Inspiring Thursday: Marichuy

“We, the indigenous people, say we don’t agree with this system—to be exploited, to have them continue to destroy our communities… It should be the people who give the orders and the government that obeys.” (Marichuy)

María de Jesús Patricio Martínez – or ‘Marichuy’ to the people – was the first indigenous woman in Mexico’s history to run for presidency. She was born in 1963 in the Nahua community of Tuxpan in the state of Jalisco. Here, she grew up watching women in her community, aunts, and her grandmother using traditional methods. When her mother lost mobility from her waist down in 1987, treatment from medical specialists failed to improve her condition, but after seeking help from traditional healers from the local community, she was able to walk again. This experience left Patricio feeling inspired and led her to study traditional medicine. Today has she runs a traditional healing center in Tuxpan, where she uses what she has learned about native plants and the knowledge passed down in her family to help people in her community, who might not be able to afford treatment otherwise. In 2015, she was given an award for her efforts in maintaining traditional knowledge and culture.

Marichuy has been politically active for many years, engaging in activism all the way back to 1994, when indigenous communities joined forces and protested against Mexico’s neoliberal policies such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, which threatened the existence of indigenous peoples’ livelihood. Her history as a political activist and her experience as a traditional healer made her an ideal spokeswoman and presidential candidate.

In an interview, Marichuy explained her political point of view: “It is the time of the people. It is time that women participate in their communities, they are the ones that give life by having children and taking care of them. The active participation of women is necessary because they are wise and strong. I think that without the participation of women there would be a large gap. It is very important that we walk together, because that’s the way the Indigenous communities are; they are not just men, it’s all of us.”

The 2018 Presidential election was the first ever to allow independent candidates to run without the backing of a major party. However, getting onto the ballot required the candidate to collect more than 850,000 signatures from 17 different states, and the collection process of these signatures proved to be an obstacle for candidates with few resources like Marichuy. In order to validate the signatures, the National Electoral Institute of Mexico stipulated that the signatures had to be collected via a phone with a good camera and a high-speed data connection. Supposedly, this system was set up to ensure a reliable scan of the voters’ ID cards. The app used to collect the signatures was a challenge throughout Marichuy’s campaign, as the volunteers struggled to connect to the internet in many of the areas where Marichuy’s supporters live.

“These elections aren’t for the poor of this country, but rather for the rich, demanding (that we use) technologies for the collection of signatures that in many of our communities we don’t even have.”

Marichuy’s candidacy ended on February 19, 2018 – the deadline for collecting the thousands of signatures – as she had not managed to reach sufficient support. Nevertheless, members of the indigenous council and Marichuy herself have stated that the goal with her candidacy was never to win. Rather, the campaign was aimed at giving a voice to the indigenous people and to introduce a feminist perspective into Mexico’s presidential debate. In that regard, Marichuy’s campaign has been a great success in that it has used the attention surrounding the election to promote rights of indigenous people, women, and nature.

By Ida Larsen, WAVE Intern