Things That Matter

Seven South American Nations Sign An Environmental Pact To Protect The Amazon, Just Like Three Months Too Late

There is a wise old Mexican saying that goes: “Ahogado el niño se tapa el pozo“. It roughly translates as “Once the child drowns the well is shut off”. In other words, sometimes horrible things need to happen for people to react and come up with solutions or at least a bit of an effort to prevent further catastrophes. Well, that’s the feeling that we get with the recently signed pact to protect the Amazon after fires savaged los pulmones de la Madre Tierra for weeks. 

The meeting was initially called by the host and the Peruvian president, as the Sunday Star Times reports: “The host, Colombian President Ivan Duque, and his Peruvian counterpart Martin Vizcarra called for the meeting following global outrage over a surge in the number of fires in Brazil’s Amazon region this year, which triggered protests at Brazilian diplomatic missions worldwide over Bolsonaro’s alleged indifference to environmental concerns”. So what is the pact all about and what is the deal with Bolsonaro?

The pact was signed by seven South American nations.

Credit: default. Digital image. Euronews.

The signing countries are: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru and Surinam. The pact was signed in the Colombian town of Leticia, deep in the Amazon, last Friday September 6. The pact has 14 points and it focuses on improvements to disaster response coordination among the seven countries, and increased satellite monitoring of the world’s largest rainforest. Other notable points include education around environmental matters and an increased participation of indigenous communities on policies and projects. The document also looks to curb illegal species trafficking, illegal mineral extraction, deforestation and planting of illicit crops (so, drugs). 

The host, Colombian president Ivan Duque, called for unity.

Credit: Instagram. @ivanduquemarquez

The host said: “This meeting will live on as a co-ordination mechanism for the presidents that share this treasure – the Amazon”. But he also expressed a wider message: “We believe that this is a moral duty, our societies are increasingly aware of the need to protect our shared home, of our Mother Earth”. We certainly hope these are more that pretty words. As abuelitas say, del dicho al hecho hay mucho trecho. It is worth noting that the original owners of the land were present, as CE Noticias Financieras reports: “Representatives of indigenous communities were also present at the meeting and the instance was concretized to a traditional ceremonial area in the Monilla Amena community”. 

Notably absent was Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, who “attended” via video conference.

Credit: Instagram. @michellebolssonaro

The Brazilian leader, who has been widely criticized for his reluctance to accept foreign aid during the fires, was at hospital at the time. Bolsonaro, however, delivered a message that can only be read as support for continuing efforts to mine indigenous reserves and protected areas. He said:  “Our riches will be utilized in a sustainable way, in accordance to the resources that we have”. We don’t have to read too much between the lines to realize that this is a somewhat veiled way to say they will continue exploiting the Amazon for its natural resources… wildlife and indigenous rights be damned. 

Only two Amazon countries did not sign the pact: Venezuela and France, who owns the French Guiana.

Credit: Instagram. @picturesoftheamazon

Will they join in the efforts to protect the biggest single source of oxygen in the world? We certainly hope so. They also have to be held accountable!

And there were some discrepancies over the ways in which the Amazon can be saved.

Credit: Instagram. @TheForestInitiative

The participants in this meeting didn’t all see eye to eye. Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno, who was himself born in the Amazon, said: “We are killing the Earth, and all of us are responsible”. But Bolsonaro claimed that foreign countries were using the fires to conspire against the sovereignty of the regions’ nations.  So clearly out of the seven at least Brazil is looking after industry lobbyists, perhaps?

But at the end we are all responsible for our planet and the Amazon fires were yet another wake up call! 

Credit: Instagram. @climatesavemovement

Environmentalists and activists in pro of animal rights stressed out the fact that the Amazon fires were in part to blame on the meat industry. While we can disagree with a total ban on meat, fact is that climate-related emergencies will be the norm rather than the exception in the coming years, and we do have to thing about our consumption habits and the ways in which we harvest riches from the land. 

Truth is, politicians will always use catastrophes to increase their profile, so we have to ALL make an effort to protect the environment.

Credit: Instagram. @evomoralesayma

Perhaps we are being too cynical, but the Amazon disaster has conveniently brought out the best out of politicians. Evo Morales, for example, has had too many photo ops related to the rainforest relief efforts, right in the middle of an electoral campaign and when his long rule over Bolivia is being harshly questioned by the opposition. So it is up to us, as Latinos and as human beings, to hold those in power accountable for protecting our home. 

