“She was a dangerous woman.”
That was the impression Rodrigo Hernandez Mirajes had about Ayn Rand in college. “It was as if she was on a list of banned books,” he recalls. Teachers also dismissed Adam Smith as a crazy, old, white man.
Instead, his professors pushed him towards Karl Marx (along with Theodor Adorno, Erich Fromm, and others), naturally leading him to believe that the government was the best solution to society’s problems.
But it was the real-life school of hard knocks -- and the closure of two successful businesses due to burdensome regulation and heavy taxation -- that made him rethink his earlier embrace of government intervention.
“Having to close my businesses because of taxes and regulations helped me realize that government was not as good as I thought it was,” he says. “The government made it very hard for me to compete and gave me a lot of headaches.”
After closing a bar and a brewery, Rodrigo began teaching economic classes at CETYS University in Mexicali.
The student population at the school was largely apathetic, and the school had few opportunities for students to create a community. Rodrigo was determined to change that. He wanted to help students to form clubs, to find common interests, and to learn from each other outside of the classroom.
He reached out to business and organizations; he scoured the Internet in search of opportunities for his students. That is when he stumbled upon the Bastiat Society. He knew nothing of Bastiat, but that didn’t stop him. He read, and he read some more, inspired but also frustrated that he was just now learning about the economist: “Who stole all these years from me? Who kept this away from me for 15 years? When I read it, I had already lived through it.” Then he read Ludwig von Mises, Adam Smith, and F. A. Hayek; “I was turning myself into an Austrian economist and libertarian.”
He has since become the managing director of the first Mexican chapter of the Bastiat Society, an organization sponsored by the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) that provides a platform for academics and policy leaders to collaborate with regional business community leaders.
Throughout his research, something else caught his eye: The Atlas Society. He came across videos, panel discussions, and memes posted on social media. And he got curious about Ayn Rand. “For the longest time, there was a copy of The Fountainhead in my sister’s room. But it was only last year that I picked it up.”
Like so many others, when Rodrigo poured through the pages, something clicked. The world began to make sense. He soon devoured everything he could find - Draw My Life videos, lectures by The Atlas Society Senior Scholar Dr. Stephen Hicks and The Atlas Society Founder Dr. David Kelley, archived interviews with Ayn Rand herself, and panel discussions with Atlas Society CEO Jennifer Grossman.
Today, he is also now the director of the Northwestern Economics Research Center at CETYS University in Mexicali, where he teaches a couple of classes each year. Rodrigo’s students have learned about Ayn Rand, in part thanks to his partnership with The Atlas Society. In August of 2020, he participated in an episode of The Atlas Society Asks, where CEO Jennifer Grossman interviewed him in Spanish! The event garnered over 10,000 views on Facebook.
Rodrigo is only just beginning. He is in the process of bringing two more Bastiat Society chapters to Mexico, and he is translating The Atlas Society’s The Pocket Guide to Objectivism into Spanish to meet the demand of the growing Spanish-language audience for The Atlas Society.
And of course, he is providing access to his students to the ideas and the thinkers that his teachers denied him while he was in college.
The relationships he has developed have given him a new perspective on international relations and on the connections between philosophy and the challenges facing his countrymen. Growing up in Mexicali, which is less than ten miles from the U.S. - Mexico border, he witnessed firsthand the difficulties that come from strained international relations.
“We have to end the anti-capitalist and anti-immigrant style in our politics and with each other,” he concludes.
Mexico needs a return to embracing individualism, achievement, and free markets now more than ever, Rodrigo says. And through his partnership with The Atlas Society, he is helping to spread those values.