All posts by Tania Eulalia Martínez Cruz

This a personal blog not meant to be purely academic-oriented even though, I work as a researcher. I started this blog aiming to become a better writer, but then it turned out to be a mixture of many things. Some of my entries link to the nostalgia of my childhood in the mountains, I spent my childhood and adolescent there, but like many other youngsters, I left seeking a better life. I also share stories from other friends that are based on their experiences, memories and struggles. I also have a section on my professional work. I am trained as a water management person, and also as a social sciences researcher. Currently, I work as a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Natural Resources Institute at the University of Greenwich in the United Kingdom on nutrition, gender and indigenous food systems. I have over 12 years of experience working on a wide range of topics, from sanitary engineering, irrigation, water management, crop modelling to ICT4D, climate action, gender, nutrition, indigenous food systems, politics of knowledge, among others. I also share some of the causes I support, education among them. On my free time, I also collaborate with institutions and NGOs to advocate for the right to education. Education changed my life, and my hope is that many other girls, children and children facing many inequalities can also improve their lives. As an engineer in the early years of my career, I also advocate for WOMEN in STEM. As an Ayuujk woman, I am also still connected to my motherland, Tamazulápam Mixe, Oaxaca, and in 2020 I am fulfilling a year of community service supporting the women´s office. My duty is to help on issues related to the welfare of women in my community.

The politics of knowledge: Reclaiming the gender narrative across agri-food systems (Plenary at Cultivating Equality: Advancing Gender Research in Agriculture and Food Systems conference, October 2021)

The video is officially posted in the site of the conference and I re-post it here as I was a participant in this session

This plenary brought together three esteemed speakers to explore critical issues related to the politics of knowledge and nurturing plural visions for equitable agriculture and food systems. Andrea Cornwall, Professor of Global Development and Anthropology, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, initiated the discussion with a presentation on ‘Decolonizing Gender and Development’. Amon Ashaba Mwiine, Lecturer in the School of Women and Gender Studies, Makerere University, then provided insights on ‘Plural feminisms, pathways & practices towards equitable food systems: visions for the future’. Finally, Tania Eulalia Martinez-Cruz, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Greenwich, addressed the question ‘Whose food sovereignty? Encounters and discounters in transnational space: Reflections and lessons from Indigenous Peoples in Latin America’. The speakers then came together as a panel for a conversation with the audience. Moderator: Esha Shah, University Lecturer, Wageningen University.

Climate Goals Require “Radical Action” from Food and Beverage Businesses

Retrieved from Food Tank, the original post is available at https://foodtank.com/news/2021/11/climate-goals-require-radical-action-from-food-and-beverage-business/

The views in the text reflect the authors’ and are based on an event held at the Global Landscapes Forum in Glassgow as part of COP26 and in which I participated.

The global food system is responsible for about one-third of human-caused greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, with most of those emissions attributed to agriculture and land use. But food can also be an incredibly powerful solution. Because of their immense power, food and beverage companies can help support governments and civil society to achieve major climate goals—or, they can do the opposite.

“We’re not going to solve this by waiting for government, COP, the UN, or anyone to solve it. This is something that requires individual action, and to be frank, it requires radical action,” Patrick Brown, CEO of Impossible Foods, says at a Global Landscapes Forum panel hosted by Oatly and moderated by Food Tank President Danielle Nierenberg at COP26 on November 6.

Many of these solutions lie in the animal agriculture industry. According to Brown, talking about the food system as a climate problem is like calling out liquids as a problem instead of the oil industry. “The most destructive technology in human history is the use of animals to make food,” he says.

Policymakers, businesses, and civil society can create new business models that support farmers, eaters, and businesses alike. Much of this action can be driven by learning what’s already working. For example, while Indigenous peoples account for five percent of the global population and hold less than a quarter of the world’s land, they maintain 80 percent of the remaining biodiversity.

“When we think about what we should be doing differently, it’s learning from many of these Indigenous practices,” says Tania Eulalia Martinez Cruz, Indigenous Activist and Researcher. Policies should be designed with this context in mind, she says, accounting for the rich tradition within Indigenous food systems.

“If we got rid of animal agriculture today and continued to grow plant-based products in the same way that they’re grown today, and not paying attention to [these lessons], we’d still have a broken system,” Ashley Allen, CSO at Oatly, adds.

There’s no doubt that consumers are demanding healthier solutions and want more information about supply chains, and meanwhile, farmers are suffering in the current food system model. Businesses have a critical role to play in driving the shift towards a more sustainable food system that leaves no one behind.

Oatly is working to bring food products’ carbon foodprints to the forefront of labels and conversations surrounding sustainability. Meanwhile, Apeel Foods is empowering consumers to prevent the “low-hanging fruit” of food waste, says Jessica Vieira, Apeel’s Senior Director of Sustainability.

