Culture

An 18-Year-Old Just Became The First Indigenous Woman To Win Nayarit Beauty Pageant

Yukaima González is making headlines for becoming the first indigenous woman to be crowned “Queen” of the 2019 Nayarit State Fair. The 18-year-old beauty pageant winner is from La Yesca and is a member of the Wixárika community in the mountainous municipality of Guadalupe Ocotán. The news is notable as, historically, indigenous women haven’t typically participated in past pageants. This year saw two woman with
indigenous background compete with González taking the crown and making history along the way.

An indigenous woman breaking through and winning the crowd is a major moment for this beauty pageant.

@yukaima_gonzalez / Instagram

González being crowned Feria Nayarit queen is something that should be acknowledged and commemorated. Beauty pageants have often been criticized for supporting eurocentric beauty ideals or simply preferring “fairer skinned” contestants. This is a problem that plagues most pageants in the world.

To even participate in the beauty pageant, González had to leave her native community and move to Nayarit. There she began working as a nanny to help her pay for school as she pursues a degree in Physical Culture and Sports at the Autonomous University of Nayarit.

When González first heard about the beauty pageant she knew she had to participate in the pageant to represent her home of La Yesca. Her ethnicity, roots, and culture are a source of pride and would be a huge reason in participating in the contest.

González left a very strong impression on judges during multiple rounds.

Contest judges were blown away by González’s outfit that featured an array of beads, vibrant colors and traditional Wixárika god’s eyes. Her outfit was part of various judging rounds that included a “traditional dress” round and an original social project. González says she would want to provide support to Nayarit’s remote mountain communities by creating various job opportunities through food and self-employment ventures.

This all comes at a time when “Roma” star Yalitza Aparicio, an ingenious woman of Oaxaca, has received both recognition and disparging remarks for her historic role.

@THR / Twitter

Yalitza Aparicio, an Oscar-nominated indigenous woman from Oaxaca, caught fame after playing the main role in Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma”. Unfortunately, she has been mocked and has even received criticism for her talent and her appearance.

Televisa’s Yeka Rosales recently posted photos and videos of herself on social media wearing brown skin paint in an apparent parody of Aparicio.
The move was tone-deaf and is further proof of the negative portrayal that indigenous groups face.

Aparicio has faced racist attacks on social media even from some Mexican actors. However, she also received support among many women in Mexico and the U.S. who have identified with her indigenous roots.

Having two indigenous women participate in the Nayarit beauty pageant is a reflection of what Aparicio has done. She has in some ways opened the door for people of ethnic origin, who before, reflectors hardly recognized. In interviews, González has stated she is a fan of Aparicio and wants represent her culture as she has.

González is an example of this growing celebration of expanding what our collective understanding of what beauty truly is.

@yukaima_gonzalez / Instagram

As well as being crowned Queen of the Nayarit Fair 2019, González will become the face of Nayarit. Her pictures will be the official image of the state and will work with the Ministry of Tourism, as well as having a project to benefit its community.

It’s safe to say González is bringing much needed attention to the countless indigenous communities that are rarely given recognition. She says her pageant victory brings pride back to her community after being shamed for so long.

“In my community, we are losing our [indigenous] language, and residents are ashamed of wearing their traditional clothing,” González told Mexico News Daily. “I’m here so that they’ll feel proud of our roots and who we are.”

Nayarit is an oceanside state located on the west coast of Mexico in the middle of the country.

Nayarit is bordered by the states of Durango, Jalisco, and Sinaloa. The state is a major tourist destination as it is close to the tourist city of Puerto Vallarta. Like most of Mexico, there are beautiful and ancient archeological sites that people can visit when in the area. Nayarit is also home to a number of indigenous groups, like the Wixáritari people of which González is a member.

The Wixáritari people live within the states of Durango, Jalisco, Nayarit, and Zacatecas.

Credit: @almamezcalera / Instagram

The Wixáritari people, also known as the Huichol predominately live in the highlands in Nayarit but do have colonies set up along the coast. They are known for their beautiful and intricate artisanal handwork. They have inhabited the land they live on since before the 16th century and continue to utilize the land and live in a community preserving their history and culture.

Like many indigenous groups in the Americas, the Wixáritari people use peyote for religious cermonies.

Credit: @globalcactussociety / Instagram

Peyote is an important part of many religious ceremonies within American indigenous communities. It is because of its importance that the Mexican government has passed laws that allow for the hallucinogenic plant to be used by these tribes for this purposes.

