By Aran Shetterly Original Print Publication: November, 2007
25 Brilliant, Innovative and Visionary Mexicans 2007
You know who President Felipe Calderon is, and also recognize his nemesis, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, from the tense 2006 presidential election. You know who Carlos Slim is and, if you live in Mexico, chances are you write him at least one check a month. You can read former President Vicente Fox's new book in English. Actress Salma Hayek just had a baby. You swooned when actor Gael Garcia Bernal (who is Mexican) played Che Guevara (who wasn't). But aren't you bored of seeing the same old names in the headlines?
That's why we decided to apply some fresh thought to the idea of the "top" list. We looked North and South, solicited input from editors, journalists and people "in the know" around Mexico, gathered a long list and went into the war room. We wanted interesting people who added dimension to our sense of what Mexico is and can be. It got heated, but in the end we came out with 25 amazing people. Once we had the list we had to chase our busy subjects down. Our team went out to interview and research the nominees, and we got some of the most talented photographers around to take their portraits. The resulting group of 25 scientists, economists, journalists, chefs, artists, conservationists, entrepreneurs, producers, activists, philanthropists and athletes are presented here for your consideration.
Eleven years ago, Sonia Ortiz took a trip with her young son down the Usumacinta River, which forms the border between Chiapas and Guatemala. Toucans flew overhead, howler monkeys roared, and she and the other travelers dined nightly at well-appointed, candlelit tables as fireflies flashed around them.
- 25 Mexicans: Alberto Ruy Sanchez, encyclopedist
- 25 Mexicans: Alfredo Harp Helu, invisible hand
- 25 Mexicans: Amalia Garcia, beacon
- 25 Mexicans: Andrés Rozental, counselor
- 25 Mexicans: Carlos Marin, pioneer
- 25 Mexicans: Carmen Correa, virtuousa
- 25 Mexicans: Clara Gonzalez, fashionista
- 25 Mexicans: Daniel Aguilar, chronicler
- 25 Mexicans: Dario Ramirez, straight shooter
- 25 Mexicans: Deyanira Aquino, ethnologist
- 25 Mexicans: Eduardo García, prognosticator
- 25 Mexicans: Elisa Miller, ingenue
- 25 Mexicans: Hector Mijangos, indie king
- 25 Mexicans: Hector Rivero Borrell, trustee
- 25 Mexicans: Jessy Bulbo, rockstar
- 25 Mexicans: Juan Enriquez Cabot, innovator
- 25 Mexicans: Lorena Ochoa, champion
- 25 Mexicans: Minerva Cuevas, conceptualist
- 25 Mexicans: Pablo Cruz, maestro
- 25 Mexicans: Patrica Mercado, alternative
- 25 Mexicans: Raul Padilla Lopez, crusader
- 25 Mexicans: Sonia Arias, prodigy
One day when hiking, Ortiz saw a poor family beside a trail, the children emaciated with distended bellies. Is this my country? she wondered. Then, as they returned upriver, the group was ambushed by young boys with machine guns. Ortiz doesn’t know if they were Mexican or Guatemalan; all she knows is that they did it because they were poor. They took everything the tourists had, and Ortiz and her son arrived in Palenque barefoot and shaken.
“Who is going to give these people jobs?” she wondered. It’s not fair, she thought, that a few in Mexico have so much and the rest almost nothing.
Ortiz realized that in order for tourism to help rural people, they must be providing the services, but she could help initiate the projects. She met a woman named Patricia Luevano, who shared her vision of saving land and improving people’s lives within Tamaulipas’ magnificent El Cielo cloud forest.
Javier Villareal, who had been working in local villages, joined them, along with renowned ornithologist Hector Gomez de Silva. Together they have trained local men as bird guides, organized the El Cielo Festival for birders and butterfly aficionados, and improved the local economy, following what Sonia calls the “three C’s”: conservation, consciousness and community.
De Silva has determined that to protect all of Mexico’s bird species, 42 sites around the country must be preserved. Now, Sonia Ortiz and her team are gearing up to apply the El Cielo conservation and development model around Mexico.
Note: This article was originally published in our November, 2007 issue.