How an Indigenous Woman Left Her Mark on a Tumultuous Presidential Campaign in Mexico

“Mexico has been kidnapped by those in power, and with your help we’re going to get her back!” said María de Jesús Patricio at a political rally on 11 February. Her supporters filled the plaza outside the Palacio de Bellas Artes — a historic cultural hub in the heart of Mexico City — to listen to the woman that they hope can bring about a radical change in Mexican society.  

Marichuy, as Patricio is commonly known, is an indigenous Nahua healer from the state of Jalisco in western Mexico. She was nominated by the National Indigenous Congress (CNI), a coalition of 58 indigenous groups, as their spokesperson to represent them in this year’s presidential campaigns.

Though she did not succeed in collecting the required number of signatures to stand in the elections, expected 1 July 2018, the CNI says they will not be deterred. “After the 2018 elections there will be many more and we are going to carry on fighting,” said councilwoman Yamili Chan Dzul, from Yucatán in southern Mexico, at the February rally. “We are going to keep moving forward. This [campaign] is a call for us to awaken our consciousness.”  

Gathering the 866,593 signatures — 1% of the average number of registered voters in each state — that independent candidates need to enter the race for president proved problematic for the CNI.

Throughout their campaign for Marichuy’s candidacy, the congress argued that the mechanism for collecting signatures heavily discriminates against indigenous communities, which constitute the core of their support base.

Signatures are provided via a National Electoral Institute app, but many living in indigenous communities do not own mobile phones, let alone devices which connect to the internet. In Mexico, internet users account for just 60% of the population, according to World Bank data.

Marichuy was the first ever indigenous woman who attempted to stand as a candidate for the presidency, backed by the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN).

This radical left-wing…

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