Mexico’s Spoiled Rich Kids: The entitled children of the country’s elite are now coming under fire

June 14, 2013, 6:13 p.m. ET

Mexico’s Spoiled Rich Kids

The entitled children of the country’s elite are now coming under fire


The sons and daughters of Mexico’s elite are known as “Juniors.” Filmmaker and former Junior Gary Alazraki explains how to spot a Junior and why he ultimately decided to reject the Junior lifestyle.

You can spot them prowling the streets of Mexico City’s wealthy enclaves in sports cars. The guys wear their hair slicked back and designer shirts with the top three buttons open. The women have expensive bags and sunglasses. They are nearly always followed by a black SUV packed with armed bodyguards.

They are known in Mexico as “Juniors”—the sons and daughters of the country’s elite, young people whose love of brand names is surpassed only by their sense of entitlement. Juniors grow up to dominate the upper echelons of business and politics. They live behind high walls, travel in private jets and seem utterly untouchable—and out of touch in a country that struggles with poverty and violence.For the first time, though, Mexico’s Juniors are coming under fire. In April, Andrea Benitez, the daughter of a well-connected politician, turned up at a trendy restaurant in Mexico City without a reservation and threw a fit when she was not given the table she wanted. So she called inspectors at Profeco, the government’s consumer protection agency—which happened to be run by her father. Inspectors promptly shut down the restaurant.

What Ms. Benitez didn’t count on was Mexico’s growing middle class, which is fast developing an intolerance of Juniors and using social media to do something about it. Within hours, she and her father became the targets of a furious campaign on Twitter, where users dubbed her #LadyProfeco. Within weeks, her father—a friend of President Enrique Peña Nieto—was forced to resign.

The Lady tag has become shorthand for viral videos that highlight the misbehavior of Mexico’s coddled elites. #LadiesDePolanco, a video uploaded to YouTube in 2011, showed two drunken young women in Mexico City’s posh Polanco neighborhood insulting police who pulled them over for a traffic violation. The women scream at the police, calling them “salary men,” and drive off. The video caused such an outrage that the women were later identified, paid a fine and publicly apologized.

Some Juniors are getting into trouble by putting too much on Facebook FB -0.42%about their luxurious lifestyles. Last year, local newspapers ran pictures of the daughter of the head of the country’s oil workers union traveling the world in private jets with her three bulldogs, Keiko, Boli and Morgancita. The photos, taken from her Facebook page, caused an outrage, prompting her to close the account.

“The rich in this country act like they own the place, and they really do own it. They are hardly ever held accountable. So this is something totally new,” says Guadalupe Loaeza, a novelist who has made her career writing about Juniors. “We have a long way to go, but it’s a start.”

In recent weeks, Mexicans have filled theaters to see a new comedy about Juniors. “Nosotros Los Nobles” (or “We the Nobility”) deals with a wealthy self-made man and his three ne’er-do-well children, 20-somethings who live high on daddy’s bank account. So daddy stages a hoax to make them think he’s gone bankrupt, forcing the family to move into a low-income barrio. There, the kids must do something they have never done before: Get real jobs.

Scenes of hilarity ensue as Javi, the eldest son who bemoans that his “black [Amex] and Black[Berry]” have been canceled, gets work driving a minibus on Mexico City’s chaotic streets. The daughter, aptly named Barbie, gets work as a waitress in a rough cantina. When told that the staff shares tips, she whines, “But we’re not in Cuba!” And the youngest son, who dabbles in Buddhism and yoga, becomes the lowest form of capitalist: a bank teller, taking orders from a sex-starved female boss.

In the movie, redemption comes when the three learn to live like ordinary Mexicans. Barbie settles down with the darker-skinned Lucho, the nephew of her childhood nanny. For many Mexicans, seeing the light-skinned Barbie pick Lucho is akin to the shock Americans had seeing Sidney Poitier come through the door in the 1967 comedy “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.”

The movie has become the biggest domestic box-office hit in Mexican movie history. It has sold 6.8 million tickets and is still going strong. That’s already well ahead of the previous record of 5.2 million for the 2002 movie “El Crimen del Padre Amaro.” Warner Brothers has bought the rights for a U.S. remake.

“The social compass is shifting to a consensus that the way these people behave is not honorable and not cool,” says Gary Alazraki, the 35-year-old screenwriter and director behind the movie.

Mr. Alazraki is himself a recovering Junior whose father is probably Mexico’s most successful advertising executive. Gary began to change during his college days at the University of Southern California, where he dated a girl who “was not impressed by entitled kids who had daddy’s credit card.” He decided to stop living off an allowance and started to work. When he returned to Mexico, his father wanted him and his brother to live at home. Like many self-made men, his father wanted to spare his children the struggles of doing without.

