president elect. Let me play you a little bit of what it sounded like.

And here at the Zocalo, it is being celebrated as a woman breaking the highest of glass ceilings. And all of this is happening in a country that is notoriously machista. Now Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo, a 61-year-old environmental engineer, the former mayor of Mexico City - she will become the first woman to hold the most powerful office in this country.

MARTÍNEZ: Sounds like a party, Eyder. So, what about...

PERALTA: Yeah.

MARTÍNEZ: ...The women at the square - what did they tell you?

PERALTA: You know, I saw women cry. I saw women dancing. I saw women hugging the Mexican flag and holding little dolls of Claudia Sheinbaum. I found 69-year-old Rosa Maria Garcia just staring at the presidential palace in front of her, and she told me that she has always felt that, like, this was a dream because she felt the power structures in Mexico had been in place too long, and she thought that maybe Mexicans could never break free of them. But today, she says, they did.

ROSA MARIA GARCIA: (Speaking Spanish).

PERALTA: "I'm emotional," she says. "I feel complete seeing that a fellow woman will be in charge of the Mexican people. And, you know, before today, I had heard skepticism. Many women had told me that having a woman in the presidency didn't necessarily mean that she would be a feminist or that their lives would improve. And today, I heard none of that. I heard women who were proud of their country and who were simply enjoying the moment.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, so the inauguration would be in October. Tell us about Mexico's president elect and her policies.

PERALTA: Claudia Sheinbaum is a protege of the current president of Mexico. So she has hewed very closely to his policies, and so she's very likely to retain or even expand the welfare state that has made President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador very popular, but also early results seem to show that Sheinbaum's party might have achieved a super majority in Congress. And Sheinbaum and her party say that they want to amend the Constitution, to reform the judiciary, the electoral commission, and to put at least some police forces under military control. If this super majority holds, we can safely say that President Sheinbaum will usher in huge changes to Mexico.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Eyder Peralta in Mexico City. Thanks a lot.

PERALTA: Thank you, A. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.