But modernization is not the only way forward. For Louise Mabulo, Founder of the Cacao Project in the Philippines, localized solutions are more practical and economical. Food businesses can sustainably scale by finding where this local knowledge meets more modern technologies.

“It doesn’t mean we have to go back to pulling tractors by horses,” says Allen.

Eventually, all businesses and production models will have to be sustainable: The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned that the planet has fewer than 60 harvests left. If businesses don’t invest in more sustainable practices now, they won’t make any business down the line, says Mabulo.

Financial institutions are beginning to see a solid business case for investing in sustainability. Vieira speaks about a recent shift from viewing food waste—a US$2.6 trillion problem—not as a tax on the system but as an untapped savings account.

But food technology solutions can only be scaled if they are appropriately adapted to each region. A food systems transition would look very different in the global north versus the global south, says Mabulo. Democratizing the distribution of these solutions means investing in Indigenous communities while ensuring they’re the ones leading the research, certifications, and education within their own communities.

“If we move fast enough, is there potential for us to not just address food loss and waste, increase income opportunities by creating market access, but maybe even leapfrog the cold chain in some instances,” says Vieira.

But this requires partnerships to understand producers’ on-the-ground needs. For example, International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Apeel are partnering in emerging markets to increase market opportunities for fruit and vegetable producers with Apeel’s plant-based shelf-life extension technology. Oatly is helping dairy farmers transition to crops such as oats and cashews that can be used to make plant milk, butter, cheese, and yogurt.

By forging unconventional partnerships as well as working with and building upon Indigenous knowledge systems, “transformation is not only possible, it’s necessary,” says Nierenberg.

“We don’t have 11 years, we have tomorrow to make these changes. Now more than ever, we can’t sit back and have all talk and no action.”

Some steps for decolonising international research-for-development partnerships

This text is copied from the EADI/ISS blog series. I’m one of the co-authors and therefore I’m sharing it on my blog acknowledging the original source and authors. The original piece can be found here or copy the link to browser http://www.developmentresearch.eu/?p=1088

By Katarzyna Cieslik, Shreya Sinha, Cees Leeuwis, Tania Eulalia Martínez-Cruz, Nivedita Narain and Bhaskar Vira | EADI/ISS Blog Series

While partnerships between researchers and practitioners from the Global North and Global South can be and often are intellectually and socially impactful, they remain highly unequal. Coloniality pervades these partnerships, influencing who leads research projects implemented in the Global South and whose interests are represented. Here, the conveners and panellists of a roundtable discussion on partnerships in academia that formed part of the recentEADI ISS Conference 2021 propose some steps for decolonising international research partnerships.

Much of the very urgent and timely discussion on decolonising the academy – recognising and changing the colonial relations of power that are embedded in teaching as well as research – has focused on representation, on diversifying the curricula, and on theorising from the Global South. But what about research partnerships and collaborations? This is a slightly overlooked issue in the decolonisation agenda, but one that is no less important.

In the field of international development particularly, but not only, collaborations between academic institutions in the Global North and academic and non-academic institutions in the Global South are often crucial to demonstrate research impact and to generate funding. But these partnerships themselves are fraught by unequal power relations. To truly decolonise research, it is necessary to decolonise every aspect of it – including the way in which we collaborate internationally.

At the roundtable  called ‘Partnership, participation and power in academia’, we sought answers to questions that included:

  • How do unequal power relations manifest in the research design and operation?
  • What might we do to challenge these relations?
  • What would it mean to decolonise these research partnerships?

During the roundtable, participants highlighted key issues that arose in how international research collaborations are designed and implemented. These are summarised below. We start with reflections on how coloniality manifests itself through various stages of the collaboration process.

Agenda-setting: whose interests are really represented?

There are a number of programmatic and institutional issues that result in unequal relations between collaborators across the Global North and South, both within academic institutions and between academia and practice. Funding sources and structures are obvious culprits here. Not only are funders often situated in the Global North, the criteria for eligibility and affiliation mean that these partners need to be the principal or lead investigators. As a result, more often than not, project outcomes and impacts end up being structured and valued by the parameters of funding bodies and university departments in the Global North with little regard for what might be important for partners inhabiting other geographies and institutional environments. So, for example, the inordinate emphasis in projects on high-impact journal publications may be at odds with the priorities of an NGO partner in the Global South.

Constrained research design processes

Moreover, grant applications typically require clearly defined questions, outcomes and outputs – in fact, proposals are often marked down when they demonstrate the slightest sign of tentativeness – and the time between the announcement of grant and submission deadlines can be quite limited. These issues mean that research partnerships do not always have enough time and space to jointly develop a research agenda that accounts equally for interests of partners across the Global North and Global Southand to allow for the messy process that robust research often tends to be.

