Culture

One Group Of Indigenous Mexican Women Is Using Their Fashions To Keep Their Culture Alive

Fleeing drought, deforestation, and drug growers high up in the Sierra Madre, the Rarámuris, commonly known as Tarahumaras, are making new homes in the pueblos and cities of Chihuahua.

Many are making a new home for themselves in the pueblito of Oasis. It’s here that the Rarámuri people stand out while also facing hardships the generally Mestizo population doesn’t.

And despite the hardships, the Rarámuri women are refusing to give in to the pressure.

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Despite living in large towns and cities, the community continues to practice tribal traditions and wear typical Rarámuri dress.

For the Rarámuri people, assimilation is the same as erasure. They don’t want to face the same fate as other Indigenous groups across the country.

The women are typically dressed in colorful, bright, ankle-length dresses, which can take entire afternoons to sew. They do this despite the pressures from other residents to assimilate with a more Western style.

Across Mexico, the pressure to ‘assimilate’ is powerful.

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From Chiapas to Veracruz, Oaxaca to Chihuahua, there is a pervasive idea that progress is dependent on cutting your ties with your Indigenous identity.

One young woman leading the charge in Oasis is Yulissa Ramirez. In an interview with the New York Times, she admits she wants to challenge the notion that you must lose your Native roots to move forward in the country. She plans to attend nursing school after graduating from high school. She’d be expected to wear white scrubs but hopes that the school will allow her to wear her traditional white Rarámuri dress. She tells the NYT: “Our blood runs Rarámuri, and there’s no reason that we should feel ashamed.”

To some, the community’s unwillingness to conform to a ‘Western-style’ is costing them economic opportunities. But some are working to challenge that idea.

Ms. Ramírez, for example, believes that completing her nursing program in traditional dress will be an important statement that Rarámuri people are a vital part of Mexico’s future — and present.

Other Rarámuris are monetizing their craft.

For example, Esperanza Moreno, 44, embroiders tortilla warmers, aprons, and dishcloths with depictions of Rarámuri women in traditional garb, and sells them to Mexican nonprofits who then resell the items to shops and Walmarts throughout the country. Rarámuri women have begun sewing traditional dresses to sell, as well.

Ms. Moreno also works in a dress-making workshop which allows her to provide her family with enough money for food and utilities, but also to uphold Rarámuri traditions. Fabric and sewing supplies for a traditional dress can cost more than 400 pesos (approx. $20 USD), which is more than some families earn in a month.

For Rarámuri men, it’s a bit different.

Most who arrive in the city are looking for work in construction – a difficult but decently paid job so they can better support their families. The men are quick to ditch their traditional looks in favor of blue jeans and boots.

While women rarely trade in their dresses for the uniforms required by employers. “I only wear Rarámuri dresses,” Ms. Holguin told the NYT. And she’s not alone as Rarámuri women are dedicated to not only keeping their traditional dress but also their people’s way of life.

As an Indigenous community, like so many others across Mexico, the group has faced violence.

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To many, it would seem that assimilation might be a clear path toward economic liberation, protection, and safety. But to many Rarámuri women, making and wearing traditional dresses is part of their deepest identity and not something they’re willing to give up.

Even Rarámuri women brought up under the influence of Chihuahua’s urban culture, and who mix elements of Western dress like hoop earrings and plastic necklaces, continue to wear traditional dresses.

It’s their way of keeping their traditions, culture, and identity alive.

READ: This School Is Fighting Back Against Prejudice And Using Its Uniforms To Empower Indigenous Students

Ecuador Was In Chaos After Massive Protests But The Government Has Reached A Deal With These Indigenous Activists

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Ecuador Was In Chaos After Massive Protests But The Government Has Reached A Deal With These Indigenous Activists

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Ecuador’s government announced a round of talks with leaders of the Indigenous groups who have been mobilizing against the government in a move to end the violence and chaos that has racked the nation for more than a week.

President Moreno announced he would withdraw the country from a deal reached with the IMF that many said would cause the greatest harms to the country’s most vulnerable populations.

In a major address, President Lenin Moreno announced he had struck a deal with indigenous leaders to cancel a disputed austerity package.

The news comes after nearly two weeks of protests that have paralyzed the economy and left seven dead.

Under the new agreement, President Moreno will withdraw the International Monetary Fund-backed package, known as Decree 883, that included a sharp rise in fuel costs. Indigenous leaders, in turn, will call on their followers to end protests and street blockades.

“Comrades, this deal is a compromise on both sides,” Moreno said. “The indigenous mobilization will end and Decree 883 will be lifted.”

The two sides will work together to develop a package of measures to cut government spending, increase revenue and reduce Ecuador’s growing budget deficits and public debt.

Ecuador’s Indigenous groups celebrated the announcement as a major victory.

“I’m so happy I don’t know what to say. I don’t have words, I’m so emotional. At least God touched the president’s heart,” said protester Rosa Matango in an interview with The Guardian. “I am happy as a mother, happy for our future. We indigenous people fought and lost so many brothers, but we’ll keep going forward.”

Caravans of cars roamed the streets early on Monday honking in celebration, passengers shouting, banging pots and waving Ecuadorian flags.

“The moment of peace, of agreement, has come for Ecuador,” said Arnaud Peral, the United Nations’ resident coordinator in Ecuador and one of the mediators of the nationally televised talks. “This deal is an extraordinary step.”

Wearing the feathered headdress and face paint of the Achuar people of the Amazon rainforest, the president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nations, Jaime Vargas, thanked President Moreno and demanded improved long-term conditions for Indigenous Ecuadorians.