“My dad was like, ‘We have a maid, a full fridge, we’ll wash your clothes. Why put yourself through that, split up your family like that?’ I said that…I don’t want to be comfortable. My competitors who are going to make it are struggling today, and if I’m not struggling as they are…nothing will push me.”

Gary drifted apart from his Junior friends, growing more appalled at their behavior. “At the end of this whole process, I just knew I had to take them down,” he says. He’s already working on a sequel.

There are other signs of change. A website set up in 2011 to mock Juniors— (a play on Facebook and the words “Mi Rey,” or “My King,” which many upper-class Mexican parents call their sons)—has 87,000 followers on Facebook and other sites. “We made the site to make fun of them, but quickly realized many of them wanted to be on the site, as a recognition of their status,” says Pepe Ceballos, a 30-year-old entrepreneur.

A few weeks ago, Jorge Emilio Gonzalez, the head of Mexico’s Green Party, was pulled over for drunken driving. One of Mexico’s most renowned Juniors, Mr. Gonzalez inherited the party from his dad at age 29 and is universally known here as “El Niño Verde,” or “The Green Boy,” despite the fact that he’s now 41.

Mr. Gonzalez, driving a black Mercedes, told police he had drunk “only four tequilas,” according to officers at the scene. He declined to take a breathalyzer test and gave a fake name. Then two of his armed bodyguards offered the four policemen $180 each to let him go. When that didn’t work, the bodyguards tried to free El Niño Verde by force.

“You don’t know who you’re messing with,” Mr. Gonzalez yelled at police as they bundled him into the patrol car, patrolman Antonio Caracheo recounted to newspapers. The arrest became front-page news, sparking renewed controversy when it emerged that Mr. Gonzalez’s lawyer was able to spring him after only a few hours—well short of the full day called for by law. Mr. Gonzalez sheepishly returned to do his time. A Mexico City

June 14, 2013, 7:09 p.m. ET

The History of Mexico’s ‘Juniors’


MEXICO CITY—Every country has its entitled rich kids. Even China has its so-called Princelings, the sons of high-ranking Communist Party officials who race the streets of Shanghai in Ferraris. But the phenomenon has long been particularly acute in Mexico.

Perhaps the country’s first Junior was Martin Cortés, son of conquistador Hernán Cortés. Along with several other sons of conquerors, he allegedly conspired to be named the King of New Spain in the years that followed the death of his father. The Spanish crown was not amused, and his fellow conspirators lost their heads—literally—but Martin was spared because of his dad’s legacy.

Unlike many other Latin American countries such as Chile and Colombia, where powerful families trace back their roots to colonial Spain, Mexico’s 1910-1917 revolution that killed an estimated million people largely laid low its own pseudo-aristocracy and their large land holdings, opening the door for other classes to take power.

While that is largely seen as a good thing, it also ended any sense of noblesse oblige—the aristocratic urge to give something back to society, or at least not flaunt one’s wealth.

“The revolution raised up a whole new class of people. And the system of patronage and corruption that followed made them enormously rich. But they didn’t know how to handle money. They never taught their kids to handle it either,” says Lorenzo Meyer, a leading historian on Mexico.

The political party that emerged from the Mexican Revolution was the monolithic Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ruled uninterrupted from 1929 to 2000, and regained power last year. The PRI’s control of the economy allowed it to create a new class of business leaders who supported the party in exchange for monopolies.

From the start, the children of the new elites gained power and privilege. The sons of Plutarco Elias Calles, the revolutionary general that founded the PRI, became state governors, starting a tradition for many party presidents and their sons. Former PRI President Jose Luis Lopez Portillo once referred to his son as “the pride of my nepotism.”

More recently, consider the case of Andres Granier, which has been making headlines in Mexico. Mr. Granier, a chemist who rose up the ranks of the PRI, became governor of the impoverished state of Tabasco from 2007 to 2012. Recently, Mr. Granier was exposed on tape boasting with his son Fabian about their shopping trips to Beverly Hills and Fifth Avenue. Mr. Granier said his wardrobe included 1,000 dress shirts, 300 pairs of designer shoes and 400 suits.

Mr. Granier, who said he was drunk when he was taped and did not mean what he said, faces corruption charges in Tabasco. Investigators found $8 million in cash at the house of Mr. Granier’s former state treasurer, who also drove a Ferrari F430.

What about Mr. Granier’s son Fabian? He got into trouble in 2008 when his girlfriend uploaded pictures to her Facebook FB -0.42% account of a jaunt to Cancun with Fabian and friends on a private jet that belonged to the state government. Opposition parties also charge that Fabian has bought luxury apartments in Cancun and a yacht. He and his father have denied the allegations.


About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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