More knowledge is more power (when it comes to agenda setting)

In fact, because researchers in the Global North also have more tacit knowledge and institutional support to make a proposal ‘fundable’, they have more power in setting the research agenda. In such situations, the degree to which partnerships are equitable depends on the discretion and conscience of individual academics. 

Partners in the Global South: mediators or change agents?

There are more fundamental questions that arise from these issues: who is considered a researcher and what does it mean to be a researcher? It is now widely accepted that the ‘lone researcher’ never was – the work of academics has always been enabled by other individuals and networks of support. In the context of many North-South research collaborations, practitioner organisers and local communities based in the Global South often become mediators providing access to field data, data collecting agents and/or passive recipients of research findings. Academics everywhere, but especially in the Global North, need to find ways of sharing power with institutions, communities and individuals in whose name these collaborative grants are often established.

Decolonising international research partnerships: some steps

With these issues and questions in mind, and based on the roundtable discussion, we propose some steps to decolonise international academic collaborations and foster partnerships that are equitable, democratic, and lead to locally relevant impacts.

1: Decolonise the research ecosystem

First, the research ecosystem of funding bodies, higher education organizations and research institutions needs to be transformed to eliminate systemic biases against research partners from the Global South. More often than not, grant guidelines require that project leadership and budget administration remain with the Northern partners while hiring policies for project staff (e.g. PhD researchers) frequently discriminate against Southern candidates. We propose:

  • Redressing the hierarchies of funding structures: building funding instruments that recognise academic excellence, merit and local relevance, regardless of researchers’ nationality;
  • Designing funding instruments that prioritise project leadership by Southern partners, both academics and practitioners;
  • Reflecting on the ways in which our own attitudes and practices perpetuate the systemic injustices within the research ecosystem.

2: Decolonise the research process

 Second, it is necessary to think critically about the biases that permeate the research inception process: from articulating the research idea through conceptualization to funding acquisition. Rarely does it happen that the Northern and Southern co-applicants have the chance to brainstorm the research idea together and articulate their needs and preferences.  For projects to be co-created in an equitable manner, we propose the following:

  • Debunking the myth of research projects as linear, and allowing for flexibility, adaptation and learning throughout the project cycle;
  • Recognising that a certain degree of ‘messiness’ is an indispensable part of collaborative knowledge co-creation and that project priorities, as well as desired outputs and impacts, might change during the project;
  • Creating spaces for informal interaction between researchers and practitioners from institutions in the Global North and Global South where innovative ideas can be developed and discussed prior to grant application submission.

3: Decolonise the research outputs

Third, research project in the field of international development are frequently expected to deliver both applied (positive social change on the ground) and scientific (contributions to theory) impacts but it is only the latter that often determine project ‘success’. This results in a somewhat skewed project logic that prioritizes scientific outputs over practical insights.

Research outputs may be decolonised by:

  • Legitimising alternative knowledge systems, recognising the plurality of methodological approaches, and appreciating the indispensability of grounded and localised practitioner experiences;
  • Decoupling academic and non-academic project outputs, as well as recognising their value and complementary nature.

Research partnerships: processes, not actor constellations

North-South partnerships are not an isolated issue – they are part of a complex and dynamic research-for-development system. For this reason, we propose approaching partnerships as a process, as opposed to simply a contract or institutional arrangement. This process starts with decentralised, inclusive, and democratic agenda setting, followed by resource allocation that acknowledges the indispensable and complementary contributions of all partners. Project governance needs to be democratic and fair and, finally, knowledge co-creation must be recognised as leading to both academic and non-academic outputs and impacts. Approaching partnerships as a process can allow us to prioritise locally defined development agendas, to include and appreciate all relevant stakeholders and to build on their diverse knowledges, skills and experience.

This article is part of a series launched by EADI (European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes) and the Institute of Social Studies (ISS) on topics discussed at the 2021 EADI/ISS General Conference“Solidarity, Peace and Social Justice”. It will also be published on the  ISS Blog

Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of the EADI Debating Development Blog or the European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes

Katarzyna Cieslik is a Research Associate at the University of Cambridge. Her research focuses on work, livelihoods and employment in the Global South, in particular in relation to technology/work/environment tradeoffs.

Shreya Sinha is a Lecturer at the University of Reading, working on agrarian political economy, political ecology and critical development studies with a focus on India.

Cees Leeuwis is professor of Knowledge, Technology and Innovation at Wageningen University. He studies processes of socio-technical innovation and transformation in networks, research for development policy, the functioning of innovation support systems and the role of innovation platforms, communication, extension and brokers therein.

Tania Eulalia Martínez-Cruz is an independent researcher and consultant at the Indigenous Peoples Unit at FAO, researching the politics of knowledge, gender and social inclusion/exclusion, climate action, nutrition and traditional food systems.

Nivedita Narain  is Chief Executive Officer, Charities Aid Foundation India, an adjunct faculty member at the Charles Sturt University, Australia and has worked with Professional Assistance for Development Action (PRADAN) for over thirty years. She has worked on gender, livelihoods, and human resources management for non-profits and setting-up development practice as an academic discipline.

Bhaskar Vira is a Professor of Political Economy at the University of Cambridge. His research focuses on environmental and development economics; political economy, particularly the study of institutions and institutional change; public policy in the developing world.

“¿Qué tipo de migrante eres? Porque yo solo estoy de acuerdo con un tipo de migrantes…”

Ayer mientras corría en algún rincón de EUA encontré un enorme letrero que decía “Migrants are essential” (Los migrantes son esenciales). Tan pronto vi el letrero, comencé a conversar con un amigo cercano y pensaba en la migración, los tipos de migración, las causas, implicaciones, etcétera. Obviamente esto me hace pensar siempre en lo privilegiada que han sido mis últimas migraciones (más no las de niña porque eran diferentes), por ejemplo, ahora vivo en Londres por trabajo e idealismo y anteriormente he podido vivir en otros países por trabajo y/o estudios. Sin embargo, también me hace pensar en las migraciones que son forzadas, en busca de una mejor vida pero quizá no en las mejores condiciones. Esto también me llevó a pensar en una anécdota la primera vez que salí de México para vivir en Arizona, E.U.A.

En algún rincón del mundo…

En el 2010, Tania, aunque era muy joven aún, estaba ya muy cansada con el proceso de buscar y postular a becas a maestría, la aventura con Fulbright y otras organizaciones donde buscó financiamiento, había sido toda una travesía de resistencia, perseverancia y de disciplina. A estas altura, Tania estaba era muy feliz porque al final tenía un beca Fulbright para estudiar una maestría en un tema que le gustaba.

Finalmente, a inicios de mayo del 2010 le dijeron que era oficial, la Universidad de Arizona en Tucson, Arizona sería su nueva Alma Mater, iría a estudiar una maestría en Ingeniería Química y Ambiental. Tania estaba aún en Texcoco, trabajando para ahorrar lo más posible para los gastos que venían y ahora debía ir a Oaxaca a despedirse de mamá y la familia. ¡La aventura estaba por comenzar!

Había llegado el 3 de junio del 2010, el día en que la aventura comenzaría. Era mi primera subiéndome sola a un avión (solo había volado una vez antes en un viaje de estudio en grupo), llegué super temprano al aeropuerto de la ciudad de Oaxaca pensando que tendría que pasar una gran fila. Había mucha incertidumbre porque esta joven morenita y bajita fuera a Arizona porque dos días antes había entrado en vigor de la ley SB170 en Arizona que indicaba que podían detenerte por perfil racial. La preocupación de la gente era “Tania, eres muy morenita y bajita, claramente podrían detenerte, ¿Estas lista para los retos que implican?” Respondía que si, la verdad es que tenía miedo por todas las historias que veía en los medios, pero pensaba que estaría bien, no quedaba de otra, había que estar bien.

Después de 3 horas de espera en el aeropuerto, la hora de abordar el avión llegó, primero iría a Dallas llegó y de ahí haría una conexión a Tucson. Al sentarme en el avión, aunque iba vacío en un 70%, tenía como acompañante a un señor mayor, alto y de piel clara. Para esta narración, llamaré a este señor Michael. Michael se notaba inquieto, llamó a la auxiliar de vuelo y con mi limitado inglés ( o al menos eso infiero porque la verdad es que había pasado mis exámenes de inglés de dominio del idioma pero me aterraba hablar inglés y escucharlo, pues más o menos) entendí que le dijo – “Si el vuelo no se llena, ¿Podría reubicarme en otro asiento?”- Ella le respondió que sí podría cambiarse una vez que el vuelo estuviera en el aire.

Yo esperaba que él se cambiaría de asiento pronto pero solo veía que me observaba y se quedaba pensativo. Comenzamos a platicar o más bien, el comenzó el interrogatorio.

Michael – ¿A dónde vas muchacha, te ves muy joven, a dónde vas?-

Tania- A Tucson.

Michael- ¿A qué vas a Tucson?

Tania- Voy a la Universidad de Arizona.

