Cultural Survival’s new Advocacy Assistant, Mariana Kiimi Ortiz Flores (Na Ñuu Savi), says her middle name has a special meaning. When her mother was pregnant with her, Marianas’s father met with a group of wise men from their community in San Juan Mixtepec to choose a Mixtec name. They decided to name her Kiimi, which means “star.” “I feel that this fully represents me because I have always felt a special connection with the stars that begin to appear from twilight and shine so brightly that it is impossible not to notice them. It also connects with my parents, because throughout their lives they have overcome a series of difficulties and have given me the most important thing for me: my education and love for my roots,” Mariana says.
Mariana has always been curious about other places, people, and beings that inhabit this world. She left Oaxaca for Mexico City to discover other cultures and ways of life, ultimately returning to her place of origin to rediscover her own identity as an Indigenous Mixtec Na Ñuu Savi woman. After spending her childhood and adolescence in Oaxaca, she wanted to go beyond its borders. This is how she decided to study International Relations at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Puebla. As she learned about other countries and situations of war, violence, and repression that she never could have imagined, her sense of social conscience began to grow, and she decided to use her newly acquired knowledge to do something that would benefit vulnerable and marginalized groups.
One of the issues that hit closest to home was migration; hundreds of people have left Mariana’s small community for the United States in pursuit of a better life. When she finished her undergraduate degree, she decided to pursue a master’s degree at the university’s Mexico City campus. She was particularly interested in researching the situation of deportees who have been forced to return to Mexico. Today Mariana considers herself an advocate for the rights of individuals and Indigenous Peoples. She is aware of what is happening in other countries and of the tools and mechanisms used to bring about positive change.
Mariana considers going back to her origins and trying to recover the language of her ancestors to be a revolutionary act. She would like the Indigenous Peoples in Mexico to be recognized for their own cultural identities and not to be folklorized or left out at the international level, and she recognizes that much work needs to be done to raise awareness that being Indigenous is not synonymous with inferiority. Mariana believes that governments around the world must stop treating Indigenous Peoples as different and recognize that they have the potential to improve the world from other perspectives, which, she says, “will be possible as we continue to raise our voices and make visible the injustices against Indigenous Peoples at the international level.”
In her personal life, Mariana enjoys reading both fiction and nonfiction that transport her to other worlds and inspire her to continue growing personally and professionally, as well as writing reflections on her life and other social issues. Music is also an essential part of her daily life. On joining the Cultural Survival staff, she says, “I would like to specialize even more in the defense of human rights. I want to continue studying and putting into practice what I have already learned. I would like to contribute to the growth of my community in a more direct way, to promote and ensure that young people do not need to emigrate to other countries out of necessity and that they have equal opportunities and possibilities, as well as love for their people and cultures.”
All photos courtesy of Mariana Kiimi Ortiz Flores.