El Bronco, the baseball fan who stole snack cakes

This presidential candidate stands out for being witty, irreverent, and clever
El Bronco, the baseball fan who stole snack cakes
Jaime Rodríguez Calderón - Illustration by: René Zubieta/EL UNIVERSAL
Horacio Jiménez
Mexico City
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Jaime Rodríguez Calderón, a former member of the center-right Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), is 60 years old, and an agricultural engineer and phytotecnician by the Autonomous University of Nuevo León. Although he is a fan of his college's team, Los Tigres, his real passion is baseball.

This independent presidential candidate has played as a pitcher and a shortstop. His dream was to become a professional baseball player and play in the Major League.

He loves the team of his native state, Los Sultanes de Monterrey (The Monterrey Sultans) and enjoys the matches at the stadium with a cold beer.

He is the fourth of 10 children and was born in Pablillo, a ranch in the municipality of Galeana, 230 kilometers south of the metropolitan area of Monterrey.

His love for horses came from seeing his father and eldest brother riding horses every day. He got his first horse when he was just a child, and it was a wooden toy he would trade for nothing, "not even for a bicycle.”

“I live with horses, I feel I'm one of them; I think I'm a wild, free horse, bold, stubborn, constant but responsible. I respect people and expect to be respected in turn, injustice irks me and it pisses me off when the authority fails to solve matters, that's part of my character,” said El Bronco – as Rodríguez is also known – during an interview with EL UNIVERSAL in 2015.

He was a member of the PRI for 33 years, a local and federal deputy, and the mayor of the town of García with the PRI. He is quick-minded and witty. He's coarse and speaks colloquially. Always dressed in cowboy boots, hat, and his trademark vest, Rodríguez is the father of seven children. Impulsive and reckless. Only when he visits Mexico City and has an important meeting does he favor a suit and a tie.

Rodríguez Calderón had a harsh childhood and lacked many privileges. His mother made cheese and sold her products in the neighboring communities. She also sold popcorn during local baseball matches in Pablillo and even offered sliced jicama and oranges with chili (Mexican snacks). She worked carrying water, harvesting corn, weeding, and taking care of animals.

The governor with leave of absence has said that as a child he had a friend, Rubén Darío Bernal, and that Ruben's parents owned a convenience store from which he got Gansitos (snack cakes) at “a five finger discount” (shoplift) and that the parents of his friend let him get away with it because of his close friendship with their son. As time went by, even Rubén himself wrote his biography.

Rodríguez has a big family and one of the sources of his energy and drive is his mother, Basilisa Calderón, widow of Rodríguez. His parents were able to send all their children to college and all his sisters are teachers, while one of his brothers is an accountant and three more, like El bronco, are engineers.

He enjoys horseback riding, going out with his kids, and talking with his wife. He lives from his ranch, which produces decorative plants, pine trees, oak trees, cedars, white cordias, sweet acacias, and mesquite trees. He grows alfalfa, corn, apples, peccan nuts, figs, and grapes. Moreover, he claims he has 60 mares, four stallions, and his favorite: a black horse called Tornado.

All his children have horses: Emiliano (his youngest son whom they call "Bronquito") has a pony called Fu; Victoria, a horse called Fefe; Alex, a horse named 44; Valentina, two mares called Rain and Storm; and his wife's horse is named Mezcal.

His faith and the media boom around his campaign

Something few know about him is that he is a very religious man. He prays to God and to Our Lady of Guadalupe when he finds himself under a lot of pressure or when he is faced with a problem – even during the final stage of his registration as a presidential candidate, he went to visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe together with his family.

One of his passions is cooking for his children and his wife. He is quite fond of seafood, especially shrimp tostadas and aguachile (a Mexican dish made of shrimp), as well as other typical dishes of the Northern Mexican cuisine.

El Bronco led the “Broncomania” in Nuevo León state in 2015 and transformed the way campaigns are made.

Despite having no funds to finance his campaign for Governor, he resorted to social networks and in Facebook alone he has 6 million followers. The lyrics of the song “Debajo del sombrero” (“Underneath the Hat”) – by singer Leandro Ríos “El Penco” – were adapted for his campaign and this became his anthem.

Independent milestone

Jaime Rodríguez Calderón has already carved himself a spot in Mexican history.

June 7, 2015, is a date the people of Nuevo León state will never forget because that day they decided to teach political parties a lesson and the people voted, overwealmingly, to elect the first independent candidate in Mexican history as their Governor.

That day, El Bronco became a high-profile figure at a national level. His personality became a phenomenon due to social media, which translated into solid votes at the urns which took him to stardom level – because more than a governor he was more akin to a rock star.

El Bronco couldn't walk two meters down a street or go to a shopping center without people coming over to him to greet him or ask him for a photo.

The euphoria over his triumph at the local elections helped him defeat the candidates of both, the center-right Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the conservative National Action Party (PAN) by a crushing 48.8% percent of the votes and became the Governor-elect. Yet 52 days after his victory, Rodríguez Calderón had his first important meeting at the Official Residence of Los Pinos, with Mexican President Enrqiue Peña Nieto.

That July 29, 2015, he took the first commercial flight to travel from Monterrey to Mexico City: “He was nervous, tense, as he didn't know how he was going to be treated in Los Pinos,” said a source close to Jaime, as his friends call him.

The meeting was scheduled around noon and one of the questions the Mexican President asked him upon meeting him was: “How did you beat us?” With this, the President broke the ice and made them both smile.

During that encounter, El Bronco addressed the President with the utmost respect: and told him: “Look, Mr. President, the things you do right by Nuevo León, I'll acknowledge, but I'll also denounce the things you fail to do. I'm going to be an honest person and I give you my word this is how things'll be.”

In response, the Head of State held out his hand and said: “Very well then, Jaime. Nuevo León has a friend in the President.”

They hit it off immediately, and those close to Jaime Rodríguez claim it was from this meeting that a “very good” friendship developed between them, as this was the first of several meetings they held in Mexico City and of the tours President Peña Nieto did across Nuevo León while El Bronco was the Governor of the state.

Today, Rodríguez Calderón is the fifth candidate running for President of the Mexican Republic. However, his candidacy was surrounded by controversy because the National Electoral Institute (INE) first rejected his application as an independent candidate for not meeting one of the requirements. According to the Institute, El Bronco failed to gather the minimum necessary signatures to register his candidacy despite having submitted over 2 million of them. The INE only validated 835,511 of the signatures he submitted as the rest had inconsistencies. Moreover, the INE found irregularities in his income and expenses reports.

Nevertheless, this Nuevo León native appealed the decision of the INE and, after the presidential campaign had already started, the Electoral Court of the Judicial Branch of the Federation (TEPJF) revoked the decision of the INE and ordered the Electoral Institute to officially register Rodríguez as a candidate. The Court claimed the INE had a breach in procedure by failing to respect Rodríguez's right to an audience, and thus the Court ordered El Bronco to be registered despite not having the minimum number of signatures required.

This decision and his subsequent candidacy unified almost the entire political class against him, as they all considered he shouldn't have made it to the ballot due to the inconsistencies found in his signatures. The political class claimed this event cast uncertainty in the election process.