Paul- ¿En serio? Qué bueno, yo soy profesor emérito de la una universidad en Arizona, trabajé en el Departamento de Antropología pero ahora vivo en la Costa Oaxaqueña con mi esposa, ella es Oaxaqueña. Me llamo Michael.

Tania- Ahh, que bueno. Mucho gusto, me llamo Tania.

Michael- ¿Y que vas a hacer en la Universidad? ¿Vas becada a la Universidad o cómo vas?

Tania- Sí, me gané una beca Fulbright y ellos pagarán por mis estudios. Voy a estudiar Ingeniería Química y Ambiental (Yo muy contenta por dentro y sonriendo).

Michael- Muy bien, esas son unas becas muy prestigiosas, seguro lo harás muy bien, muchas felicidades.

Tania- Gracias.

Michael- ¿Sabes? Al inicio quería cambiarme de asiento para ir más cómodo, pero cuando te ví, pensé que ¿Qué llevará a esta muchachita a EUA? Entonces pensé que sería más interesante quedarme a conversar contigo.

Yo pensando, seguramente ya encontró su objeto de estudio este señor y seguía como disturbada. El era entre amable pero también incrédulo, no sabía cómo leer su lenguaje corporal.

              Michael- ¿Eres de Oaxaca? ¿De qué parte de Oaxaca eres?

              Tania- Sí, soy de la sierra Mixe.

Michael- Muy bien, bueno, vamos a ver si no te quedas o te roban por allá.

              Tania- No, tengo un contrato que dice que debo volver a México al concluir mis estudios.

              Michael- Muy bien. ¿Sabes? Yo no estoy a favor de los migrantes, a mí no me gusta que vayan a mi país, me refiero a los ilegales, con migrantes como tu estoy bien porque aportan a mi país, con los otros no. Una de mis hijas vive cerca de Tucson, yo viajo cada año a visitarla, tomo un vuelo a Tucson, el mismo que tu tomarás, rento una camioneta y la voy a visitar. En el paso me encuentro a mucha gente cruzando el desierto ilegalmente, les doy un aventón, no los llevo con migración, los dejo en una iglesia al paso pero no estoy de acuerdo. Ahora con Obama y las ideas que tiene, tampoco estoy de acuerdo, mi hija y yo peleamos porque no coincidimos en nuestras posiciones en cuanto a migración pero ni modo que le hacemos.

Después de todo este episodio, yo no supe que más hacer, preferí quedarme en silencio y decir que quería descansar un rato.

Al aterrizar…

              Michael- Vamos, yo te guío en este aeropuerto que es enorme.

Caminamos por el aeropuerto hasta llegar a las filas de migración, una entrada era para residentes y ciudadanos y otra más para visitantes con VISA como yo. Michael se formó conmigo, le dije que no era necesario, me dijo que sí, que el tenía tiempo aún y quería asegurarse que me la gente me trataba bien en su país. La verdad, los sentimientos e ideas eran confusos, tenía una amabilidad hacia mí pero sus ideas eran algo que me dejaban mucho que pensar. Llegó el momento de pasar migración:

              Oficial- Pasaportes y visas por favor.

              Michael y Tania- Entregamos nuestros pasaportes.

              Michael- Quise acompañar a mi amiga para asegurarme que pasara bien aquí por migración.

              Oficial- Muy bien, justo le iba a decir que usted podría pasar por la otra fila pero está muy bien, aquí pueden pasar los dos. Todo en orden, adelante.

Seguimos caminando por un rato más hasta que llegamos a los trenes:

              Michael- Aquí nos separamos, yo voy a Chicago a visitar a otro hijo. Aquí tomas el tren X y te bajas en la puerta y. Ahí podrás tomar tu próximo vuelo a Tucson. Me dio mucho gusto conocerte y sé que te irá muy bien, mucho éxito. Te dejo mi tarjeta, si quieres algún día escribeme por correo, no uso e-mail o llamame.

              Tania- Gracias.

La verdad es que seguía confundida. Una parte de mí decía que debía reaccionar con los comentarios de ese viaje, una parte de mí sentía miedo a lo nuevo y desconocido, una parte de mí sentía que debía sentirme agradecida por su amabilidad hacia mí a pesar de esa tensión con las ideologías.

¿Tú has estado en alguna posición similar? ¿Qué has hecho? ¿Qué hacemos como migrantes en otros países? ¿Qué hacemos con las personas que migran en nuestros propios países y pueblos? ¿Cuál es nuestra postura?

Tania caminando en un parque Nacional en Tucson Arizona, en territorio Tohono.

