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Giving back to her community

Yenizeth wants to return to the mountain range to share her experience with other young indigenous people and encourage them to get an education
Yenizeth - Photo: COURTESY
14/02/2018
15:46
Chihuahua, Mexico
Luis Fierro
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Yenizeth is Rarámuri (Tarahumara). She was born in Témoris, a community buried deep in the mountains, a community riddled with poverty. As a child, she couldn't afford a sweater and food was scarce. She managed to move to the city to fulfill her dream: have a college degree.

Now, at 22, Yenizeth majored in Ecology and wants to return to the mountain, to share her experience with other young indigenous people and encourage them to get an education.

According to official numbers of the Ministry of Social Development, 80% of the population of Témoris lives in conditions of poverty, and half of them in extreme poverty.

“We struggled to get the smallest things, like a jacket or a school uniform because we didn't have enough money to buy them. I was only happy at school. Since I was a little girl, I enjoyed learning new things and doing homework,” says the sixth child of seven siblings.

Just as she was about to finish high school, there was an orientation talk at her school, and scholarships for the Autonomous University of Chihuahua were offered. That day, Yeni, as her friends call her, decided she would go to college.

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(Aerial take of the Tarahumara mountain Range – Photo: Roberto Armocida/EL UNIVERSAL)

She moved to the city of Chihuahua, staying at first with a kind woman who allowed her to live in one of the rooms of her house for free, but not wanting to continue imposing on her host, Yeni then found a small place she could rent – far from her campus.

“It was a very hard time. I had to get up before 5:00 to make it on time to school, and sometimes I had nothing to eat. The University gave a stipend for food, but that only covered the cost of a meal per day.”

While the scholarship covered tuition costs and considered a stipend for other expenses, the young Rarámuri woman says it was thanks to the money sent to her by an uncle who had gone to the United States to work that she managed to finish college.

There are currently 72 Rarámuri students at the University of Chihuahua – all of them are women. Yenizeth explains the reason behind this is drug trafficking.

“Men prefer to stay and become hit-men, or work the cannabis fields for the drug dealers, so the Army won't find them in the woods; and because women are afraid to work for them or unable to get a job, they move to the city. Once here, they see things in a different way and know they can study, and they no longer want to depend on men, they don't want to depend on anybody.”

She has thought about returning to her community, though. She wants to go back to the mountain range and share her knowledge with other Rarámuri people, to help them become the next local leaders that will develop community projects.

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(Tarahumara women – Photo: Ariel Ojeda/EL UNIVERSAL)

“It's the Tarahumara who should decide what projects they need, not a government that tells them what to do, this is why it's important they receive an education.”

Yeni wants to go back and teach about what she has learned to help her people maximize resources in a sustainable way but at the moment, she is working at an environmental consulting office, where she is doing environmental impact studies for mining companies. She will start her masters shortly.

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