Mexican journalists profile conservative activist


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It turned out to be an unusual book launch. At the event, scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Thursday in the Roma neighborhood of Mexico City, the authors Salvador Frausto and Témoris Grecko (both of them journalists) were to present their profile of Jorge Serrano Limón -- Mexico’s most prominent Catholic fundamentalist and antiabortion campaigner.

But when we arrived, attendees of the event were loitering outside on the sidewalk. ‘No hay luz,’ they explained with a shrug. There was no electricity. That’s not unusual in Mexico City, except that generally power cuts hit whole blocks. This time, the light was out only in the Centro Cultural de Foco where the launch was scheduled to take place.


The organizers joked that it was sabotage, and friends of the authors reported that cables had been deliberately cut.

But we weren’t put off. Around 5:30 p.m. we all shuffled into the building carefully, guided by candlelight into our seats. We sat in the darkness waiting for the presentation to start.

‘Serrano Limón is a fundamentalist who thinks that the modern world is wrong,’ stated Roberto Blancarte, a professor and investigator at the Colegio de Mexico and a specialist on religion. The organizers were sitting in front of a black backdrop on which had been mounted a simple, wooden cross.

And then, as Blancarte spoke, the light returned. An electric spotlight suddenly illuminated the speakers, cutting through the darkness like a celestial beam. The audience applauded.

‘He epitomizes the right. He summarizes in brief what is a bigger phenomenon,’ said Blancarte.

‘El vocero de Dios: Jorge Serrano Limón y la cruzada para dominar tu sexo, tu vida y tu país,’ which translates loosely into ‘God’s spokesman: Jorge Serrano Limón and the crusade to dominate your sex, your life and your country,’ is an in-depth look at the life of the activist, who, according to the authors, ‘has influenced the Mexican public sphere for the last 20 years.’


The rhetoric of Serrano Limón is steeped in Catholicism’s most conservative traditions. A devout Catholic who claims to serve God, he at one stage considered the priesthood but instead opted for married life.

Frausto and Grecko report that he has opposed works of theater and art exhibitions, pitted himself against lawmakers and film directors, and planted himself in opposition to the use of condoms, the morning-after pill and the legalization of abortion.

Mexico City is the only part of the country in which abortion is legal. Serrano Limón was at the front line of an antiabortion campaign this year to overturn legislation implemented in April 2007 that decriminalized the procedure in Mexico’s capital.

Blancarte said during Thursday’s presentation: ‘The problem is how much resonance he has with many people.’

To many Mexicans, Serrano Limón is a religious fanatic and moralist. In 2005, he was accused of diverting public funds in an incident that became known as the ‘tanga scandal’. His organization, called Provida (‘Pro-life’), was fined 13 million pesos for spending public money on expensive watches and women’s underwear.

But the controversial activist has a broad base of support in parts of Mexico, as well as from the Roman Catholic Church and the more conservative strands of Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s National Action Party.


Although Serrano Limón wasn’t there to defend himself last night, we were told by the authors that he has read the book. His supporters produced the following video in response, in which Serrano Limón says that he is a truly happy man who loves his wife, his children and his job. He describes himself as a common man, like any other, with faults, but as someone who has taken the decision to defend his ideals.

‘El Vocero de Dios: Jorge Serrano Limón y la cruzada para dominar tu sexo, tu vida y tu país’ is published by Grijalbo, Random House.

-- Deborah Bonello and Cecilia Sanchez in Mexico City