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Exchanging Maya Experiences in the Yucatán Peninsula and Chiapas

Cultural Survival works tirelessly in support of strengthening Indigenous knowledge and building capacity within Indigenous communities. We aim for this to happen not only within community spaces but also through exchanges between other communities that provide participants an opportunity to broaden perspectives and learn about the processes of other Peoples, as well as to learn from projects being carried out in other territories.

Over the past year, a diverse range of projects and gatherings took place in the southern region of Mexico, to foster new ideas and strengthen networks for community work. Throughout these months, Cultural Survival facilitated the participation of Keepers of the Earth Fund and Indigenous Community Media Fund grant partners and Indigenous Youth Fellows in various activities that included open dialogues and exchanges of knowledge in different areas.

International Conference of the Corn Peoples

The fifth International Conference of the Corn Peoples took place from October 12-14, 2022, in Juchitán de Zaragoza, Oaxaca. Two members from Much’ Kanan I’inaj Seed Collective, a Keepers of the Earth Fund grant partner, and two Cultural Survival staff attended. At the event, attendees shared ways corn is being protected and cultivated in several regions, along with the threats from development projects, such as wind energy.

This exchange began with a Zapotec ceremony at dawn on October 12. Throughout the event, roundtable discussions were held on topics such as recovery and use of ancestral corn; defense of seeds against genetic modification; food sovereignty; sustainability; and the training of new generations of producers. Members of the Much’ Kanan I’inaj Seed Collective shared their experiences,  compared approaches, and exchanged knowledge related to food, food sovereignty, and seed protection.

Continental Gathering of Independent Media and Radio Tejemedios 2022

The fifth Continental Gathering of Independent Media and Radio Tierra y Libertad, Tejemedios Tepoztlán, took place on November 18-20, 2022, in Tepoztlán, Morelos. The event was attended by two members of the Isla Arena, Campeche community who are part of community radio Puksi’ik‘al ha’; a member Boca de Polen; and a member of Radio Ach Lequil Cop in Chiapas. This event aimed to strengthen the capacity and use of alternative, independent, and community communication tools.

Tejemedios offered workshops, talks, and other simultaneous activities. Some of the workshops included a community archive workshop by the TAMIX TV Collective and TAMIX MULTIMEDIA; a sound fundamentals workshop, and an audiovisual transmission workshop. Additionally, a variety of forums allowed attendees to expand their knowledge on topics such as building networks. This event provided a valuable opportunity for attendees to share and diversify their knowledge in radio, film, video, and photography, which is highly beneficial for incorporating new tools into their work at community radios.

Mayan Languages Digital Activism Summit

Organized by Rising Voices, the Mayan Languages Digital Activism Summit took place in Mérida, Yucatán, on January 13-14, 2023. This year's theme was digital activism and included participants from the state of Chiapas, specifically from the Tsotsil and Tseltal communities. Through presentations, workshops, and shared experiences, they learned about using digital tools, website design, and platforms for teaching Indigenous languages. The event brought together participants involved in various efforts in their communities to acquire and expand knowledge in the use of digital tools. Our invited grant partner, Manuel Gómez Méndez (Tseltal), a member of the Boca de Polen Network of Communicators, said, "I am grateful to Cultural Survival for giving us the opportunity to attend these important linguistic events."

People's Informatics Meeting - HACKOMUN

On February 10-12, 2023, the People's Informatics Meeting took place in Mexico City. Two members of Las Abejas de Acteal in Chiapas, an Indigenous Community Media Fund grant partner, participated. In this gathering, attendees shared their experiences and received training in the use of software and equipment for audiovisual production. The significance of this event can be summarized in the words of the guests: "Twenty-three years have passed since our first steps in the field of communication, but unfortunately, we have not received workshops on this topic. That's why we are proud about being invited to these digital technology and free media workshops, which are very important, both personally and for our Las Abejas organization."

Tribunal of Nature's Rights

The Tribunal of Nature's Rights (regarding the Mayan train) in Valladolid, Yucatán, took place on March 11, 2023. Through the coordination of the Keepers of the Earth Program, 14 people from 5 communities and organizations were invited: San Francisco Suc Tuc Community, Ka Kuxtal Much Meyaj, Escárcega Community, and Isla Arena (all from the state of Campeche), and the Km50 Collective from Quintana Roo.

This event examined the overall impact of the Mayan Train mega project on local communities. Don Félix Ucan, a participant from Ka Kuxtal, said, "This event is very important. People from other countries and lawyers came to listen to us." Israel Molas from Isla Arena mentioned, "This event has been important because we see what could happen in our community [with the Mayan Train] in the future, and that concerns us."

Tribunal Derechos Naturaleza

Participants from different Indigenous organizations working to defend land and natural resources in the Tribunal for the Rights of Nature.

XV Native Seeds Festival in Xcalot

On May 14, 2023, the XV Native Seeds Festival took place in Xcalot Akal, Hopelchén municipality, Campeche. Around 200 people from different cooperatives, artisan networks, corn producers, and organizations from Yucatán, Campeche, Chiapas, and Quintana Roo gathered. The festival started the night before when participants arrived at the designated location to assist in food preparation and the initial stages of the ceremony. The event focused on the protection and exchange of native seeds to ensure biological diversity for the future.

1st Native Seeds Fair in José María Morelos

On May 28, 2023, marked the first time the Native Seeds Fair was held in José María Morelos, Quintana Roo. Approximately 200 people from Yucatán, Campeche, Chiapas, and Quintana Roo attended. The event emphasized the importance of showcasing, trading, and accessing quality seeds for future harvests. It also served as a meeting point for exchanging information and recommendations about planting and harvesting and ensuring the conservation, preservation, and continued planting of native seeds without agrochemicals. Two Keepers of the Earth Fund grant partners from Chiapas attended. This included two individuals from Centro de Derechos Indígenas (CEDIAC) who are also members of the community government of Chilón, and two colleagues from Chiapas Migrants Council (CIMICH) who participated in the event.

These activities facilitate the exchange of knowledge from a community perspective, which is of utmost importance for expanding the participants' skills, professionalizing their efforts, learning from other experiences, and fostering spaces free from hierarchies that can sometimes hinder interaction and learning.

The most significant outcomes so far have been the opportunity for many grant partners to travel to different Indigenous territories and communities engaged in similar work and struggles. Partners have been able to participate in events with shared themes, creating networks and connections. These activities have inspired and participants have taken ideas back to their communities to replicate. In the coming year, we will seek to reinforce these exchanges, strengthening the bonds already formed between communities through participating in events our partners will organize.

Top photo: Beekeepers from Campeche, Chiapas, Yucatán and Quintana Roo.