‘Roma’ Star Aparicio Is Named UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador And Will Advocate For The Rights Of Indigenous Peoples


‘Roma’ Star Aparicio Is Named UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador And Will Advocate For The Rights Of Indigenous Peoples

Within a matter of just a year, Mexican actress Yalitza Aparicio has made a name for herself as both an artist and an activist. Earlier this year, the 25-year-old actress, born in Tlaxiaco, Mexico, made history as the first indigenous actor nominated for the best actress award at the Academy Awards for her breakout role in the film “Roma.” In the months after the film came out, the actress has worked hard to display her Mixteco language and heritage, financially support Oaxan students from her hometown, and combat any stereotypes or ignorant impressions you might have of indigenous people. For her work, the young actress is, once again, being honored. 

This time, it’s with a wonderful new role with the United Nations’ cultural agency United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a goodwill ambassador for indigenous people.

On Friday, UNESCO— a Paris-based organization— announced that they had appointed Aparicio to help them advocate for gender equality and indigenous rights. 

yalitzaapariciomtz / Instagram

In an interview about her newest role, Aparicio said that she felt “proud to be an indigenous woman” and would like to aim “to go hand in hand with UNESCO in the best way, to be able to support these indigenous communities.”

According to NBC News, the young actress also said that it was her hope that she would pass on the traditional wisdom of indigenous communities as well as combat racism. “As my grandparents used to say: ‘You have to take care of the land because you eat it.’ So hopefully we learn this part,” she said.

During her announcement of her new role, Aparicio said that it would also be her goal to shed light on the various legal complications that indigenous people face in the government systems around the world. 

yalitzaapariciomtz/ Instagram

“There are several cases where there are indigenous people who are judged in a foreign language, without the right to have a translator and I think it’s something that we should take action on”, she said.

There’s no doubt that based on the year Aparicio has had that she is a woman who understands first hand why advocacy for indigenous people is so important. 

yalitzaapariciomtz / Instagram

The Academy Award-nominated actress Yalitza Aparicio became the first Mexican woman to receive such an honor. However, despite the respect and esteem, she should have earned, it wasn’t uncommon for her to receive unwarranted racism from her community of actors in Mexico. At one point, telenovela star Sergio Goyri used racist slurs to say that he didn’t feel Yalitza Aparicio deserved an Oscar nomination. In a video posted to the veteran actor’s Instagram, he  commented that Aparicio should not have received a nomination for an Academy Award saying  in Spanish “Que metan a nominar a una pinche india que dice, ‘sí señora, no señora’, y que la metan a una terna a la mejor actriz del Oscar.

In English, his offensive and vulgar language translate to “That they nominate an Indian click that says, ‘Yes ma’am, no ma’am’, and that they put it in a shortlist for the best Oscar actress.”

Later the actor apologizes saying that it was “never my intent to offend anyone. I apologize to Yalitza, who deserves [the Oscar nomination] and much more,” the 60-year-old said on Instagram. “For me, it is an honor to see a Mexican be nominated for an Oscar.”

Staying above it all like always, Aparicio responded to Goyri’s offensive remarks by stating that she was proud of who she is and where she is from. 

“I am proud to be an Oaxacan indigenous woman, and it saddens me that there are people who do not know the correct meaning of words,” Aparicio said in a statement to The Guardian.

“Roma” director, Alfonso Cuarón, also came to the defense of Aparicio this week by saying that Goyri’s words should be a broader discussion as to why people, particularly in Mexico, have those feelings, and also why the media perpetuates stereotypes.

With all that Aparicio has experienced, we’re excited to see what she does for Indigenous people in her newest role.

Aparicio has continued to prove this year that she is nothing but a rising star on the scene. Despite the fact that English was not a language she knew fluently when she took up her first Hollywood film (and first film!) she continues to be the face of international success and proof that anyone can come from any circumstance and get to the top. We hope that her new role she will outshine any ignorance and cruelty that might come her way and that she will continue the fight for freedom for Indigenous people everywhere.

