In front of the Monumento al Caballito, on Paseo de la Reforma Avenue, dozens of people began to arrive wearing the typical costumes of the Mazahua communities. The bright colors contrasted with the yellow of that sculpture. Soon they took to the streets. The traffic police cordoned off the area and diverted the cars driving along the popular avenue. Women and men took out cempasúchil flower petals and began to throw them as they walked in circles.

More people lit the copal, others arranged fruits and bunches of flowers in the center of the circle. Soon an altar was set up in the center of the avenue, lined by dancers with colorful plumes and the typical dress of their town of San Simón de la Laguna, State of Mexico. Rocio Sanchez is from San Simon. She began making and selling handicrafts as a child, however, she points out that her community and its culture have been constantly attacked by authorities and society that discriminates against the origins of Mexican peoples.

"We would like to be taken into account as a Mazahua community living in Mexico City. We are not recognized within the indigenous communities that live in this city, but we have more years in this territory than any of the governors and police that persecute us. We are of the same blood, we do not understand why they treat us so badly, many times they take us as crazy, and when they see us wearing Mazahua clothes or speaking Mazahua they marginalize us, that is why many times we stop using our clothes and our language because we are afraid that the people around us will attack us", says Rocio Sanchez.

Between discrimination and persecution

Among the many aggressions they suffer daily, Rocío pointed out that the refusal to provide them with medical services and to let them work has been the most serious she has faced. She recalls that on one occasion she arrived at the emergency room at the Rubén Leñero hospital to be treated for abdominal pain, but as she explained, since she was dressed in traditional clothing, she was left in the waiting room for more than eight hours, she watched other people pass by who arrived after her and when she asked when she would be attended to, she was told that she had to wait until they called her.

After a day's work, she was attended to and was told that she had a serious kidney infection, so she spent two days in bed and on intravenous antibiotics. In another episode, she says that she was going to board the subway in her Mazahua dress, she was carrying a heavy load; a policeman stopped her and told her that she could not pass, that people with heavy loads could not enter the Public Transportation System, she complained. Meanwhile another woman, according to Rocio, was passing by with a large bundle, but she was wearing pants and a shirt. "Today we went out to the streets to present a little of our culture because it has been lost over the years due to marginalization and persecution," she says.

An offering for their recognition

The music began to come out of the air instruments and percussions that mixed with the dance steps of those dancers. The smoke of copal and the smell of flowers gave an atmosphere of tranquility, in the middle of a collapsed avenue and the sound of honking horns. "At the beginning, because of the mistreatment, we were also educating the children about what they should not look like Mazahuas and so the culture was lost, but we did it out of fear because we don't want anyone to treat them badly or humiliate them," she says.

"We have been in Mexico City for many years, but the government does not see us as a Mazahua community. Our language and customs are being lost because many of us who come to live in the capital have to leave our beliefs and traditions behind. After all, we are being singled out all the time. The Government of Mexico City says that there are no Mazahua communities in this land, they say that there are Triquis, Mazatecos, but not Mazahua. We are invisible but all of us who are here are from San Simón de la Laguna, so why don't they look at us?" asks Rocío.

Within these traditions is the trade and craftsmanship they manufacture, it is fundamental as learning and development of the community, as it is part of the identity that each Mexican culture has preserved for five centuries, however, what in pre-Hispanic times was recognized as a respectable trade, today is persecuted and punished indigenous artisans and traders of this city.

"We are all artisans, but we are repressed if we offer our work, we have no sales space, and all the time we are afraid that the government will come and take away our merchandise. Recently the government came to raise our tents and beat us, but some people have no income and we have slept and lived in the street. We all get together to cope with these situations, but in this space, we want to shout that San Simón de la Laguna is not dead and that we will continue to remind the authorities and the people that we are standing up to see our culture reborn", expresses Rocío.

Mazahua women.
Mazahua women.

Mazahua women are trained in the State of Mexico to produce organic vegetables

To generate opportunities for productive, economic, and family welfare development, the Foundation "Por un Campo Productivo" ("For a Productive Countryside") implemented a project in which Mazahua women from the State of Mexico are trained in organic vegetable production. In this way, in the community of Calvario del Carmen, municipality of San Felipe del Progreso, the organization was given the task of selecting a group of Mazahua women to integrate them in education and training processes to promote productive self-management.

The community has benefited by complementing the self-sustaining corn monoculture with organic vegetables such as squash, broccoli, cabbage, parsley, cilantro, tomatoes, lemon, chard, beets, and radishes, among other vegetable products, of which an average of at least three kilos per day are harvested in each family garden. We are in the Huerto Escuela de Calvario del Carmen, downtown, where our beneficiaries are trained in agronomic topics, and with the knowledge they develop, they replicate in their homes and on their land, family gardens to contribute to food security and in a second moment generate surpluses that can be marketed", informed Alberto Ruiz Ferrer, legal representative of the Foundation "Por un Campo Productivo" (For a Productive Field).

While the Mazahua women receive instructions from a young agronomist, they remove the weeds with their hands, hoe the soil and, almost as if caressing them, remove the dry branches from which they will obtain the seeds for the next planting. Our sole objective is to contribute to the sustainable development of indigenous rural localities that unfortunately find themselves in a situation of poverty, marginalization, and vulnerability to climate change," said Ruiz Ferrer. The garden not only contributes to food and economic development; it is also an emotional incentive for those involved in the project.

"When I wake up, I see my garden and I feel like, now yes, it gives me a lot of encouragement, it makes me grow. Well, I'm very happy to live here in the countryside because I like to work in the fields," said Inés Gutiérrez Mercado, a beneficiary of the organic vegetable project".

The vegetables from the garden can be consumed by the family itself, which helps to provide more nutritional variety, or some vegetables and bunches of cilantro and parsley are selected for sale in an organic produce store. "My products, well I tell people to buy vegetables from me, because they are healthier vegetables, that they are organic, that we are fertilizing them ourselves, now with organic soil, without any chemicals, so that they are encouraged, now, so that they can eat healthier vegetables," added Inés.

The organic vegetable project of Fundación "Por un Campo Productivo" directly benefits 400 Mazahua women, which translates into more than 3 thousand indirect beneficiaries. Fundación "Por un Campo Productivo" is a Private Assistance Institution (IAP) legally constituted before the Private Assistance Board of the State of Mexico (JAPEM), a body under the Ministry of Social Development, which aims to address the causes of indigenous rural poverty with innovation in sustainable production models in the State of Mexico.

Source: This is a translation from an original reporting produced by Once Noticias. You can find the stories in Spanish here and here.