“We want peace for our brothers and sisters in this country,” Vargas said. “We don’t want more repression.”

The protests started when the President affirmed his support for an IMF-backed agreement, known as Decree 883.

The move sparked nationwide protests as prices rose overnight by about a 25% for gas and double for diesel. A state of emergency was imposed on Thursday. Truck and taxi drivers forced a partial shutdown of Quito’s airport and roadblocks have paralyzed major roads across the country.

Images from Quito showed protesters hurling gas bombs and stones, ransacking and vandalizing public buildings as well as clashing with the police in running battles late into the night.

Some protests became so violent that the government was actually forced to flee the capital of Quito for the coastal city of Guayaquil.

All of this was in response to Decree 883 which would have ended fuel subsidies that many of the country’s poorest citizens have come to rely on.

Other indigenous demands included higher taxes on the wealthy and the firing of the interior and defence ministers over their handling of the protests.

In a shift from the heated language of the last 10 days of protests, each side at the negotiations praised the other’s willingness to talk as they outlined their positions in the first hour before a short break.

“From our heart, we declare that we, the peoples and nations, have risen up in search of liberty,” Vargas told The Guardian. “We recognize the bravery of the men and women who rose up.”

New Study Shows That Mexican Teenagers Are Among The Most Addicted To Their Cellphones

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New Study Shows That Mexican Teenagers Are Among The Most Addicted To Their Cellphones

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We don’t need a research study to tell us that we’re more addicted to our phones than ever before. Still, the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism united with nonprofit Common Sense to give us The New Normal: Parents, Teens and Mobile Devices in Mexico,” and the findings are interesting. The survey is based on more than 1,200 Mexican teens and their parents and was led by Dean Willow Bay and Common Sense CEO James P. Steyer. Mexico is just the fourth country surveyed in a global mapping project to better understand the role smartphones play in “the new normal” of today’s family life.

The study found that nearly half (45 percent) of Mexican teens said they feel “addicted” (in the non-clinical, colloquial way) to their phones. That’s 15 percent higher than found in the United States and 265 percent higher than in Japan. Now we want to know how Latino-Americans stack up because this all feels pretty familiar.

1. Checking mobile devices has become a priority in the daily lives of teens and their parents.

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Interestingly, more parents than teens reported using their phones almost all the time. That’s 71 percent of parents and 67 percent of their children reporting near-constant use of their phones. Nearly half of parents and their teens report checking their phones several times an hour. Meanwhile, only 2 percent of the respondents said they never feel the need to immediately respond to a text, social media networking messages, or other notification.

2. Most teens (67 percent) check their phone within 30 minutes of waking up in the morning. For some, their attachment to their phone interrupts their sleep.

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In fact, a third of teens and a fourth of parents check their phone within five minutes of waking up. More than a third of teens (35 percent) and parents (34 percent) wake up in the middle of the night at least once to check their phone for “something other than the time: text messages, email, or social media,” according to the report

3. Parents and teens alike are judging each other’s phone use.

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Somos chismosos by heart, so of course, 82 percent of parents think their child is distracted daily, often several times daily, by their phone use. Over half of teens feel the same way about their parents. Seriously, how much Candy Crush is too much Candy Crush? On top of that, 64 percent of parents believe their child is “addicted” to their phone while 31 percent of teens feel their parent is “addicted” as well. That said, only 40 percent of teens felt their parents worried too much about their social media use, but 60 percent of teens said their parents would be “a lot more worried if they knew what actually happens on social media,” according to the study.

4. If a parent feels “addicted,” they’re more likely to have a child that “feels addicted,” too.

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Half of both parents and teens self-identify as feeling addicted to their phones. That said, three quarters of the 45% parent pool who reported feeling addicted ended up having a teen who self-reported as feeling addicted, too. That means there are about a third of households where everyone “feels addicted” to their device. In a similar vein, that meant that roughly 2 in 5 Mexicans are trying to cut back their time spent on their phone. 

5. Mexican teens’ favorite way to communicate with friends was via text (67 percent)…not hanging out in person.

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Only half (50 percent) of teens said one of their favorite ways to communicate with friends was in person, which narrowly beat social media (49 percent) by just one percentage point. Talking on the phone (40 percent) didn’t come in the last place though. That slot is reserved for video chatting at 22 percent.

6. If they had to go a day without their phone, the majority of respondents said they would feel happy or free.

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While the majority of teens said they would feel at least somewhat happy (73 percent), free (67 percent), or relieved (64 percent), they also expected to feel at least somewhat bored (63 percent), or anxious (63 percent), or lonely (31 percent). Compared to teens, more parents reported that they’d expect to feel happy (79 percent), free (77 percent), or relieved
(73 percent). 

7. The majority of both parents and teens think device use is hurting their family relationships.

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Nearly a third of parents said they argue once a day with their teen about their excessive use of their phone, and that screen use, in fact, ranks third behind bedtime and chores as their regular conflicts. “My parents are very concerned about this,” teen Guadalupe Mireya Espinosa Cortés told Common Sense Media. “They are all the time telling us, ‘Oh, don’t use the phone while we are eating together. Hey, we are on vacation. Don’t use the phone, please’ and I agree. I think there are priorities and we have to be intelligent to know when and where to use our phones.”

Overall, most Mexican families still agree on the benefits of the technology, citing tech skills, access to information, building relationships and keeping in touch with extended families as reasons that mobile devices are worth their while.

READ: Facebook Wants To Add Latinas In Tech To Their Teams And Offer Them A Slice Of Their Big Salary Earning Pie