Vogue Mexico And Latin America Celebrated Their 20th Anniversary By Highlighting Indigenous Women On Their New Covers


Vogue Mexico And Latin America Celebrated Their 20th Anniversary By Highlighting Indigenous Women On Their New Covers

This week Vogue Mexico and Latin America celebrated its twentieth anniversary with six different covers featuring iconic Latin-American women. “This is a big celebration,” read an article on the magazine’s website. The covers feature prominent women from indigenous groups as well as other powerful women who’ve made strides in culture and gastronomy, such as María Lorena Ramírez the Tarahumara runner and Oaxacan cook Abigail Mendoza. 

The publication took to Instagram to reveal the covers. “This is how we celebrate our 20 years!” reads the caption of the cover featuring Tarahumaran runner María Lorena Ramírez, atop a rocky hill in her typical dress and huaraches, “This edition of #VogueMexico is an homage to our country. We traveled north and south to share the stories of women who are true leaders of our time. Each one of these inspirations is a tribute.” 

María Lorena Ramírez, the ‘Rarámuri Runner’ is an indigenous woman who won an ultramarathon in huaraches.

Credit: voguemexico / Instagram

The six commemorative covers feature leaders in their own discipline. María Lorena Ramírez is featured on the top cover of the issue. The indigenous Rarámuri has won the world’s attention for being the first Rarámuri woman to run an ultramarathon in Europe. She was invited to participate by the Tenerife Bluetrail Organization in 2017 after winning a 50km (30 miles) race in Tlatlauquitepec, Puebla. In 2018 she ran the 102 kilometers of the Ultramarathon in a time of 20:11:37, earning her the 5th best time in her category.

Lorena captivated the media due to her unconventional attire during the races.

Credit: marcosferro / Instagram

The indigenous woman refuses to wear anything other than the traditional dress of her people, known as “los de los pies ligeros” or “the people with the light feet”, she also runs in her traditional huaraches.

Mexican actor Gael García Bernal is turning María Lorena Ramírez’s story into a Netflix show. ‘Río Grande, Rìo Bravo’ will dedicate a half hour episode to the 24 year old Rarámuri runner who beat five hundred athletes from twelve different countries in an ultratrail race, wearing her open-toe huaraches.

Abigail Mendoza cooks with the traditions of the Zapotecan culture, a tribute to her ancestors, to the history of Mexico and especially to Oaxaca.

Credit: voguemexico / Instagram

Pictured in her traditional braids and apron, surrounded by the women in her family, Abigail Mendoza is included in this tribute by Vogue as a world-famous indigenous cook who proudly serves traditional Zapotecan cuisine. “People said: ‘How am I going to eat indigenous food!?’ she recalls in an interview with Mexican newspaper ‘El Universal’, “Now people pay attention to indigenous food because of the recognition I’ve received” she added, “but before that, no one cared.” “I wasn’t afraid to show it to the world”.

In 1993 Mendoza was featured in The New York Times, which named her restaurant ‘Tlamanalli’, one of the top 10 best restaurants in the world. The Oaxacan cook published a book ‘Dishdaa´w, Zapotecan for “the word is infinitely woven with food” in which, she explains, “I leave all my knowledge of traditional food, to humanity and future generations. Which is what I’m trying to rescue in this town.”

A group of Bolivian cooks turned alpinists who have climbed the highest peak of Latin-America in their traditional dress.

Credit: voguemexico / Instagram

Las Cholitas escaladoras de Bolivia are Bolivian Aymara indigenous women who until recently, worked as cooks and caretakers for mountaineers from around the world, catering to the crews who headed to the high peaks of the Andes. One day they decided to strap up and hike to the top themselves. The term “chola” is a derogatory term for indigenous women in Bolivia and these brave women reclaimed it, to turn the word into a term of pride.  “At over 6,000 meters of altitude, just like reaching for the clouds, the #cholitasescaladoras are an example of strength and virtue,” wrote Vogue Mexico and Latin America on Instagram.

Juana Burga a Peruvian top model with a heart of gold.

Credit: voguemexico / Instagram

Juana Burga is the only Peruvian model to have walked in New York, London, Milan and Paris Fashion Week. In addition to her work in modeling, Burga is an activist who works to protect artisans who produce sustainable fibers that are exported worldwide. She is the founder of Nuna Awaq, an initiative that aim to revalue artisan’s work and give them opportunities for development through luxury, in a sustainable and socially responsible way.