Mexico is filled with indigenous communities that add to the vibrant fabric of the country. The prominent success of Yalitza Aparicio and Yukaima González show that the country’s identity is deeply rooted in its indigenous past. These same people deserve the same respect when furthering the success of Mexico.

READ: Yalitza Aparicio Didn’t Win The Oscar But Her Fame And Success Are The Real Award

See The Stunning Portraits This Photographer Took Of People From The Most Endangered Indigenous Tribes In The World

Culture

See The Stunning Portraits This Photographer Took Of People From The Most Endangered Indigenous Tribes In The World

via @jimmy.nelson.official/Instagram

We’ve come to a moment in our culture where we’re reckoning with the mistakes our ancestors made in the past. The fallout from widely-accepted historical practices of misogyny, racism, and colonialism is persistent. It’s up to people in positions of power to use their privilege to better society. Colonialism, in particular, has an especially negative lingering global impact–largely because it has been so insidious. Only recently have colonists like Christopher Columbus been widely condemned for the violent and inhumane methods they employed to conquer and oppress indigenous peoples.

English photographer Jimmy Nelson has spent his entire career travelling the world and documenting the unique lifestyles of various indigenous tribes across the globe. In his book “Homage to Humanity”, he compiles his photographs in a vibrant and informative tome that shows its reader the commonalities among all of us.

via @jimmy.nelson.official/Instagram

Throughout his 30-year career, Nelson traveled to countless countries, including Peru, Ecuador, Thailand, Mexico, Sudan, China and Papua New Guinea.

While travelling, Nelson had the opportunity to take portrait photographs of people from indigenous ethnic tribes throughout Latinidad, like the Oaxaca, the Zapotecs, and the Chichimeca. The portraits are stunning for their detailed and tender depictions of various cultures in full ceremonial garb, the beauty of their unique traditions on proud display for the camera.

One photograph shows a woman from the Zapotec tribe in Mexico, her face painted as the “Lady of the Dead”. Another shows a young girl from the the last Inca community in Peru, the Q’eros tribe, wrapped in K’eperina blanket, staring defiantly at the camera. “[My job] is about being open to the world,” says Nelson. “With no judgement, no basis and nothing but love for other places and other human beings”.

via @jimmy.nelson.official/Instagram

Nelson’s life goal is to document the lives of indigenous tribes throughout the world before their ways are permanently eradicated through modernization.

Indigenous peoples are defined as “ethnic groups who are the original or earliest known inhabitants of an area,” before the land has been “settled, occupied or colonized” by other inhabitants. Indigenous tribes are rare because of how pervasive and all-consuming colonialism has been in recent history–particularly in North and South America. Philosophies like “manifest destiny” convinced (largely white) populations that it was their duty and right to settle lands that native populations had been living on for centuries.

According to worldbank.org, there are 370 million indigenous peoples living in over 90 countries throughout the world. And although they only make up 5 percent of the global population, their numbers account for 15 percent of those living in extreme poverty. Not only that, but due to the wealth of generational knowledge they have about how to tend to their lands, indigenous peoples are estimated to safeguard 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity.

Luckily, in 2007, the United Nations passed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, a guide for its members on the collective rights of indigenous peoples

via @jimmy.nelson.official/Instagram

According to the United Nations, the UNDRIP “emphasizes the rights of Indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions, and to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations”. The declaration was a necessary step in righting the wrongs of the colonizing forces of the past who believed that Western and European ideals were superior to the ways of native populations.

In an interview with The New York Post, Nelson describes how spending time with people who are not as deeply exposed to the hustle and bustle of modernization has changed his outlook on life. “We’re always thinking about the future.” he said. “But [these tribes] very much live in the present and in the moment, it’s wonderful.”

via @jimmy.nelson.official/Instagram

Nelson hopes that his book of photographs will humanize the people of indigenous tribes so that his readers recognize that they are no different from the rest of the world.

Nelson’s photos are not only featured in a book, but also digitally in the form of his “Jimmy Nelson” app. Readers can use the app to scan over every image in his “Homage to Humanity” book, which will give the reader access to exclusive behind-the-scenes content that includes interviews and short videos. He hopes this feature will give viewers an insight into his process behind creating his artwork. You can see more of his artwork here.

As for the rest of the world it would be wise for everyone to take a page out of Nelson’s book when it comes to his views on humanity. The photographer is passionate about connecting with humans from all colors, creeds, and walks of life. “I think it’s amazing how close you can get to people without talking to them,” he says. “We speak different languages but that doesn’t seem to matter. We are all the same.” Never have there been truer words to live by.

