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Interview with our scholarship holder Rosa Flores Cruz


Rosa Marina Flores Cruz is an Afro-Indigenous activist from Mexico who participated in this year's UN Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII 2021) as an Incomindios Youth grantee. In an interview with Katy Cottrell of Incomindios UK, Rosa talks about her work with indigenous communities resisting exploitation and threats.


To start the interview, Rosa talked about her mother and grandmother, both of whom were involved in indigenous resistance movements: "We come from a generation of women who always spoke up and were always aware of their identity and value as indigenous women." One of the main motivations for Rosa's activism is the impact that construction projects have had on her own community and their land. Rosa describes that "a large project invaded our region, occupied our land, without consultation and without proper community involvement... We quickly realized that the profiteers are businessmen behind such projects, and the local people go away empty-handed."


I was surprised to learn that many of the projects Rosa mentioned were intended to promote renewable energy. Such projects are already so widespread that there would be 2000 wind turbines in her region as well, which "will change the landscape [and] the way of life."


The reality of Indigenous Peoples' lives is undoubtedly closely related to climate change. Consequently, I assumed - somewhat naively - that energy from renewable resources would be welcomed by them. However, according to Rosa, indigenous peoples and vulnerable groups would continue to suffer from such projects if they were implemented in the same exploitative way: "We have to deal with the consequences of climate change, but also with the consequences of the projects that are supposed to slow down climate change.To start the interview, Rosa talked about her mother and grandmother, both of whom were involved in indigenous resistance movements: "We come from a generation of women who always spoke up and were always aware of their identity and value as indigenous women." One of the main motivations for Rosa's activism is the impact that construction projects have had on her own community and their land. Rosa describes that "a large project invaded our region, occupied our land, without consultation and without proper community involvement... We quickly realized that the profiteers are businessmen behind such projects, and the local people go away empty-handed."


I was surprised to learn that many of the projects Rosa mentioned were intended to promote renewable energy. Such projects are already so widespread that there would be 2000 wind turbines in her region as well, which "will change the landscape [and] the way of life."


The reality of Indigenous Peoples' lives is undoubtedly closely related to climate change. Consequently, I assumed - somewhat naively - that energy from renewable resources would be welcomed by them. However, according to Rosa, indigenous peoples and vulnerable groups would continue to suffer from such projects if they were implemented in the same exploitative way: "We have to deal with the consequences of climate change, but also with the consequences of the projects that are supposed to slow down climate change".



Mega-projects lead to violence against women


One of the impacts of mega-projects in Mexico is increased violence against women. Rosa tells me about the wind energy project in her region. Many men from Europe come as workers - and harass women. This happens in all kinds of projects, especially since men are needed as workers. But where many men work, patriarchy breaks through, and the abuse of women becomes a reality, and on a huge scale. "Projects carried out according to capitalist principles always lead to violence against women." In Mexico, this exploitation takes place in a larger context of abuse: in 2010, the UN named Mexico as one of the countries with the highest number of violent acts against women. Indigenous women are often among the most affected, accounting for 70% percent of all trafficking victims in Mexico. Although "feminism" as a term is not necessarily used by indigenous women as such, they stand up against patriarchy, colonialism and capitalism and fight for their land and ancestral territory. These indigenous women don't say "I'm a feminist," they say "I'm a person with an indigenous background fighting for my land!" Rosa tells of many women and girls she knows who are fighting vigorously and energetically for their ancestral lands: "For me, this is a form of feminism, fighting the patriarchal system that has been introduced to us along with colonialism and capitalism."



UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.


The theme of UNPFII 2021 was peace, justice and strong institutions, and I wanted to hear from Rosa about how these goals can be achieved with the involvement of indigenous communities. "I think institutions need to stop seeing indigenous communities as an obstacle. There needs to be a change of mindset in terms of how we are included... we need to become part of the global community."


If the voice of indigenous people is to be taken into account, it is important to know that the notion of collective rights and ways of thinking are important to them. As Rosa points out, dealing with an indigenous community is not the same as dealing with just one indigenous person acting as a representative of the community. The collective voice must never be forgotten - this requires the inclusion of all opinions of the community, which slows down a process of opinion making. In the non-indigenous system, one person alone decides for everyone, which Rosa criticizes. She has to make an effort to speak in the sense of her whole community when she represents her people.


The challenges currently facing indigenous peoples sometimes seem insurmountable. In our conversation, however, Rosa tells me about an environmentally damaging project that was stopped by the union of local indigenous organizations. Rosa's descriptions of the resilience of the groups she works with and the passion she herself embodies inspire hope that these challenges can be overcome over time.



By Katy Cottrell



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