By: Luis Hernández Navarro
María de Jesús Patricio is an indigenous Nahua woman. Born in 1963 in the municipality of Tuxpan (land of the rabbit), Jalisco. She will be 54 years old next December. She is the mother of three children. She is a traditional doctor and herbalist. She has won different recognitions for her work in defense of the original peoples. Now she is also the spokesperson of the Indigenous Government Council and its candidate for the Presidency of the Republic.
Her friends and compañeros affectionately call María de Jesús “Marichuy.” Her commitment to the local and national indigenous struggle goes back many years. She attended the National Indigenous Forum, a Zapatista convocation, held in San Cristóbal in January 1996 as a representative of her community. In October 1996 she was part of the founding assembly of the National Indigenous Congress (CNI, its initials in Spanish) and read final declaration of the nascent organism. In March 2001, she responded brilliantly to the questions formulated by the legislators in the Chamber of Deputies, when the EZLN occupied the tribunal to defend the San Andrés Accords.
“We know –she said on that occasion to the deputies– that the national indigenous movement wasn’t born in 1994. The national indigenous movement has many years; it’s just that now, after 1994, is when Mexico shook and many who didn’t even know that the indigenous existed turned around to see.”
Very few individuals (men and women) have the pulse of what happens with the struggle of the original peoples that she has. Her knowledge of what’s happening in the entrails of the communities is profound and reflective. It is first hand. It comes, as much from her commitment to the reconstitution of her people, as from her participation of more than two decades in gatherings, forums, seminars, sharings and congresses all over Mexico. Additionally, she has elaborated a diagnostic statement of what is happening in the country.
It was during her participation in the National Indigenous Forum of San Cristóbal that she discovered that the inhabitants of her community were not the only poor ones and that other Native communities suffered the same problems as hers. She immediately adhered to the indigenous cause, in which she found her place and her life’s mission.
It was not exclusively an individual decision, but rather part of the feeling of all of a people. When Subcomandante Marcos visited Tuxpan, in March 2006, the representative of the municipality’s elders, Félix Vázquez Ceballos, told the Zapatistas: “Since 1994, the year in which you rose up against the government, the Nahua communities of Tuxpan have accompanied your step, because we have understood that your struggle is the struggle of all the indigenous peoples.”
María de Jesús remembers that when she was born, in Tuxpan there was only light and stone pavement in the center of the municipality, and the houses were made of adobe and roof tile. They used to carry water in jars hung on the ends of a stick (Revista Tukari, https://goo.gl/0sd0Kq).
The Nahuas of Tuxpan, dispossessed of their lands, had been neglected, impoverished and officially “disappeared” from the los census, in the face of the combined attack from cattle ranchers, the lumber industry, mining companies and government programs. And the teaching of their language was banished from the classrooms and educational programs.
Nevertheless, despite that aggressive neocolonial offensive against them, her indigenous identity resisted the pounding from the new colonialism. Against the current, from the intricacies of their culture, the Nahuas of Tuxpan undertook their reconstitution as a people. María de Jesús was fully involved in this rebirth.
Marichuy directs the Calli Tecolhuacateca Tochan Clinic, a space for the exercise and development of traditional indigenous medicine. A tool privileged in the reconstitution of the peoples, this therapy permits preserving and transmitting knowledge acquired for years by the ancestors. “It focuses –according to Doctor Patricio– not only on curing a particular evil, but also an evil of the community.”
Her calling as a traditional doctor was born in her since she was little, “when I observed how the older women, my aunts and my grandmother among them, healed the sick of fright, shock, possession by an evil spirit, bile, weakness or heat stroke. My Aunt Catarina, for example, did the cleansings with plants and she prepared ointments that she spread all over the body of the sick” (Revista Tukari, https://goo.gl/0sd0Kq). Her father and her aunt were her teachers.
The exercise of traditional medicine forms part of a project of broader resistance and emancipation. “The Clinic –asserts María de Jesús– has led us to the defense of traditional medicine, indigenous territories and Mother Earth from an anti-capitalist perspective, of the libertarian struggle of the indigenous peoples, a circumstance that has made us active promoters of the CNI, of the forums and meetings in defense of traditional medicine and of the strategic alliance between the civilian indigenous movement and the EZLN.” (https://goo.gl/d6M3eT)
Marichuy has reflected for many years on the question of the indigenous woman and her liberation. In her talk at the Seminar The Walls of Capital, the cracks of the Left, she documented the two faces of the feminine condition: on the one hand –she said– “the country is thinking without the woman,” and women are always oppressed and excluded, on the other hand –she assured– they are the ones who now head the resistances.
For her, dismantling capitalism walks hand in hand in the fight against machismo. That’s why she sees in the proposal of the CNI-EZLN that the Indigenous Government Council (CIG, its initials in Spanish) has a woman from below, indigenous and anti-capitalist, as its spokesperson and independent candidate to the Presidency of Mexico, the way to simultaneously struggle against machismo and the capitalist hydra.
On May 28, the CNI’s plenary, made up of 693 delegates, 71 council members, 230 Zapatista delegates and 492 invited guests, decided that the woman that is going to make history as the CIG’s spokesperson and candidate, who doesn’t seek votes, but seeks to defend life, is neither more nor less than her: María de Jesús Patricio.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee