The Zapatistas and National Indigenous Congress (CNI) held an assembly in May in which they chose María de Jesús Patricio Martínez, a Nahua indigenous healer, as their spokesperson and presidential candidate for the 2018 elections in Mexico.
Patricio’s candidacy and radical vision for Mexico challenges conventional politics and marks a new phase for the Zapatista and indigenous struggle in the country.
The 57-year-old traditional Nahua indigenous doctor and mother of three from western Mexico is the first indigenous woman to run for the presidency in Mexico.
Patricio joined the struggles related to the Zapatista Army of National Liberation in 1996, when she was involved in the formation of the CNI, a network of indigenous communities in the country. She began helping out sick members of her community with herbal remedies when she was 20-years-old. Her skills as a healer were passed down to her from elders in the community, and are based on a close relationship with the local ecosystem.
“Back then, there was a shortage of doctors and medicine and the health department had no answers,” Patricio told the Guardian. “But we have so many plants and so much knowledge from our elders. My grandmother would give us special teas to cure stress, coughs or diarrhea, and they worked. So I thought: why not give herbal remedies to those who can’t afford medicine?” Her work as an herbalist has influenced her political views: “The political class only see the earth and our natural resources as means of making money, not things that benefit the community and need protecting.”
As a presidential candidate chosen by the CNI and Zapatistas, she is not interested in winning votes, but in grassroots organizing and resisting the destruction that so many communities in Mexico are facing.
“Our participation is for life,” she explained at a press conference in Chiapas. “It’s to bring together our communities that have been hit hard for years and years and that, I think, right now need to look for a way…