Anaya, the candidate who dreamed of being an astronaut

Ricardo Anaya Cortés, who has had a meteoric rise in politics, is described as a relentless worker
Anaya, the candidate who dreamed of being an astronaut
Illustration by René Zubieta/EL UNIVERSAL
22/04/2018
14:44
Suzzete Alcántara
Mexico City
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No one in his family is a politician, no one in his family was interested in joining a political party except for him. At 39, Ricardo Anaya Cortés wants to be the President of the Mexican Republic, a desire he saw as something possible and worked towards when he became the national leader of the conservative National Action Party (PAN)

He is a sea of contradictions. Throughout his political career, he has earned the loyalty of many but he has also been called a “traitor” and some have accused him of not being a man of his word.

Under the wing of Gustavo Madero, he arrived at the national leadership of the PAN in August 2015. A year later they had already grown apart when Anaya refused to appoint Madero as the president of the Executive Board of the Lower Chamber. Madero, who called him a “traitor” and later on retracted himself, is now among his political allies, yet the word left a permanent mark.

As a kid, Anaya dreamed of becoming an astronaut, a veterinarian, or a doctor; 32 years later, he is running for President with the coalition “For Mexico to the Front”.

And perhaps it was this desire to fly an aircraft beyond the sky which gave the PAN member the boost in his meteoric rise in politics.

Six years ago he was shyly introduced by the then-presidential candidate of the PAN Josefina Vázquez Mota as one of his spokesmen. He then became a deputy, coordinator of his party in Congress, president of the Lower Chamber, national leader, and finally, presidential candidate.

He likes enchiladas, especially those of his native state, which you can enjoy at the La Mariposa, a restaurant with over 50 years of tradition in Querétaro.

He is the grandson of an architect who graduated from the Faculty of Architecture of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), and the son of a chemical engineer and an architect.

He claims he is self-taught. He likes to sing and dance, even if he isn't highly skilled. He doesn't play musical instruments professionally but he plays three or four of them of which the piano is his favorite.

Music relaxes him yet he uses it too to bond with his family, particularly his daughter Carmen, who is also a piano fan.

He joined the PAN at 22 because he wanted to have a political career in a political institution which, according to him, had a preeminence in principles and values, in addition of the courage of its founding members who dared to face the “hegemonic political party rule,” as Giovanni Sartori described the PRI.

Anaya is fond of animals and had dogs as pets for many years, although now he has a cat at home.

He has a masters in Tax Law from the University of the Valley of Mexico (UVM) and a Ph.D. in Political and Social Sciences by the UNAM, where he graduated with honors.

His roots

"Cerillo" (roughly, the “Match”) as he has been known since his teen years because of the color of his hair, began to dabble in politics in his native Querétaro upon the invitation of Senator Marcela Torres Peimbert, who he has also acknowledged in private and in public, saying she is one of the key figures in his career as she opened that first door and gave him his first opportunity.

Torres Peimbert says he knows Anaya since he was 17 because they were neighbors and when the PAN won for the first time in the municipality of Querétaro, he went to offer his support at the Institute of Youth of the municipality. “He caught my eye because of his decision, his will to work, despite at that age you care more about sports, girls, or parties.”

He never had to work due to his financial solvency and Torres Peimbert says he “could've been playing golf,” instead of organizing music contests and painting or graffiti workshops to rescue young people from criminal gangs, according to the Women Advancement Secretary of the National Action Party.

He loves hearing speeches of political leaders “such as [Winston]Churchill, he has a very prodigious mind. He knows how to break the tension with careful jokes, he is sober,” she says about Anaya.

Ricardo Anaya grew up in a home in which gender equality was the norm. His mother and grandmother were working women who raised him amidst steel rods, drawings, and concrete mix.

“From them – architects, in the end – I learned that the key to success is to build your character on the foundations of study and work, always followed by work and more work, I learned that the greatest projects are comprised of many parts, many efforts, which in the end, and only in the end, once you see the whole picture, you are able to see how the harmony and importance of everyone's input fits together,” said Anaya on February 18 when he was sworn in as a presidential candidate.

At 26 he married Carolina Martínez Franco, daughter of Queretaro businessmen with whom he has shared 19 years of his life. They have three children: Santiago, Mateo, and Carmen.

The negotiator of structural reforms arising from the Pact for Mexico reads from national and international newspapers to Physics texts. He can re-read “The Labyrinth of Solitude" (“El laberinto de la soldedad”) by Octavio Paz as many times as needed.

While he is a Catholic by choice, he is still respectful of same-sex marriage; an advocate of life beginning at conception but an enemy of criminalizing women for deciding over their bodies.

This new political leader, as the national leader of the center-left Citizen's Movement Party (MC) Dante Delgado, describes him, has achieved what many aspired to do but considered impossible: he joined the conservative PAN to the self-proclaimed progressive left.

Yoga is the exercise Ricardo Anaya prefers not only to keep a toned body but also because it forces him to meditate and seek emotional balance, the one he loses when things have not gone the way he wanted, or planned, or due to his obsession of being on time for all his appointments.

Ricardo Anaya likes ryding byciles and moterbikes, although the latter he uses when he's running late and the former is one of his hobbies, one which he also enjoys practicing with his family, particularly on Sundays.

An early defeat

In 2000, when Vicente Fox achieved a rotation in political power and became President of Mexico, Anaya faced his first political defeat: he failed to become the local deputy of District XIV of Querétaro under the PAN, he was just 21.

Three years later he became the personal assistant to the former governor of Querétaro, Francisco Garrido Patrón, and he stood by his side throughout the six years of his term in office to then become a local deputy but this time through the proportional representation principle, which eventually led him to become the coordinator of his party at the 56 Legislature of the Querétaro Congress.

He was the state leader of the National Action Party in Querétaro for a year and then he was appointed to his first position for the federal government. It was 2011 and President Felipe Calderón had appointed him as Undersecretary of Tourism Planification at the Ministry of Tourism.

He is described as a disciplined man, responsible and hard-working, attentive towards his loved ones yet you can also hear people say he is obstinate, demanding, impatient, perfectionist, thorough, and mistrustful.

As a member of the 62 Legislature, he had to debate for the first time with Manlio Fabio Beltrones, of the center-right Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) – former Sonora Governor and former national leader of the PRI – to negotiate the financial, political, electoral, education, telecommunications, transparency, energy, and anti-corruption reforms, as both were the respective coordinators of their parties.

A year later, they met once more but as national leaders. It was the night of June 5, 2016, when the PAN member told his counterpart on national television: “Don't be so upset, Manlio,” after it was confirmed the PAN had won the elections on seven states formerly ruled by the PRI.

Beltrones called him a “lying, inexperienced and immature young man,” a description his rivals have used in recent months to attack him, adding the words “authoritarian” and “dictator.”

Carlos Monsiváis was the author of the prologue of Anaya's thesis, which he titled “Graffiti in Mexico: ¿Art or Disaster?” and in which he acquits painters of this urban art. The text was published in 2002 and is available at the Autonomous University of Querétaro, where he graduated in Law with honors.

Ricardo Anaya Cortés is a polyglot. He speaks English, French and a bit of German. His academic background led him to appear in advertisements speaking in all these languages, which have now been turned into social media memes.

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