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Indigenous Candidate Offers Voice, Unity to Mexico’s Long-Silenced Native People

Emily Ellis - PRI's The World
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June 20, 2017

Indigenous Woman Wants to Shake Up Establishment in Mexico (teleSUR English)

Their faces appear etched on Mexican pesos and mannequins in their likeness stand behind polished glass in Mexico City’s world famous Museum of Anthropology. But despite the frequent use as of their images as cultural symbols, the voices of Mexico’s estimated 25.6 million indigenous people are largely absent from their nation’s mainstream political life.

Mexico’s first indigenous woman presidential candidate, Maria de Jesus Patricio Martinez, is working to change that. Upon being selected by the Mexican Indigenous Governance Council (CIG) and the ELZN (the Zapatista National Liberation Army) as their candidate for the 2018 election, she has made history.

In its 194 years as a nation, Mexico has had just one indigenous president, Benito Juarez in 1858. And it has never had a woman president.

This election probably won't change that. Speaking from her center for traditional medicine in the town of Tuxpan, Jalisco state, Martinez, 54, says, “We will participate in the 2018 presidential elections, but not with the goal of winning and taking power, but instead as a platform to help indigenous people further organize.”

Still, analysts say Martinez’s candidacy indicates a possible turning-point in the centuries-old struggle for Mexican indigenous rights.

“She represents a return to the spirit of the indigenous movements of the 1990s, to an overturning of our established political system,” says Juan Carlos Perez, a leading expert on indigenous rights based at the Jesuit University of Guadalajara. “And she brings into national light issues of poverty and disenfranchisement that have never really been fixed.”

... Many indigenous people in Mexico, and women in particular, see Martinez as a compañera and a symbol for change. Among them is Xeinada Perez, an indigenous Mixe woman from Oaxaca state, who coordinates the Center for Indigenous Women at the Simone de Beauvoir Institute for Leadership in Mexico City.

“She’s an extremely important figure not only for [indigenous women] in Mexico, but for women all over the South,” says Perez. “That this struggle for indigenous rights has the face of a woman is very significant. We see her as a companion who has walked the same path and experienced the same struggles we have experienced.”

Read the rest at PRI's The World

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