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Mexico: Sierra Norte

Mexico’s Sierra Norte has been recognised as an area of great biological importance. The mountain range is also home to several ethnic groups, including the Zapotec.

Our partners WWF Oaxaca and SERBO, a local conservation organisation, coordinated testimony collection in three communities in the Sierra Norte mountains. Testimonies were collected in the Zapotec language and transcribed into Spanish. Themes include: conservation issues; cultural identity; and community organisation.

Our partners have used the testimonies for a community presentation, a series of radio features and a Spanish publication, Voces de las Montanas: testimonios orales Sierra Norte de Oaxaca, Mexico (Click here for PDF version). Additional testimonies have focused on natural resource management and eco-tourism.

“Our forefathers knew very well how to do things with animals and fish…In those days there wasn’t any dynamite, they didn’t pollute the river… people took good care of their rivers and forests …Now they go into the mountains and rivers in any way they like, and they say that it belongs to us all. That’s why they go in and destroy in any way they like, whether it’s animals, fish or trees.”
Cecilio, male, 42 years, farmer

“I didn’t need to clear the forest…I don’t even farm my fallow fields, why? Because with the coffee I have enough to support myself. Well, I hope the rest do the same because one can get by with the land, now overgrown, that our forefathers worked. It’s just that the village is growing so the new people are forced to open up a little bit of forest… but now it is just a bit. That’s what I would like to say, to speak to some of the people from La Luz. They have so much land! And yet they are still going to that side to clear the forest, such precious places!”
Mario, male, 67 years, farmer

“Often, even though the woman had decided who she wanted to marry, or a man went to ask for the woman’s hand with good intentions, the parents didn’t want it, the opinion of the daughter didn’t count for them and they imposed their authority, even though she didn’t want it… But the poor women in those days lived like that, being put down by their husbands because they had bought them like an object. She couldn’t go to visit her parents when she decided but when her husband said so, and well, in that respect it wasn’t good, was it?”
Soledad, female, 62 years

“Yes the majority are women and we get together to go, sometimes just three, four of us women get together and go to get tepejilote (small palm with edible fruit). I mean the men don’t care about tepejilote because they are better off sowing their corn, weeding their coffee plantations, doing other work. So normally it’s us women that go for tepejilote. The same with the mushrooms, there are more women than men in the places where the mushrooms are.”
Victoria, female, 32 years