Pedro Cesar Carrizales Becerra, also known as “El Mijis,” was elected for representative for his home state in northern Mexico. However, more than a decade of community work aiming to help street children and gang members to find a better future isn't enough for some who care only about one thing: his looks.
Carrizales founded the People's Youth Movement in 2002 to fight for the rights of at risk people in San Luis Potosi and combat discrimination against them. Now, the civil association has members from 240 gangs and brokered truces between them to help reduce violence and give the youth new opportunities to improve themselves.
But his clothing, manner of speech, multiple tattoos (having different meanings and stories) and criminal record weighs more than his more than 15 years of community work for some people.
El Mijis used to be a gang member himself. He spent two months in prison for shooting four people and was also arrested for theft and trespassing charges. Despite putting his life at risk several times, he says he finally understood he had to change his way when his mother died.
“I had some tragedies. One of them was when I was stabbed I didn't get it. Then I was hit with a machete in the head and I also didn't get it. Then my son was hit with a bullet in the leg because of my troubles. A motorcycle came by shooting and he was hit. What marked my life was my mother's death,” Carrizales told the news site emsavalles.
But the road is long and thorny in a conservative society that wants light-skinned, highly educated and “presentable” politicians in office. In spite of all his years working for social inclusiveness and fighting discrimination, some people were terrified when he won the election.
“This is no joke:
This is Morena's new representative in San Luis Potosi (Pedro Cesar Carrizales Becerra... 'El Mijis'
In 2001 he WAS ARRESTED for SHOOTING 4 people!
Por favor no mienta que si lo ve en la calle no se cruza de banqueta, o le gustaría cómo novio de su hija ♀️ dios los protocolos existen por algo y no todos los que lo utilizan son corruptos, ya basta de estos comentarios.— Lucía Bran (@Lucy_Bran) 4 de julio de 2018
“Please don't say if you see him in the street you won't change sidewalks, or you would like him as boyfriend for your daughter ♀️. God, protocols exists for a reasons and not every one who uses them is corrupt. Stop these comments.”
“'You're a snob'
Oh, sorry for demanding representatives without without a criminal record”
The comments show a deep, rooted problem in Mexican society. Different studies show that skin color, strongly linked to social class, still defines opportunities for people. According to Mexico's statistics institution, 55 percent of the population think people are insulted because of skin color, 72 percent recognized that racism in Mexico is real and 47 percent think Indigenous people don't have the same job opportunities.
Then, add tattoos and loose-fitting clothing to that and you get horrified snobs. That's what Carrizales and his partners are fighting against.
"Good morning people!
There are pictures of me going on the internet in which people try to make me look as a bad citizen because of my way of dressing or my tattoos. I would like to tell you I've been through several things in my life. I had a difficult childhood and teenage years but thanks to God I moved forward with the help of my family and good friends and if I'm here now it is because I got tired of seeing how other citizens discriminate against other young people for the way they look.
Others ask me if I'm prepared for this position. I say to you I have prepared and I'll keep getting prepared because no one is born knowing and, as they say, you learn something new every day!
Greetings and thanks for the support because without all your support this wouldn't be possible"
In 2015, El Mijis and five other people rode their bicycles more than 1,800 kilometers across Mexico to raise awareness over discrimination against people coming from working class neighborhoods that look like them and help youth to see there's another way of doing things.
Their effort, named “A Cry of Existence,” made national headlines and gained support in the whole country, but they still faced discrimination from police during their trip. In Guanajuato, Carrizales was harassed by police and told never to come back.
He often gives talks at schools to encourage children to stay out of violence. He says many youngsters join gangs that eventually lead them to more dangerous criminal organizations, such as drug cartels, and wants to prevent them from entering these social circles.
Lean y compartan— Virginia Woolf (@mexicanwoolf) 4 de julio de 2018
Quién es Pedro Carrizales?
Pedro César Carrizales Becerra (El Mijis), dirige el "Movimiento Popular Juvenil", que pretende encausar a chicos en situación de calle y reivindicar sus derechos, lucha contra la discriminación, actividad que realiza desde el año 2002 pic.twitter.com/27VH3FY0oI
"Read and share
Who is Pedro Carrizales?
Pedro Cesar Carrizales Becerra (El Mijis) leads the 'People's Youth Movement,' which aims to help young people living in the streets and vindicate their rights. He's been fighting discrimination since 2002."
Police profiled him as a gang leader during his youth, and he says he was convicted for many crimes just because of his visibility on the streets, including shooting four people.
Pedro is a father of three children and earns his living as a construction worker. He also uses his free time to work with social organizations, which has earned him respect within the community.
His popularity made different parties, including the conservative National Action Party and the Institutional Revolutionary Party, try to include him among their candidacies, but he finally decided to join the Workers' Party and their coalition with the National Renewal Movement (Morena), which had a landslide victory on Sunday's elections. Locally, he had 24,274 votes.
Among his main proposals are the creation of a “Barrio Police” to mediate conflicts between rival gangs and have a more holistic approach to the working class neighborhoods, instead of the usual criminalization that often leads to more violence and social decay.
He says his dream is for “Chavos Banda” (how they call young people that have the “gang looks”) to have community houses in every state and for them to be able to sit in a restaurant without being discriminated.
“The Chavos Banda are not asking for impunity, they're asking for an opportunity,” he says.