Resisting in the mountains in Mexico: using territory and self-determination to resist COVID-19

By Tania Martinez, this piece was originally written for a series of reflections on access to food security on the face of COVID19 as part of the Collective on Agrarian Scholar-activists from the South (casas.org) and can be found at https://casasouth.org/resisting-in-the-mountains-using-territory-and-self-determination-to-resist-covid-19/

A Mixe woman on a Sunday market in Tamazulapam Mixe, Oaxaca,

Mexico is a diverse country and as such, each region is coping with COVID19 in different ways with the resources they have. Today, I will describe the coping mechanisms of my hometown, Tamazulapam Mixe, a little indigenous community located in the mountains of “Sierra Norte” in Oaxaca, Mexico. Many people know us as ‘the never conquered people’, who successfully resisted the colonisers when they came in the 1500s. We take pride in our maintained ‘sovereignty and autonomy’ connecting us to our territory and identity as Mixe or ‘Ayuuk’ people and which we have used to face many challenges like COVID19.

The first case of COVID19 in Mexico was registered on February 27th, 2020 (Gobierno de Mexico, 2020). The government called for a lockdown on March 20th to reduce the effects of the virus, though responses to the virus are taking longer in rural areas like my community for several different reasons. First, communication and information flow slowly in rural areas, due to poor accessibility and communication infrastructure. Second, most of the information generated about COVID is in Spanish and has only been partially translated into Mixe and other native languages, and at a slower rate, leading to confusion about the danger the virus poses. Since the disease is new to the world, my community, like many others, was not fully aware of the seriousness of it. Many people believed that the little hospital in my village, with the promises that they have been told about modern medicine, could protect them if they caught the disease. Recently, young people and NGOs have played key roles in making audio-visual materials available in native languages and creating awareness in our communities about the situation and lack of equipment to treat infected people along with local authorities. Third, for several communities like mine that are community-based organised and where collective activities are a key component of the social fabric, the idea of personal lockdowns as it has been perceived in most of the places does not fit the community and rather the lockdown operates on a community basis. A key component of my community is the cosmovision that places the importance of the communal celebrations of life. These celebrations cannot be easily stopped as they are core to our beliefs. Local authorities have cancelled community meetings and which occurred frequently until new notice, classes have been suspended and people have been invited to reduce their group gatherings as much as possible. In the face of all these challenges, the community decided to try to continue life as normal as possible with some preventive actions when possible and to use a community-based lockdown, preventing the entry of any person that is not from the Mixe region, especially people from the cities who might be a vector of infection. Thus, the sense of sovereignty and territory becomes a central feature in the fight to prevent the infection on a community rather than on an individual level.

Locally produced food by Mixe peasants

Another important component of the response to security in general. Research in Mexico suggests that at least 53% (Reyes, 2020) of jobs are informal, meaning that many people do not have access to basic social security. When the lockdown was announced, many of my people that have migrated to urban areas and live there most of the time, returned to my community because they feel safer in the community than in the cities where they can rely on shared responsibility for each other. This also links to the living costs that are lower in the community vs in the city and the sense of community and the sharing of resources for survival, i.e. you can rely on your family, friends, neighbours and community for food, house, care, among others. In response, some local authorities (CEPIADET, 2020) are asking urban migrants to think twice when moving back to our communities as they could bring the disease back with them. As in my community, in many territories of Oaxaca, Mexico, our right to self-determination, our self-governing structure, our community-based organisation and our rights on our territories are tools that we can use in the face of this pandemic. 

The community structure also provides food security, and our peasants are our heroes because they are feeding us throughout the emergency, while many other cities start to struggle to feed their people due to food access issues. Our local market on Sundays has reduced the working hours to reduce exposure. Since April 5th, our local authorities closed our markets to people coming from Oaxaca city and non-Mixe sellers to protect against the virus. And they could do this because only 10% of sellers in the market are non-Mixe and they do not sell basic products. Luckily, peasants from our community will supply our food demands with the local and seasonal cultivated crops using native seeds, traditional and sustainable techniques, and cultivated with water from our springs, rivers, and rainfall. We are lucky to be located in the mountains because our food sovereignty is partially the result of public policy and private markets looking down on the agricultural potential of our lands and therefore not wanting to invest in them to turn them into ‘productive lands’. Thus, we can get the food we need for the year without any external demand either. Additionally, most of the families in the community still crop small fields and this will also allow them to survive through the contingency. Peasants are now waiting for the start of the rainy season to start growing their milpa, an intercropping of native maize, potatoes, beans, pumpkins, and other veggies, and this will allow us to survive. Local authorities noticed that some local sellers were increasing prices on some products, e.g. tortillas, eggs, chicken, and they are visiting sellers to control the rise in prices and warning them of potential fines.

