Indigenous mountain youth spotlight - Jessica Vega


An interview with Jessica Vega 

1. Please introduce yourself and the work you are doing for the Latin American Indigenous Youth Network and the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus. 

The Latin American Indigenous Youth Network (Red de Jóvenes indígena de América Latina) is composed of collectives and grassroots organisations promoting human rights and indigenous peoples' issues, with a focus on youth. I am part of the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus as a focal point for Latin America and spokesperson for the Indigenous Youth Network.

2. Which mountains do the Mixtec people inhabit, and what is the role of these mountains for Mixtec lifestyles and food systems? 

The Mixtec people live in the Mexican states of Puebla and Oaxaca, in a region known as the "nudo Mixteco" where three mountain chains converge: Sierra Madre Oriental, Sierra Madre del Sur and Eje Volcanico Transversal. The complexity of the terrain has created an unfavourable context for economic development and contributed to the vulnerability of Mixtec people. However, it has also served as a buffer, protecting Mixtec traditional food systems.

3. How do migration and climate change affect Mixtec mountain dwellers? 

In Mixtec territories, lack of rain and drying of rivers have further exasperated poverty and vulnerability to food insecurity, contributing to out-migration from Mixtec mountain communities to urban areas and even abroad. Migrants face discrimination, and their communities of origin face shortage of labor.

4. How do the Mixtec people respond to migration and climate change?

To respond to climate change, communities have had to seek other sources of water including methods for gathering rainwater. They have also mobilised to limit deforestation and palm extraction, and to implement reforestation schemes.

5. How can young people be encouraged to remain in their communities?

My organization works to decrease international migration and create alternatives for return. When indigenous peoples migrate, they often find ways to conserve their identity and traditions. However, what pushes young people to leave is lack of basic rights such as health, food and education.

 6. What can be done to strengthen bonds between Mixtec migrants and their communities of origin? 

Mixtec migrants maintain connection to their communities of origin through an invisible network held together by the traditions that they carry with them. However, this network needs to be strengthened through inclusive projects that take into consideration the needs of migrants.

Photo by Diego Laurenti Sellers

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