We stand again at historic crossroads where crucial decisions will have far-reaching consequences for life on Earth. This time however there are events in three countries offering unprecedented Indigenous influence that may illuminate the best road to take for the sake of future generations. In spite of the continuing habits of thought that tend to dismiss, ignore, attack or romanticize Indigenous perspectives, this light that recognizes the potential contribution of traditional Indigenous ways of being in the world is shining on 2018 elections in the United States, Mexico and Honduras in ways that may determine whether or not each country continues down the road to tyranny. The US, I refer to the still-lit torch of the Standing Rock movement and the resulting growing political influence of American Indian candidates and activists. In Honduras it is the fiery spotlight on the international condemnation of election fraud against Salvador Nasralla, the presidential candidate who promised to memorialize the assassinated Indigenous leader Berta Caceres. The refusal of the police to kill more Indigenous protestors in support of Nasralla is also in the spotlight.
The third beacon peaking through the fog of anti-Indianism is the remarkable presence of María de Jesús Patricio Martínez, also known as Marichuy, a Nahua Indigenous healer selected by the Zapatista Army of National Liberation and the National Indigenous Congress to be Mexico’s spokesperson for its Indigenous Peoples via an effort to be an independent presidential candidate for the 2018 elections. While each of these radiant events may influence global political will, I focus here on the potentialities surrounding Marichuy. As an academic living in Mexico, I join the many other academics and artists here in supporting her because she gives the ultimate equivocal alternative to Donald Trump’s view of and integrity in the world. Trump’s overt positioning has also brought many Mexicans to the brink who have long thought the United States to be a cause of misery and an enemy of freedom here.
Furthermore, “Patricio’s candidacy and radical vision for Mexico challenges conventional politics and marks a new phase for the Zapatista and Indigenous struggle in the country,” to quote history scholar Ben Dangl.
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Fitzwater, in a second article published in Truthout thoroughly articulates this unconventional plan:
Their candidate will not be a candidate in the traditional sense; she will be the spokesperson for a national Indigenous governing council organized outside the institutions of the Mexican state. She will represent a rejection and redefinition of Mexican democracy: instead of rule by a male mestizo political elite, she will represent the leadership of an Indigenous woman who will speak in the name of a democratic council of Mexico’s Indigenous communities. The communique makes clear that this council will be organized in the coming year through a process of consultation and direct democracy that includes all the Indigenous communities throughout Mexico that have delegates in the CNI. In fact, this process may result in an entirely different initiative in the 2018 elections.
In 2016, 523 communities from 25 different states and 43 ethnic groups gave support to this plan. Now, according to the rules of Mexico’s first election to allow Independents to run for the presidency, to get on the ballot one needs 860,000 signatures across 17 of Mexico’s 33 states to get on the ballot. After the first week 48 independent candidates who had met sponsorship requirements combined collected only 27,000 with Marichuy having only 4200 according one report. One reason for this problem is a likely intentional policy put forward to stifle “what was supposed to be a step forward for Mexico’s costly, unwieldy electoral system, which has long been dominated by widely resented political parties” has to do with candidates being forced to use a smartphone app to register signatures. I was told by someone involved with Marichuy’s campaign that some signatures have taken most of the day to file. Cellphone coverage in Mexico is poor in most of the country not to mention most people in rural areas do not have one. Marichu’s campaign noted that the cost of a smartphone that would work with the application is about three times the minimum monthly wage of Indigenous workers.
If all this is not sufficient to stop the growing support for Marichuy’s representation, Mexico’s ruling party “rammed a bill through Congress” lower house” this past week giving the military legal justification to act as police, stream-rolling objections by rights groups and opposition legislators who said it would effectively militarize the country.
Such an action reminds that in spite of public and political criticism of Trump’s antics, Mexico like the US is not a functioning democracy with wealth imbalance, poverty and corruption running rampant. Unfortunately, reporting on such problems in Mexico extracts a somewhat higher price than it currently does in the United States with the murder rate of journalists being higher than in any other country. (Although only recently did Walmart stop selling T-Shirts calling for journalist lynchings).
All this is to say that any chance for successful outcomes for the peaceful Indigenous revolution calls for the kind of international support the Standing Rock movement received at its peak with over a million supportive Facebook hits. I write this article to help initiate such a movement to encourage Mexican citizens to get on the band wagon very quickly with only two more months for Marichuy to get on the ballot the voices of Mexico’s Indigenous Peoples can speak for all of us in a public forum. If Donald Trump managed his own victory under his banner of tearing down the state (to replace it with an oligarchy), why is it not possible to at least get her on the ballot and then, who knows, perhaps another miracle will happen — one that is long over due and one that if we truly understand the options may be within the realm of possibilities. After all, she would not be the first Indigenous president of Mexico. Benito Juárez was president of Mexico from 1861–1872 and remains a national hero for his constitutional reforms to create a democratic republic. According to the Encylopedia Britannica, he stopped the most flagrant neoliberal invasions of the times. And although their remains denial of Indigenous blood and racism against Indigenous Peoples, Mexicans are in fact Mestizo for the most part deep down and continue to honor their pre-Columbian histories. With sufficient encouragement from more and more academics and artists as well as from its US neighbors, a tide could turn. Who will publicly disagree with the Indigenous platform per se?
In her first press conference Marichui announced that the aim of the coalition was not to achieve power positions per se but was an “engagement for life, organization and for the reconstitution of our people who have been under attack for centuries…and for all oppressed sectors of society to join the struggle and destroy a system that is bout to exterminate all of us” (May 2017). While the initiative is Indigenous, it is not only for the “Indigenous” population but also for all of us who share the seven ethico-political principles of their political platform.
1. Obedecer y no mandar (To obey and not to command)
2. Representar y no suplantar (To represent and not to supplant)
3. Servir y no servirse (To serve, not to serve yourself)
4. Convencer y no vencer (To convince and not to win)
5. Bajar y no subir (To go down and not to go up)
6. Proponer y no imponer (To propose and not to impose)
7. Construir y no destruir (To construct and not to destroy)
I close this plea with a quote from Walter D. Mignolo, a distinguished professor and director of the Center for Global Studies and Humanities at Duke University. In his article about our topic entitled “Mexico’s Indigenous Congress: Decolonizing Politics” co-authored with Rolando Vazquez, he refers to the above principles and more:
A political project based on these principles may sound romantic to some. While most of us have been indicted to celebrate Western modernity, market democracy, meritocracy, and the “good life” of consumption and development; we now have another option: the decolonial option that open up the door to “indigeneity at large”…While most of us have been indicted to celebrate western modernity, market democracy, meritocracy, and the ‘good life’ of consumption and development; we now have another option: the decolonial option that open up the door to ‘indigeneity at large.’ They are partaking in the national electoral process, but they are utilising an anti-systemic strategy capable of revealing its fundamental flaws. The electoral process is turned into a tool for delinking from Western/liberal presuppositions (and moving toward) a legitmate representative democracy” (May 2017).
All the readers of such words need to do to help assure that only three-fourths of a million signatures put Marichuy’s voice onto the world’s stage is to send this article with your support to any and all Mexican citizens that you know. In some cases this may be an act of courage. In any case it may be the best thing you can do for the future. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said:
We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there “is” such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.