Up to May 1st there are no cases of COVID19 registered in the entire Mixe region. The response changes from one community to another in our region and my community has strengthened the restrictions to outsiders passing through my community to reach further communities that haven’t been as strict as us, and are redirecting that traffic using outside roads to further protect our people from possible interactions with the virus. Members of our communities in the Mixe region have also taken to social media shaming on Facebook when other communities are not taking serious action to protect their people. Thus, I would say we are acting as a set of organised communities that are taking care of the people living in the mountain because we are aware that if the disease hits one person, the contagion can easily spread. And with the collective power of the communities, I am confident we will find a way to face the disease as a community even if it enters. In the end, the idea of locking ourselves down as a community, rather than as individuals, has been a powerful weapon for centuries and it is only possible because we have rights on our ancestral land, strong ideas of ‘self-governing’ and our pride as “the never conquered people”.  

The story of Tamazulapam in the face of the pandemic makes me hopeful because we act as a collective who can protect ourselves using our control of our territories, and because we can feed ourselves with food produced locally and we see each other as a family who looks out for each other. However, this also makes me think of other indigenous peoples that have been expelled from their territories, that cannot enact that right to self-determination and sovereignty, that cannot even produce their food, or have a secure house. It makes me worry about the ones relying on informal jobs in urban areas which account for more than half of the job market, the ones with health problems and no health insurance at all, the elderly, immigrants and others that aren’t protected by strong communities. This pandemic is teaching us that we need to do things differently, to value the collective over the individual and to build inclusive societies that respect and protect everyone.

References

CEPIADET, 2020. “Official decrees from autonomous Mixe towns in Oaxaca, Mexico”. Information was retrieved from facebook official website. https://www.facebook.com/colmixe/photos/a.2618220981620909/2618925861550421/?type=3&theater

Gobierno de Mexico 2020. Report on Feb 27, 2020. Available at https://www.gob.mx/cms/uploads/attachment/file/537574/AvisoEpidemiol_gico_COVID19_27022020_FINAL.pdf

Reyes, Diego. 2020. “Las Pymes ante a llegad de la epidemia de COVID-19 a México”. Tec de Monterrey, State of Mexico.https://tec.mx/es/noticias/estado-de-mexico/emprendedores/las-pymes-ante-la-llegada-de-la-epidemia-de-covid-19-mexico

I know how the world called The Netherlands looks like…

October 2013

To the ones who have lost someone that they love... to my taak emej

Abuela y Nieta en ritual de despedida 2013-Philippa Zamora

When Tania told granny Eulalia that she was moving to the Netherlands, granny Eulalia was so worried because she could not imagine how Tania would live so far away in a different world. For granny Eulalia this place called Europe/the Netherlands based on her knowledge and her way of seeing and perceiving the life and worlds, was not only 

another land or continent, it was another world with strong implications. She was a shaman and as such, she was a spiritual guide for her Ayuuk people in Tamazulapam and a knowledgeable person1.

Granny: dear daughter, do you know how the other world looks like? Are you gonna have food to eat (meaning maize and the things they grow in a milpa and her community)? What are you gonna eat? Where are you gonna live? (Granny was waiving her head showing she was deeply worried).

Tania: No yet granny but I will make some arrangements in the coming days. There is food over there, I’ll find things to eat. I’ve been told it’s cold over there. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine. I’ll come back in some weeks when I’m about to leave to say good bye.

Granny Eulalia: I’ll be waiting for you darling, please, take care, god bless you.

Tania knew she will be fine, it was going to be her first time in Europe and she was ready for the adventure. Tania was conscious she might have to learn to combine ingredients and get use to new flavors and tastes and was willing to take the challenge. Anyway, as a good adventurer, she was ready to experience something new.

By October, it was time to leave, she will move to the Netherlands by the beginning of November. Tania went to her hometown to say good bye and get the blessing of granny Eulalia. Granny usually did not make rituals to guide her own family but this time, she made an exception and offered prayers to the Ayuuk gods so they would guide Tania´s journey and give to her the strength she needed.  When Tania got to her hometown, she went to granny’s kitchen and as always, granny was ready waiting for her with a warm cup of coffee. They sat next to the fire and started to chat:

Granny: I know how the place where you are going is, I know how that other world is. Now,  I am pretty sure you will be fine.

Tania: really? How is this place, tell me please granny…

Granny: it’s a cold place, there are many white people (ekaats) with white hairs, they do not  look like us, they don’t have black hair. They don’t speak like us. They do not eat corn;  can you believe that? They use the corn to feed cows. They eat potatoes and wheat. I know you’ll be ok even if you don’t have corn, you might have to survive eating potatoes and wheat. Now that you are leaving, please, take warm clothes with you, you’re going to need them because it is super cold over there. You will face some of the coldest periods of your life, but I know you will survive2.

Tania: (she was shocked) thank you granny, I’ll follow your advice. Granny, please, could you tell me how do you know all this?

