Mexico's Indigenous Peoples Select a Woman to Represent Their Resistance in Upcoming Presidential Election

Imagen tomada de la cuenta de Twitter del Congreso Nacional Indigena: @CNI_Mexico

“Indigenous Governing Council.” Image from @CNI_Mexico, the Twitter account of the National Indigenous Congress

In a historic decision for Mexico, the country's indigenous peoples appointed María de Jesús Patricio Martínez as spokeswoman for the National Indigenous Governing Council, with the intent for her to run as an independent candidate in the upcoming presidential elections of 2018.

The various communities selected her on May 28, 2017, while gathered together at the National Indigenous Congress (CNI, for its initials in Spanish), which was backed by leftist political group Zapatista Army of National Liberation.

The colleague María de Jesús Patricio Martinez is the spokeswoman of the Indigenous Governing Council

The idea of setting up the Council, whose voice would be “materialized by an indigenous woman,” arose in October 2016, after the Fifth National Indigenous Congress. At the conclusion of that Congress, and marking its 20 years of existence, the CNI and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation announced the proposal — which would be submitted for consultation to its members — in a joint statement entitled “May the earth tremble at its core”:

Ratificamos que nuestra lucha no es por el poder, no lo buscamos; sino que llamaremos a los pueblos originarios y a la sociedad civil a organizarnos para detener esta destrucción, fortalecernos en nuestras resistencias y rebeldías, es decir en la defensa de la vida de cada persona, cada familia, colectivo, comunidad o barrio. De construir la paz y la justicia rehilándonos desde abajo, desde donde somos lo que somos.

We reaffirm that our struggle is not for power, we do not seek it; rather we will call on the indigenous peoples and civil society to organize ourselves to stop this destruction, to strengthen our resistances and rebellions, that is, the defense of the life of every person, every family, group, community or neighborhood. To build peace and justice by reweaving ourselves from below, from where we are what we are.

According to the CNI, 523 communities from 25 states and 43 indigenous peoples approved the proposal in December 2016, so that the constitution of the Council and the appointment of their respective spokesperson would take place in May 2017.

In its press release at that time, the CNI stated the following regarding the Indigenous Governing Council (CIG, its initials in Spanish):

El CIG es la parte medular de la propuesta que el CNI hace al país y a los pueblos indígenas. Es la forma de cómo nos organizaremos nacionalmente desde abajo y a la izquierda para gobernar este país, desde la otra política, la de los pueblos, la de la asamblea, la de la participación de todas y todos.  Es la forma en que los pueblos nos organizamos para tomar las decisiones sobre los asuntos y problemas que nos competen a todas y todos. Es la otra forma de hacer política, desde la horizontalidad, desde el análisis y la toma de decisiones colectiva.

The CIG is the core of the CNI's proposal to the country and to the indigenous peoples. It is the way in which we will organize ourselves nationwide from below and to the left to govern this country based on the other politics, that of the peoples, of the assembly, of the participation of all and everyone. It is the way in which we the people organize ourselves to make decisions on the issues and problems that involve all of us. It is the other way of doing politics, from horizontality, and through collective analysis and decision-making.

Precisely with the aim of distancing themselves from the narrative of political parties, and in order to abide by their collective forms of organization and representation, both the CNI and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation have insisted that it is not a question of promoting a candidate but a spokesperson:

Ella será quién lleve la voz del Concejo Indígena de Gobierno a todo el país, a todo el mundo. Ella será quién lleve la voz de los pueblos y de la sociedad civil. Ella será nosotros, nosotras.

She will be the one to carry the voice of the Indigenous Governing Council to the whole country, to the whole world. She will be the voice of the peoples and civil society. She will be us.

At least 848 delegates and councillors from about 60 indigenous peoples of the country, as well as the General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, participated in the nomination Assembly.

Let this country shake with the resistance, rebellion and dignity of all the peoples of Mexico.

María de Jesús Patricio Martínez (also known as Marichuy) is a traditional medicine doctor and Nahua from Tuxpan in the state of Jalisco. In 2010, she stated her desire for an organization like the recently created National Indigenous Governing Council:

Anhelo una organización de abajo hacia arriba, en la que se mande obedeciendo y se respeten los acuerdos de todos.

I long for an organization managed from the bottom up, in which all agreements are obeyed and respected.

In the following Spanish-language AJ+ video made prior to her appointment as spokesperson, Marichuy herself emphasizes the importance of choosing an indigenous woman to raise awareness of the problems, struggles and traditions of indigenous communities during the elections.

The 2018 presidential elections will be the first to allow the nomination of independent candidates. But, in order to do so, the candidates must fulfill a series of requirements established in the Seventh Book of the General Law on Electoral Institutions and Procedures. They include:

  • establishing a civil association
  • opening a bank account
  • registering with the Tax Administration Service
  • and once registered as candidates, gathering the support of 1 per cent of the total number of citizens registered in the national electoral register (about 1 million signatures) distributed in at least 17 states.

It remains to be seen whether María de Jesús Patricio Martínez's candidacy will succeed in meeting the deadlines and requirements of the Mexican electoral system. However, there is profound symbolism in the mere act of promoting and appointing her — a woman who will not only work to make historically silenced indigenous communities a presence on the political landscape, but is indigenous herself. As spokesperson, her aim will be to realize the National Indigenous Congress motto: “Never again a Mexico without us!”

In her own words, as captured in this video:

Nuestra participación es por la vida, es por esa reconstrucción de nuestros pueblos que han sido golpeados por años y años.

Our participation is for [the right to] life, it is for the reconstruction of our peoples who have been beaten for years and years.

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