Mexico Just Announced It Will Offer Legal Representation In More Than 100 Indigenous Languages And It’s A Huge Victory

Culture

Mexico Just Announced It Will Offer Legal Representation In More Than 100 Indigenous Languages And It’s A Huge Victory

LandPortal / Instagram

Let’s finish this convoluted year with a piece of information that gives us at least a bit of optimism shall we?

The Mexican government, led by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has gotten many things wrong according to its critics. However, one area in which it has delivered on its promises is on a different, more inclusive approach to indigenous communities that recognizes the centuries-long dispossession of which they have been subject. Plus, the fact that their culture has been crushed by the weight of mestizo, monolingual social structures.

States such as Yucatan are making good progress by, for example, making Mayan language compulsory in schools, which is a recognition that the original owners of a land that was never ceded still comprise an important part of the state’s identity. 

Even though since colonial times Spanish became the official language of what is now the Mexican territory, the country houses hundreds of indigenous languages and dialects.

Credit: Roma / Netflix

People who speak indigenous languages in addition to Spanish should be celebrated! After all, how many of us can claim to be fully bilingual? But this is not the case. As Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma showed, languages like mixteco and zapoteco, which originated in Oaxaca, are looked down upon by the white and mestizo elites.

This is a form or racism that not only embodies a form of self-hatred (most Mexicans have European and indigenous blood) but also plants the seeds of marginalization. The fact that indigenous languages are looked down upon does not only involve issues of cultural identity, but increases the social divide in more areas. 

But Mexican society experiences an endemic racism that basically punishes those who speak their mother tongue.

Credit: The Yucatan Times

Up to one million Mexicans speak only an indigenous language and even though many more are functional in Spanish, not being fully fluent causes socioeconomic gaps to be further exacerbated in a country defined by inequality.

For example, the job market for people with indigenous languages as a first tongue is limited, particularly in professional sectors. Spanish is the lingua franca and this means that those who do not master it are at a disadvantage. What is even worse, indigenous populations have historically been subject to abuse by the judicial system. If they are not fluent in Spanish, the accused are likely to be convicted as legal representation is compromised by miscommunication or totally non-existent. 

AMLO started his presidency with huge expectations on what he would do for Indigenous Mexicans.

When AMLO took power there was skepticism about how much he would do for indigenous populations after so many campaign promises.

As USN argued back then: “The plight of Mexico’s more than 12 million indigenous people, who often face inequality, injustice and persecution, has been thrown in the spotlight by the election of leftist leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in July. Lopez Obrador, who campaigned on a platform of “first the poor,” has held ceremonies with indigenous leaders and vowed to bring meaningful change to these impoverished rural communities. But as the President turns his focus to major infrastructure projects, there are fears that all the rituals and rhetoric may end in broken promises once again.”

However, there are positive signs that lead us to believe that this sexenio (how a Mexican presidency is known, as it lasts for six years) will be different.

Now the government is providing legal representation in 103 indigenous languages, and this is a great step towards reconciliation.

Credit: South World

The Instituto Federal de Defensoría Pública (IFDP; Federal Institute for Public Defense) has significantly increased the number of indigenous languages in which it can offer legal advise and defense. The number has increased from 39 to 103, which is a huge step towards fairer trials for indigenous individuals.

Among the languages that are included in the list we can find maya, mixe, mixteco, mazateco, náhuatl, otomí, purépecha, tarahumara, huasteco, huichol, tepehuano, totonaco, triqui, tzeltal, yaqui, amuzgo, chatino, chinanteco, chol, chontal, cora, cuicateco, zapoteco and zoque. The states with the largest concentration of these languages are Guerrero, Oaxaca, Chiapas, Tabasco, Nayarit, Jalisco, San Luis Potosí, Campeche, Quintana Roo, Yucatán, Sonora, Sinaloa, Querétaro, Estado de México, Chihuahua, Michoacán, Durango  and Puebla.

The service is therefore not concentrated in a single region, as is the case with several federal programs, but is spread out across Mexico’s geography. Added to this, the number of staff who is fluent in indigenous tongues was increased almost twofold, from 51 to 90. This legal personnel is comprised of lawyers who grew up with an indigenous tongue and understanding the indigenous worldview, which makes them a great asset during trials. Further, they have been granted permission to act as interpreters if there are no other speakers available. 

The goal, however, is to reach the 364 languages spoken in Mexico.

Credit: Mexico Desconocido

According to government officials the new appointments are only the first step and the final objective is to cover all the languages spoken in Mexico.