Granny: (granny laughs proudly), your grandmother knows many things. A week ago, a white lady from this other world came with you uncle Daniel. She looks like a gringa, she is white and has white hair. She said she was from there and I asked her all these things. She  wanted to learn from us, but I also wanted to learn from her. She told me what they eat, how is the weather and how they live over there.

When granny was telling this story to Tania, she didn’t stop smiling, she was happy and and proud at the same time, as the shaman and grand mother she was, it was her duty to guide and support her children, her family, her people.

Granny:  when are you gonna come back? How long are you gonna be in that other world?

Tania: I’ll be there four years granny, that’s the time it will take me to get my degree. If all   goes well I’ll be back in a year and spend some time in Mexico City (just as reference that Tania was going to be closer, granny had a particular way of conceiving the world). I’ll be closer to you and I’ll visit you more frequently.

Granny: I don’t think I’ll have the energy to wait for you four years because I’m already      tired.  However, I’ll be here when you come back next year, I’ll be waiting for you.

Granny invited Tania to follow her to her bedroom. She opened a box and took two shawls, she placed them on the bed:

Granny: daughter, choose one and take it with you. I want you to take it with you so you don’t forget us, so you don’t forget who you are and where you’re coming from, so you tell the others who live in that other world who we are, what do we do, and how do we live in this world.

Tania was speechless, she was thankful and took one shawl that granny gave to her feeling so grateful for such a gift.

The gringa that granny met is a researcher from the University of Berlin. She visited granny to get her oral testimony on a historical reconstruction she was doing. The researcher did not speak Mixe nor granny English nor Spanish but Daniel, Tania’s uncle, translated the conversation among these two ladies,

Tania keeps this shawl as her totem and she is doing the last year of her PhD. Granny waited for Tania’s return in 2014 as she promised and started her sacred journey to go back to the land where her umbilical cord was buried, to close her cycle in life and be part of the Mother Earth again in 2016. Granny won’t be there to celebrate, dance and acknowledge the Mother Earth when Tania finishes her PhD, however, she will always remain in Tania’s heart and memory.

1My anthropologist friends or anyone with some knowledge on ontology can understand the implications of “another world”, you can send me a message and I can explain to you the few things I know about it.
2Tania dealt with the first winters quite well, the winter of 2016 and 2017 were the coldest ones in her life. Granny warned Tania that those winters would be hardest in her life because coping with granny´s lost was not easy, it was somehow her identity being challenged.

México te necesita/Mexico needs you

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To all my friends from around the world, WE NEED YOUR HELP! Yesterday Mexico suffered another catastrophic earthquake that already has taken many lives (magnitude 7.1 quake). 

More than 200 peopled died, among them at least 30 children and many more are missing. Emergency workers (military personnel and volunteers) have been working through the night in the search for people trapped under the rubble of collapsed buildings. Check the news for more info https://www.theguardian.com/…/mexico-city-earthquake-dozens…

Amigo

HOW CAN YOU HELP?
Your dollars/euros are worth almost double in Mexico, so something small has a big impact. you can donate, even a little bit, you can do it directly here:
Feel free to share with any friends or family that are interested in helping

#UNICEFMéxico is looking for donations for child victims of the earthquake. https://www.donaunicef.org.mx/landing-terremoto/

But also Donating to other organizations is a way to get resources flowing.

#RedCrossMexico https://www.cruzrojamexicana.org.mx/
#OxfamMexico http://www.oxfammexico.org/dona
#ProjectPaz http://www.projectpaz.org/
#SavetheChildrenMexico http://www.savethechildren.org

Thank you!!!

Bienvenid@ al blog de Tania Eulalia Martínez Cruz.

TANIA EULALIA 001

Bienvenid@ al blog de Tania Eulalia Martínez Cruz.

La página está en construcción pero por el momento puedes encontrar algunas cosas como:

  • Las historias que me gusta narrar o que otros amigos míos han escrito y me ha permitido compartir contigo. Si tu también quieres compartir alguna historia conmigo y quieres que la publiquemos, no seas tímido y escribeme para platicar. Este es un espacio abierto para compartir con mis amigos.
  • Algunas entrevistas que me han hecho en algunos medios (me disculpo de antemano por no poner todas, poco a poco las iré subiendo)
  • Información sobre algunas ONGs que son pro educación y juventud, en algún momento compartí algún espacio con ellas y por eso las menciono aquí.
  • Links a mis cuentas de redes sociales

Juan Carlos, el Ayuuk ja’ay y su largo andar a los Países Bajos (Parte 1)

Aprendiendo un nuevo idioma como requisito para un posgrado en el extranjero, en mi caso inglés