The IUSSP is saddened to announce the sudden and untimely death of IUSSP member Carlos Javier Echarri Canovas, head of the Mexican National Council of Population (CONAPO). He joined the IUSSP in 1991 and most recently served as an organizer for the 2017 International Population Conference in Cape Town, South Africa. As his colleagues attest below, Carlos was a very active, respected, and beloved researcher who disappeared at the height of his career. We share below a tribute to Carlos by his colleagues.
A few days ago, the unexpected death of Carlos Echarri touched the Mexican and international community of population scholars. Our colleague and friend was born in 1964. He studied for a Bachelor in Actuarial Sciences at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), began his training in population studies in 1985 when he entered the Masters program in Demography at El Colegio de Mexico, and received a PhD in 1994 from the Institut de Démographie of the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium. When friends and former professors of that university learned of his passing, they remembered that “his doctoral thesis was brilliantly defended, addressing a theme little studied at that time: Family, woman status and infant health in Mexico”.
Considered as one of the most distinguished Mexican demographers, Carlos Echarri was appointed head of the Mexican National Council of Population (Consejo Nacional de Población-CONAPO) on December 4 of last year, an event that filled his colleagues and the entire demographic community in Mexico with pride. Despite the short period that he spent working at CONAPO, Carlos Echarri left an indelible mark. He was an “exemplary civil servant who pushed forward various initiatives to benefit Mexican citizens and advance the Human Rights and Liberties agenda with regard to population policies”.
The employment trajectory of our dear Carlos was very broad. After completing his Master’s degree he worked as a Research Associate at the General Family Planning Department (Dirección General de Planificación Familiar) of the Ministry of Public Health in Mexico. He started his academic career, after completing his doctoral studies in Belgium, at El Colegio de Mexico, where, up to the end of November of last year, he was a Professor-Researcher at the Center of Demographics, Urban and Environment Studies (Centro de Estudios Demográficos, Urbanos y Ambientales). He also served as the academic coordinator of the Masters in Demography program and of the Doctorate Degree program in Population Studies. In addition, he coordinated the Reproductive Health and Society program, led the Academic Group on Reproduction of Population and Health, and was a member of the Advisory Board and Teachers Committee for the Masters in “Gender, Political Processes and Cultural Transformations” of the International Program of Women Studies. In his different roles at El Colegio de México, Carlos Echarri was recognized as an extremely bright person with a holistic vision of population issues, one that allowed him to be in continuous dialogue with policy makers, sharing with his colleagues and students his vision of demographic knowledge for the benefit of society. These accomplishments allowed him to reach one of the highest levels in the Mexican National Research System: Researcher Level III.
In addition to his intense activities at El Colegio de Mexico, Carlos Echarri participated in multiple ways in other national and international institutions. He was member of the Evaluation Commission of the Population Studies Department at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, member of the Publication Committee at the Centro Regional de Investigaciones Multidisciplinarias-CRIM-UNAM of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México -UNAM) and was involved in diverse activities at El Colegio de Sonora. In recent years, he collaborated with UN Women (ONU-Mujeres).
His research focused on family structure and maternal child health, reproductive health, transitions to adulthood and violence against women. His most recent publications include: Statistical panorama of violence in Mexico (Panorama estadístico de la violencia en México); Feminicide in Mexico. Approximation, trends and changes: 1985-2009 (Feminicidio en México. Aproximación, tendencias y cambios: 1985-2009) and Household and families in Mexico: a sociodemographic vision (Hogares y familias en México: una visión sociodemográfica).
Carlos Echarri participated in a wide range of international forums, in the public sphere and in civil society. He was member of the International Union for the Scientiific Study of Population (IUSSP) and collaborated as organizer of the session in the last international conference held at Cape Town in 2017. He was member of the Latin American Association of Population (Asociación Latinoamericana de Población (ALAP), participating actively in the 2018 conference held in the city of Puebla (Mexico). Finally, he was member of the Population Association of America (PAA) and, between 2015 and 2017, was the president of the Mexican Society of Demography (Sociedad Mexicana de Demografía - SOMEDE).
In addition, he was president of the Citizen Advisory Board for Population Policy (Consejo Consultivo Ciudadano de la Política de Población), member of the Scientific Advisory Committee for the National Diagnosis of Violence against Women (Comité Científico Asesor del Diagnóstico Nacional sobre violencia contra las mujeres CRIM-UNAM/CONAVIM), Vocal of the Committee for Prevention of the National Council for the Prevention and Control of AIDS CONASIDA (Vocal del Comité de Prevención del Consejo Nacional para la Prevención y Control del SIDA, CONASIDA), and the Academic Vocal and Coordinator for the Committee for Monitoring and Evaluation of CONASIDA (Vocal Académico y Coordinador del Comité de Monitoreo y Evaluación del CONASIDA).
Carlos combined good academic scholar with concern for human rights, bringing to struggles for human rights, arguments grounded in evidence based on a careful analysis of the facts. One of his pressing concerns was the quest to reduce gender inequalities, a subject area that most recently included the problem of feminicides, an alarming problem in Mexico.
At the start of this essay, we noted that the career trajectory of Carlos Echarri was vast. His permanent smile was an indicator of an enriched life on many levels. One of them was his life shared with his wife Helena Cotler and his sons Santiago and Manuel. When he talked of them his eyes filled with pride; he boasted about his wife as a brilliant researcher and an excellent life companion, of his sons as one of the most precious gifts of his existence. Some of us had the fortune to share time with them and become a part of his “extended” family – establishing relations that will continue in the absence of Carlos.
Carlos was a friend to many people, and it would be impossible here to describe them all. It is sufficient to say that he considered that dimension of his life to be of great value and he made us feel this keenly –many of us are devastated by his loss. A token of this important aspect of his life was the role he played when we traveled to participate in conferences. He was an example to follow. He discussed passionately with other academics, bringing to academic debates his superb knowledge of emerging themes that both surprised and filled us with pride. He generously shared with friends his broad culture and understanding: his pleasure in life and the substantive value that these short moments imparted to our friendships.
We, the colleagues, the companions in battles and especially the friends of Carlos Echarri, cannot stop thinking of the great emptiness that his passing leaves. We believe that Carlos is absolutely irreplaceable but, as his student say, he will live on in our hearts. He has left seeds among us that will continue to grow and honour his existence.
Carlos Echarri will be remembered for his good sense of humour, his broad knowledge of demographic themes, his solidarity with diverse social causes and his generous contribution to the formation of students in population studies.
Rosario Cárdenas, Silvia Giorguli y Edith Pacheco