Earth Democracy: Women rising up to cultivate peace

María de Jesús Patricio Martínez speaking in Chiapas. Still from interview, PromediosMexico, May 28, 2017.

By Nancy Price, Earth Democracy

What does NAFTA renegotiation have to do with María de Jesús Patricio “Marichui” Martínez, a 53-year-old indigenous Nahua woman, traditional medicine practitioner, and mother of three who is running for President of Mexico in July 2018?

The 1994 Zapatista response to NAFTA

In 1992, US President Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Mulroney, and Mexican President Salinas each signed the North American Free Trade Agreement in their capitals on December 17, and NAFTA was ratified by each nation’s legislative or parliamentary branch and went into effect January 1, 1994.

As part of NAFTA, the Mexican government agreed to cancel Article 27 of Mexico’s constitution—an article that was the cornerstone of Emiliano Zapata’s heroically fought and hard-won people’s revolution of 1910–1919. This article was historic in that it protected Indian communal lands, or ejidos (used for agriculture and on which community members individually farmed designated parcels), from sale or privatization and protected them from the wealthy who were amassing huge estates and engaging in corporate land-grabbing. Of course, indigenous farmers feared losing their remaining land and feared that cheap, subsidized, US agricultural imports, especially corn, would be dumped into Mexico. And, this is exactly what happened!

With the removal of Article 27, indigenous communities from across Mexico called NAFTA a “death sentence” and declared war on the state. On January 1, 1994, the day NAFTA came into force, communities organized under the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN), or Zapatista Army of National Liberation, based in Chiapas, the southernmost state of Mexico, taking their name from Emiliano Zapata, the agrarian reformer and commander of the Liberation Army of the South during the Mexican Revolution.

María de Jesús Patricio “Marichui” Martínez is an indigenous Nahua woman and traditional medicine practitioner who is running for President of Mexico, hoping to heal her country and cultivate peace.

Just last May, 840 delegates from the National Indigenous Congress, representing 60 communities from across the country, voted in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, the heart of the indigenous resistance in Mexico, to publicly support María de Jesús. Most notably, she received the support of the EZLN, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, which has traditionally boycotted Mexican state politics.

As Duncan Tucker writes from Marichui’s small hometown of Tuxpan, in Jalisco State in western Mexico, she is “renowned for preserving traditional medicine.” Now, in challenging Mexico’s political establishment, “she is about to embark upon a much more ambitious mission: healing a country that has been torn apart by rampant violence, political corruption and economic inequality.” As Marichui says: “The government isn’t interested in supporting indigenous people—it sees us as people who get in the way. . . . The political class only see the earth and our natural resources as a means of making money, not things that benefit the community and need protecting.” In no uncertain terms, she wants to challenge imbedded machismo, class divisions, and inequality and racism. Furthermore, her candidacy is seen as a step to redressing the underrepresentation of more than 25 million indigenous Mexicans (21.5 percent of the population) in politics.

María de Jesús Patricio “Marichui” Martínez hopes her campaign will create a national network that “unites indigenous communities with working-class Mexicans” [citing Duncan Tucker’s Guardian article again] to rebuild Mexico from the bottom up.

Renegotiating NAFTA

Our WILPF Congress theme was Women Organizing for Action: Remember – Reclaim – Reimagine. What better example do we have than that of one woman in Mexico organizing for action. Our Congress “Women Cultivating Peace” workshop mirrors María de Jesús’s commitment to heal Mexico and bring peace to a country torn apart by drug gangs and police and state violence and the indifference of the political establishment toward the majority of Mexicans.

Let’s remember NAFTA’s impact on Mexican agriculture and the impoverishment of farmers forced to migrate to the US and the vision of the Zapatistas who rose up to reclaim a place for indigenous Mexicans and to reimagine a better world—healed and at peace.

Listen to María de Jesús Patricio Martínez speak (in Spanish), May 28, 2017, Chiapas. PromediosMexico.


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