Mexico is in a crisis. Political candidates are busy dancing on TikTok

One afternoon in late March, Jorge Álvarez Máynez swayed to the beat of a vallenato tune before climbing off the stage, jumping over a barricade, and walking into a crowd of women.

To the untrained eye, the 38-year-old might have come off as a nascent rock star. In reality, Álvarez Máynez is a presidential hopeful, dancing his way across Mexico as the country prepares to head to the polls.

He’s not the exception. With only a few weeks to go before elections, candidates are pulling out their best dance moves. Awkwardly performed choreographies, viral memes, and TikTok challenges have been at the center of political campaigns. This strategy, experts told Rest of Worldhas been successful in drawing eyeballs even as it has failed to address many of Mexico’s urgent problems.

Candidates “are too caught up in the need to be present on social media, to be trending,” said Alejandra López, a political scientist at Anáhuac University. But, she added, “a like is not a vote.”

In June, Mexicans will vote for more than 20,000 posts, including for Congress, state governorships, and local representatives. Nearly a third of Mexico’s electorate — some 26.2 million people — is between 18 and 29 years of age. And the country is enthusiastic about social media: Last year, 93.2% of internet users were on Facebook and 76.5% on TikTok. It’s no surprise that a viral post, dance, or jingle is a top prize this campaign season.

Álvarez Máynez’s campaign jingle is a classic example of such virality: It has been played more than 3 million times on Spotify, and has found fans as far as South Korea. Another candidate from his party, Mariana Rodríguez, has upped the game, starring in several glitzy music videos in her signature neon-orange sneakers. Rodríguez, who is running for mayor of Monterrey, in northern Mexico, best embodies the current wave of new politicians and their bet on social media as an electoral strategy.

But similar experiments to gain popularity have failed.

Presidential candidate Jorge Álvarez Máynez dances onstage at a campaign rally.

Claudia Sheinbaum, the leading presidential candidate, took a tumble while dancing to banda music in Mazatlán in April. Xóchitl Gálvez, the main opposition candidate, pulled out a few basic moves inside her cramped tour bus in March and danced awkwardly to Mexican regional music earlier this month.

“That’s so uncomfortable to watch,” Manuel Alejandro Zamudio Rojas, a law intern, said. posted on Xreferring to the latter episode.

While he hasn’t been immune to criticism, Álvarez Máynez, more than any other candidate, has become synonymous with dancing during this campaign season, twirling supporters to the rhythm of a broken song and replicating the choreography to his campaign song on an endless loop. Despite his visibility on social media, Álvarez Máynez is trailing in third place in most polls.

Mexico is currently in the midst of a crisis. During President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s term, homicides have risen 8% compared to the previous administration; a wave of extortions has taken over supply chains and paralyzed entire communities. At least 44 journalists have been killed since December 2018. More than 30 candidates have been killed during this campaign season. Immigration and water scarcity have also become pressing issues.

Leading presidential candidate Claudia Sheinbaum falls while dancing to music on stage.

Prompted by moderators during two recent televised debates, the presidential candidates discussed their governance plans in greater detail than they have on their social platforms: Xóchitl Gálvez said she would strengthen prosecutors’ offices to tackle femicide. Claudia Sheinbaum promised to implement a national hotline to respond to calls about gender violence. Álvarez Máynez said his government would demilitarize the country.

While some analysts say social media-based strategies have generated sympathy and made young politicians relatable, others point out that candidates aren’t using them as a segue to detailed proposals outside the debates. “There is no one talking about affordable housing, the precarious jobs (young people) have to accept, the lack of opportunities to start a family,” said López.

Interspersed among gimmicky TikTok content are snippets of candidates’ plansoften containing few details about their cost, timeline, or implementation strategy.


The offices of Álvarez Máynez, Gálvez, and Sheinbaum did not respond to a request for comment from Rest of World.

Mexicans have started sifting through the wannabe-viral content to try and find governance plans. Alfredo Velázquez, a 27-year-old economist with nearly 157,000 followers on TikTok, is one of them. In his videos, he boils down candidates’ policies, often after digging through their official websites.

“People want to know what was said, what wasn’t, and what is true,” Velázquez told Rest of World.

Voters are increasingly turning to TikTok for fact-checking and short summaries of televised debates. A video by Gerardo Veraa 19-year-old content creator, on each candidate’s proposal regarding education has 1.2 million views.

While this electorate might find dances amusing, it takes more to get young people to go out and vote, Gisela Rubach, a political strategist, told Rest of World. “Young people are moved by causes. That’s the one thing that will get them to vote,” she said. To further lure young voters, Álvarez Máynez has visited a number of universities during his campaign.

Daniel Agüero, a 22-year-old architecture student from the state of Guerrero, told Rest of World he was not impressed by the current campaign strategies, but decided to vote for Álvarez Máynez after seeking out details of his plans directly on his website. He said he found the candidate’s plans on security and transparency compelling.

“I understand that, in the end, people are ruled by emotions,” said Agüero. But when it comes to candidates’ campaigns, “I would expect better.”


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