Greta Rios started a national NGO, Ollín, Jóvenes en Movimiento, in Mexico City in 2011, and has worked to promote youth participation in Mexico ever since. Previously, she worked for the Mexican Ministry of the Interior, the national environmental group Reforestamos, and the Permanent Mexican Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Before joining the Zócalo/Global Forum on Direct Democracy event, titled “Should Global Democracy Be More Direct?,” she spoke in the green room about dreaming lucidly, eating fondue, and visiting a volcanic island.
What was the last book you read?
I’m reading books on something that is called lucid dreaming. It’s a handbook that lets you know how to wake up when you’re dreaming and thus take control of your dreams. I’m super happy exploring it.
What’s the best place to eat in Mexico City?
Right now, my favorite is Los Loosers. Its’s a vegan restaurant with a Mexican chef [Mariana Blanco], and she is really, really good. She has traveled the world, and she does fusion with Asian food and stuff. The story of her restaurant is cool. When she started doing gastronomy, everyone said, “You’re a vegan, you’re a loser.” That’s where the name for the restaurant comes from. [The double-O in the title represents a bicycle’s wheels.]
Where would we find you on a typical Sunday afternoon?
Right in front of my PlayStation.
What has changed most in Mexico in your lifetime?
We have gone from believing that government is a given, that government was something we could not choose, to learning that we can choose our own government, but that we suck at choosing our own government.
Do young people engage in democracy differently than adults?
Totally. Since the millennial generation, I have seen young people take action in democracy in different ways. That doesn’t mean they do it better; they do it differently. I see two different approaches from younger generations. The first one is: “I’m too cool for school. I’m not participating, the adults screwed everything.” Attitude number two, which I like, is, “Adults did everything wrong, so we are going to get engaged, and we are going to change everything about it.”
What should be the voting age?
The minimum age should be different depending on what you’re voting on. In participatory budgeting, everyone should get a vote, depending on the projects. Kids should be able not only to propose projects, but vote, too. For public positions, to elect people, I think 16 would be a good age.
You worked for Reforestamos, a national Mexican NGO on the environment. What victories has the environmental movement had there?
We have had some minor victories. But all in all, it’s not good news. This is maybe because the government here still does not believe that the environment is something that really needs to be taken care of. For example, right now, our energy policy is 100 percent burning coal and gas. We cannot say we’ve had a strong victory in the last 10 years.
What do you miss most about your time in Geneva?
Fondue. On a more philosophical way of seeing it, safety. I didn’t feel my life was compromised every time I went out on the street. And that’s a very sad thing to say.
What teacher made the biggest impact on you?
I would say my high school philosophy teacher [at Tec de Monterrey]; her name is Caroline. She had this life quest for teaching, and she would do anything it would take to teach this group of hairy teenagers the beauty of philosophy. If she needed to sing, she would sing. She would dance. And she would stand there in silence for 30 minutes if that was necessary.
Where do you go to be alone?
I would say three different places. Place number one is yoga. Place number two is a book, any book. Place number three is just in my room by myself.
What place on earth where you’ve never been would you most like to visit?
Iceland. Because I have heard so much about it, especially because they have no religion. I really want to feel how it feels where people don’t have this idea of this man looking after you.