Who Are the Bishops?
Consequences of Family and Place
All leadership groups in Mexico share certain characteristics that set them apart from the general population. The most tangible differences between elites and masses can be measured according to their geographic, social, and economic origins. Priests who become bishops are not representative of priests as a whole, nor are they representative of the Mexican population when measured according to these variables. Nevertheless, these distinctions are worth identifying because they may have significant consequences for the careers of future priests and their road to success as bishops and, more important, they may contrast substantially with those of other leadership groups, particularly political and military, linking bishops to the Mexican populations in ways that other groups do not share.
As I have suggested in an analysis of Mexican political leadership over time, regionalism has played a critical role in the representativeness of national politicians and in the locus of their recruitment. The most striking feature of place of birth in the backgrounds of Mexican political leaders for the last half century is the phenomenal growth of Mexico City, the nation's capital, which now accounts for approximately 20 percent of the population. The capital, however, is heavily overrepresented among national politicians, who in the 1990s come from the Federal District in figures twice that amount. Among younger leaders in the federal government, nearly two-thirds are capital city natives.
Regionalism provides an equally striking pattern for the 20th-century Catholic leadership, yet its geographic distortions are quite different from those of politicians, consequently having different results on the composition of the Church hierarchy. As this chapter will demonstrate, the geographic differences that set Church and political leadership apart also have consequences for their values and behavior and on their potential linkages to the citizenry in general.