In November 2020, the documentary, ‘La vocera’, about María de Jesús Patricio, ‘Marichuy’, the first indigenous woman who competed for the Presidency of Mexico in the 2018 elections, premiered at the Guadalajara Film Festival. Directed by Luciana Kaplan, who had already worked on the issue of indigenous women in the documentary ‘The gannet revolution’, is a way of understanding that this was not an electoral campaign in the strict sense, but a way of drawing the attention of Mexicans on the conditions in which millions of people live in indigenous peoples, nations, neighborhoods and tribes in the country; it is also a journey through desolate and hopeless landscapes and a testimony of a territorial dispossession of which very little is said in Mexico. It is also a lesson in how politics could be done in another way.
The figure of Marichuy has been fading in recent months, and it could not have been otherwise, since it is also clear in the film that she did not represent a party, nor was she there for a lasting political ambition, but fulfilling the mandate that an indigenous council had granted him. But his message has gradually been incorporated into the debate. And therefore it is not difficult to understand, for example, the hypocrisy of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador for the letter that in March 2019 he sent to the King of Spain and the Pope asking them to apologize for the abuses of the conquest, when his Government encourages infrastructure projects that deprive indigenous communities of their lands; or the unfavorable reaction of the forgiveness that López Obrador asked of the Mayan people, in May 2021, for the atrocities committed in the caste war, an indigenous uprising that was harshly quelled in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Mayan peoples themselves told him that it would be more congruent for him to stop one of the favorite projects of this Government, the construction of a tourist train, called the Mayan Train, which crosses their communities and threatens to turn the population into pawns of the services of hospitality, as it already happens in areas like Cancun and Tulum.
Marichuy’s candidacy, his tour of the country and the introduction of new topics and perspectives in the debate must also be understood by the renewed political imagination of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation. It is worth remembering that the EZLN took up arms in January 1994 and put Mexican politics in check for several years, in addition to becoming an option of the left, with thousands of followers in Europe. In the early 2000s they were on the verge of getting the Mexican state to recognize the political rights of indigenous communities, but the negotiation was derailed and the future of Zapatismo fell into limbo. The Zapatistas have organized into semi-independent communities, called “caracoles”; the fame of its leader, Subcomandante Marcos (now renamed Galeano), was decreasing due to inactivity. But the voice of indigenous peoples was reactivated when 840 delegates from 60 peoples from all over Mexico, meeting in the National Indigenous Congress, decided to participate in the elections and named Marichuy as their representative. They recently showed their media audacity by sending a Zapatista delegation in a caravel that left Isla Mujeres in May of this year to reach the port of Vigo, in Spain, sometime in June.
This is how Marichuy described herself in a publication of the University of Guadalajara: “My name is María de Jesús Patricio Martínez; I was born in the Nahua community of Tuxpan, Jalisco, on December 23, 1963. I remember that for a long time there was only light and paved in the first square of my town; the houses were made of adobe and tile, and long lines had to be made to supply the water that emanated only from three taps “.
According to the writer Juan Villoro, Marichuy worked the land since she was a child in almost medieval conditions. “At the age of 12, he urged his father to protest. They received corn, but the following year they were left without land.” The father wasted what little money he had on alcohol and Marichuy had to sell seeds in a neighboring city: with the profits everyone in the family ate.
Marichuy studied junior high and high school secretly from her father. As a child, she watched the women in her family cure the townspeople of various ills. In 1987 his mother lost mobility from the waist down. She went through some specialists who could not improve it, until she treated it herself using traditional knowledge. Marichuy not only managed to raise her mother, but also became a healer and opened a health home in Tuxpan. Today he is part of the academic body of the University of Guadalajara.
“The uprising of the Zapatistas in 1994 was extremely inspiring for me: being perhaps poorer than I, they dared to fight against the rich and powerful,” wrote Marichuy. Throughout that same year, her community of Nahua indigenous people was invited to participate in a national indigenous forum and she was named the representative. “I discovered that this was my space and that I had to join the fight against the powerful. Since then I decided to participate in the following meetings, serving as a bridge between my community and the rest of the organized communities.” Marichuy participated in the 2018 elections as an independent candidate, a legal figure that allows people without a party to enter the electoral contest. According to Mexican law, in order to participate, independent candidates must obtain just over 800,000 signatures and reach 1% of the electoral roll in 17 states, goals that are impossible to achieve without some type of infrastructure.
So Marichuy’s campaign focused on getting those signatures, but above all, on demonstrating, on the one hand, the inequality between her and the other independents, professional politicians without a party who took advantage of the gap to sneak into the process, who spent sums considerable money and cheated to get those signatures, as was later shown. It also served to raise awareness of how far these indigenous communities were from some kind of dignified representation, and to raise some support, especially among the intellectual elites of Mexico City, who organized around them.
His speech, openly anti-capitalist, environmentalist, feminist, and in favor of indigenous autonomies, also contrasted with the ideological mixture of the other left-wing candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who is actually a reissue of the old nationalism of the Mexican Revolution, in the anti-feminist practice, against civil society, freedom of expression and ambiguous against the oligarchy, which has dominated the national scene.
Marichuy did not obtain the registration and in February 2018 he left the contest, but those of us who live in the city have left an idea of the abandonment of the rural world and of the original communities. A modern version of the same desolation of ‘El llano en llamas’, by Juan Rulfo, or a wake-up call to how we have taken advantage of a loot that has more than 500 years of history.
Interviewed in Spain on October 12, 2019, said to a journalist from ‘El País’ who asked what that date meant to her. “For me, and for the indigenous peoples of Mexico, of whom I bring the voice, it is a day in which an extermination begins, an exsanguination of America. It is a bad day: there is nothing to celebrate. It began then and continues today: the dispossession and contempt of the native peoples has not ended. The stealing of their wealth has not ended. ”