The members of this class are not worried about getting enough to eat. They’re worried that their kids are eating too much.
“As hard as it is for many of us to accept, Mexico is now a middle-class country, which means we don’t have any excuse anymore. We have to start acting like a middle-class country,” said Luis de la Calle, an economist, former undersecretary of trade in the Mexican government and the co-author of a new report called “Mexico: A Middle Class Society, Poor No More, Developed Not Yet.”
The stereotype is no longer an illegal immigrant hustling for day labor outside a Home Depot in Phoenix. The new Mexican is the overscheduled soccer dad shopping for a barbecue grill inside a Home Depot in booming Mexican cities like Queretaro.
When President Felipe Calderon of the center-right National Action Party won in 2006, outpolling the leftist Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, it was the middle class that gave Calderon his wafer-thin victory.
And in the presidential election in July, Mexico’s growing economic center will again be decisive, say political analysts from all three major parties.
The Mexican middle class is heterogeneous, anxious and divided among the major political parties; its members are socially moderate but fiscally conservative, cynical about political promises and fearful that recent gains could be lost in a financial crisis or social upheaval — the kind that buffeted Mexico in the 1990s.
“The middle class in this country doesn’t want to lose what it’s gained,” said Gabriel Paulin, 30, living in a mod condo in a new subdivision in Queretaro. On his coffee table: a Spanish-language copy of Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead” — essential reading for the striving class — alongside a boxed DVD set of the “Mad Men” television series.
Mexico’s middle class thrives here in the country’s central highlands, in buzzing industrial cities that bear little resemblance to the violent border towns of the Rio Grande or tourist magnets such as Cancun.
In Queretaro, a sunny, fastidious state capital of a million residents two hours north of Mexico City, new subdivisions and industrial parks are sprouting across the cactus lands, welcoming waves of aspiring Mexican families drawn by job opportunities and safe neighborhoods.
Some of the newcomers have fled the drug violence of cities farther north, such as Monterrey, where middle-class Mexicans feel increasingly vulnerable to kidnappers, extortionists and random killings — the Mexico they are eager to leave behind.