Mexico’s First Female President is Also its First Jewish President

By LG Staff

By LG Staff

June 6, 2024

Claudia Sheinbaum made history by becoming Mexico’s first female president. She also broke new ground as the first Jewish president in a nation with a predominantly Catholic population. Although not religiously observant, Sheinbaum identifies culturally as Jewish and has acknowledged her heritage publicly.

“I grew up without religion. That’s how my parents raised me,” Sheinbaum, 61, stated in 2018 during an event hosted by a Jewish organization in Mexico City. “But obviously the culture, that’s in your blood.”

Her maternal grandparents were Jews who emigrated from Bulgaria to Mexico before the Holocaust, while her paternal grandparents fled Lithuania in the 1920s. Both of Sheinbaum’s parents were born in Mexico.

During her campaign, Sheinbaum described herself as a woman of faith but not religiously affiliated, which may explain the limited discussion about her being Mexico’s first Jewish president.

Tessy Schlosser, a historian and director of the Mexican Jewish Documentation and Research Center in Mexico City, noted that for Mexicans of Jewish heritage, their support and expectations of Sheinbaum’s government align more with “her personal political preferences than with her Jewish ancestry.”

Jewish newspapers in Mexico primarily highlighted her historic achievement as the first woman to lead the country, with minimal emphasis on her Jewish background.

“Sheinbaum, whose [ancestors] came to Mexico escaping poverty and antisemitism, including the Holocaust, was raised in a secular, science-focused environment. She doesn’t publicly express her Jewish identity,” said Ilan Stavans, an author and humanities professor at Amherst University who is also Mexican and Jewish and has written extensively about the Jewish diaspora in Latin America.

Before entering politics, Sheinbaum was a physicist and climate scientist; her father was a chemical engineer, and her mother was a cell biologist.

Share this post: