"Under the shadow of the Guamúchil" is a documentary made during the workshop "Life Stories", by Aida Hernandez Castillo, within the Atlacholoaya Morelos prison in Mexico, between 2008 and 2009. Besides the video, which can now be watched in English, a book about the women has been published in Spanish.
Indigenous peoples in Mexico
There are 16,933,283 indigenous persons in Mexico, representing 15.1 per cent of the total Mexicans. Mexico has adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and is a declared pluricultural nation since 1992. Yet, the country’s indigenous population are still facing a number of challenges.
UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted
Mexico voted in favor of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007.
In 1990, Mexico signed ILO Convention 169, an international legal instrument dealing specifically with the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples.
In 1992 Mexico became a pluricultural nation by amending Article VI of the Constitution.
Mexico’s indigenous peoples
The National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI), the National Population Council (CONAPO), and the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC) count 16,933,283 indigenous persons in Mexico, representing 15.1 per cent of all Mexicans, who number 112,236,538 peoples. Further, the indigenous population is experiencing sustained growth.
68 indigenous languages and 364 counted dialects
Mexico is the country in the Americas with largest indigenous population and the greatest number of native languages spoken in its territory, that is 68 languages and 364 counted dialect variations.
Main challenges for Mexico’s indigenous peoples
One challenge relates to lack of recognition. In 2001, as a result of an indigenous peoples’ mobilization demanding legislation based on the “San Andrés Accords” —negotiated in 1996 between the Government and the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN)—, Articles 1, 2, 4, 18, and 115 of the Mexican Constitution were amended.
As of 2003, the EZLN and the National Indigenous Congress (CNI) commenced implementation of the Accords throughout its territories, creating autonomous indigenous governments in Chiapas, Michoacán, and Oaxaca. Although the states of Chihuahua, Nayarit, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, and San Luís Potosí have provisions regarding indigenous peoples in their state constitutions, indigenous legal systems are not yet fully recognized.
Another challenge relates to Mexico’s indigenous people’s health. Officially, indigenous peoples are considered to be the most vulnerable sector of the population, with the highest maternal and infantile mortality rates, acute and chronic malnutrition rates higher than the national average, lower life expectancy, and severe limitations for access to health services.
Another challenge relates to current political changes in the United States and the discourse of its President towards migrants, which has intensified the debate over the presence of the indigenous Mexican population in US’ agricultural fields.
According to data from the 2010 United States Census, California is one of the states with the greatest diversity of Mexican indigenous groups, 31 of which have been counted, of which Mayans, Mixtecos, Zapotecos, Purépechas, and Triquis are the most numerous. These groups represent 47 per cent, 19 per cent, 9 per cent, 8 per cent and 4 per cent, respectively, in relation to the total indigenous population registered in the state.
Another challenge relates to the current federal administration’s promotion of an Educational Reform, that has not enjoyed the consensus of teachers on a national level and has resulted in a series of protest actions.
The states with the greatest presence of indigenous population in the country were the ones that have shown the greatest resistance as teaching is one of the few professional sectors where young indigenous people can develop a professional career.
The repression of the teachers’ movement and the criminalization of its leaders, who were held responsible for the confrontation, is a clear sign that the federal government has no intention of backing down from its dismantling of the only option for basic education that the indigenous populations in Mexico have: free public education.
Case: A call for respect for human rights
In a historic meeting held in state of Campeche in August 2016, members of the Mayan, Zapoteca, and Yaqui peoples signed a proclamation addressed to the Enrique Peña Nieto regime, in which they called for their human rights to be respected, particularly their right to autonomy, to free development, and to prior, informed consent in relation to megaprojects intended to be developed in their communities.
They emphasized that so far, consultations conducted in their ancestral territories have been carried out without using proper procedures to get approval for the projects.
The native peoples demanded the definitive cancelation of the megaprojects adversely affecting them, in particular, the voiding of the administrative permits granted by the Mexican state in violation of their human rights; respect for self-determination and autonomy regarding their decision to hold a consultation; the conducting of consultation processes in a free, prior, informed, culturally appropriate manner, respecting the decision of the communities, and that no comments be made aimed at influencing the decision of the peoples consulted.