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Interview. We sat down with María de Jesús Patricio Martínez, better known as Marichuy, the indigenous candidate for president of Mexico. “Our proposal is for something different: by means of organizing from below.”

A feminist government, ruled from the bottom up

At the beginning of January, Marichuy finally ended her nonstop trip around the country, which she began in mid-November to gather the signatures needed to make her candidacy for the presidency of Mexico a reality.

It was a break only in terms of travelling, as the days spent in Mexico City were spent organizing meetings for verification, evaluation and coordination among the delegates of the Indigenous National Congress (CNI), the representatives of civil society and the intellectuals who are supporting the campaign.

Between meetings, Marichuy spoke with the national and international press. Almost 900,000 signatures are needed to validate and “substantiate” a candidature coming from outside the party system—a very high number, which shows the gap between the appearance and reality of democracy in the Mexican political system. We had the opportunity to talk to Marichuy, in an attempt to better understand the significance of the path chosen by the CNI, coming in the wake of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), which they started on a year ago.

Part of the Mexican Left is afraid you will take votes away from MORENA [the leading left-wing party], and thus from the possibility of a change in government that would break the cycle of PAN/PRI rule. If you could answer their fears, what would you say?

That we won’t take votes away from anyone. I think the people know what they want to vote for. What we are asking for right now is a signature to make the candidacy a reality, not a vote. Signing for me now does not imply voting for me in July. We don’t know if we will even manage to collect all the necessary signatures. Our proposal has been clear from the start: It is an organizational proposal. The voters clearly know who they will support in the elections. We have always proclaimed our lack of confidence in those who are forming governments every six years. We have not seen any change in the communities, and the situation in the villages is getting worse and worse. Our proposal is for something different: by means of organizing from below, the people will have the power in their own hands, and the government will have to listen to the people if they are organized. It will be up to the people to decide.

What does feminism mean for you, and why is it of fundamental importance today, in Mexico and in the world?

Because when a woman decides to participate, nothing will be able to stop her. Even more so in these times, marked by an enormous number of femicides, not only in Mexico but in the whole world. The patriarchal structures that have been built do not make it easy for women to participate. We must therefore participate more decisively, without fear. If we succeed, like so many women have already, in changing the power relationships by our struggle, and if we can reach agreement amongst ourselves, and by doing that we manage to build what we desire from the bottom up, it is clear that we will have a different world. We are also fighting for those who will come after us. As part of the National Indigenous Congress, we must participate in this together, and men are worth just as much as women. We, the women, have to participate with more determination and courage, and we must be strong to continue to build our autonomy.

You are a woman and an indigenous person, and what you have to say about this is very clear. But for those who are not women, or not indigenous, can you explain what it means to have this status in a country like Mexico?

Being a woman means you are considered second-class. Being both a woman and indigenous means you are considered third-class; it means you are never taken into account. A woman is considered to be able  to do nothing else than have children and stay at home to take care of the family. According to most people, this should be her task. Our proposal is based on the participation of women. So many women have taken part in the struggle, and they have played important roles, even if they were hardly acknowledged. That is why we believe in organizing from below, which would not be complete in any way without the participation of women.

The path of electoral participation is also, in the end, all about “the numbers,” so what would happen if you don’t reach the goal in terms of signatures? Would it be taken as a sign of weakness? And if you gather the necessary signatures, will it be a show of strength?

We have said that we intend to participate in the electoral process, and we have undertaken the task to collect the signatures in order to appear on the ballot in July, but at the same time, we think that our path forward will not stop if we do not reach this goal. The participation in the electoral process has an organizational purpose: If we don’t collect all the signatures, but we can create a strong organization, from below, that will last, this would be a victory. We will put all the necessary energy into the collection of the required signatures, and we will continue to create and strengthen the network that we are building day after day.

Mexico is a magical and wonderful country, and at the same time the social struggles are getting even worse. Violence is out of control, and, with the excuse of the war against the narcos, the army is being given full powers. How do you think your country has changed in the last 20 years?

Right now we are seeing a threat in the internal security law that was just passed. In the case of a protest or any action directed against an injustice, the answer will be repression. None of the laws enacted in recent years has been in the interest of the communities, or the workers, both men and women, or those suffering from poverty and discrimination. They only defend the interests of those who are at the top, the allies of the capitalist system that only brings death and destruction, and which is hand in hand with the police and the army. Nothing that is coming from above truly serves the people. And the destruction is always accompanied by state repression. The poor are the ones who pay the price, as they have everything taken away from them.

The CNI’s proposal is not aimed only at the indigenous. How would you explain the political meaning of your proposal for those who are not indigenous?

It is a proposal that comes from the indigenous peoples, and it is for Mexico. What does this mean? We, the indigenous peoples who have participated in the CNI, have seen the damage that the mega-projects of the capitalist system have done, bringing with them only destruction, pollution and the degradation of nature. Their impact concerns everybody, not just the indigenous peoples. If the water is contaminated, it is contaminated for everybody. And for the trees as well, so the whole cycle of life is altered. Look at how the earth is being destroyed, contaminated. When the earth dies, we will die with her. That is why our proposal is addressed to all those who are suffering, whether they are living in Mexico or anywhere in the world. Our process of organization is for the defense of life, because we want life to continue, for everybody. Not only for indigenous people, and not only this July.

What is the difference between the “otra campaña” of 2006 [launched by the Zapatistas to coordinate the radical and international Left, with a tour that started on motorcycles] and your path for Mexico?

We see ours as a continuation, this time accomplished through the direct participation in the electoral process. It is its natural continuation, in building something new from the bottom up, a way to strengthen the autonomy in every community, in every neighborhood, in every area in ​​the cities and around the world.

One last question: How does the Indigenous Governing Council (IGC) work?

The IGC consists of our sisters and brothers who have received a mandate from their communities and their people to participate in the electoral process. Since it is not possible for a group of people to stand as candidates for the presidency of the Republic, a spokesperson has been chosen—in this case, myself. The IGC is our proposal for governing: the people command and the government follows. If the government does not obey the people, the people can dismiss it. Many communities are already being governed in this way. That is what we want to propose, but on a larger scale, for all of Mexico. With an organization from below, which will oversee the work of the government. As I have said, ours is a proposal for something different.

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