Why Are We Celebrating Cinco de Mayo?

Kelly Castagnaro, Senior Communications Officer

This weekend, revelers throughout New York—and the country— will celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day, but rather a commemoration of Mexico’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. It is also a celebration of Mexican heritage and culture.

This week we will join the celebration by running a blog series on the state of sexual and reproductive rights and health in Mexico. To kick things off, here’s an overview of the current situation in the country and a few key facts about our local Member Association, Mexfam.

Mexico: An Overview

The current sexual and reproductive health landscape in Mexico is one of both progress and challenges. It is one of divisions between rich and poor, between urban and rural populations, and between younger and older generations.

Mexico is the second largest economy in Latin America; however, aggregate figures distort the reality of a large cohort of the population that continues to live in striking poverty. About 52% of Mexico's total income is held by the wealthiest 20% in the country, and more than 3% live on less than $2 a day. Despite this reality, donor countries are graduating countries such as Mexico from foreign aid, failing to acknowledge the sharp inequalities and the still weak health systems.

At the same time, Mexico is at an advanced stage in its demographic transition. With a very young population—18% are between the ages 15 to 24 and the median age of total population is 27—the county is experiencing an increasing strain on education, health, and social welfare systems. Challenges are also emerging to improve the sexual and reproductive health of this population group. Young people are becoming sexually active at increasingly younger ages (mean of 15.9 years), but 75% of them do not use contraceptives at their first sexual experience. HIV/AIDS is among the top ten causes of mortality for men and women aged 25 to 34.

Despite a changing environment, Mexfam continues to provide high quality sexual and reproductive health services throughout the country.

In 2010, for example, Mexfam:
• provided more than 1.5 million services throughout the country;
• was the 3rd largest sexual and reproductive health service provider among Latin American IPPF/WHR Member Associations;
• distributed more than 100,000 emergency contraceptive items;
• provided more than 400,000 sexual and reproductive health services to youth; and
• distributed more than 1.3 million condoms.

In a country with huge disparities between urban and rural populations, rich and poor, young and old, Mexfam’s work is critical to conquering the challenges people are facing in Mexico. As this series continues, you will learn about Mexfam's innovative programs, meet their community health promoters, and see the lasting impact it is making throughout the country.


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