San Dionisio's new mayor. San Dionisio's new mayor.

New mayor a woman and indigenous too

First woman mayor of San Dionisio del Mar and first of the Ikojts people

A woman was sworn in yesterday as the new mayor of San Dionisio del Mar in Oaxaca, becoming not only the first female to hold the office but the first member of the Ikojts, or Huave, people to do so.

Teresita de Jesús Luis Ojeda, just 26 years old, became a candidate through a consensus among political parties that was unheard of in the state of Oaxaca or elsewhere in Mexico.

After months of fighting tooth and nail for control over the small municipality, located in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region, the five political parties decided to support a “unity candidacy.”

Luis was nominated mayor and the rest of the municipal offices up for election were decided amicably among the parties.

Officially an independent candidate, Luis was elected mayor last June in what was more a referendum than a traditional election.

San Dionisio del Mar, with a population of little more than 5,100, has seen its share of political violence during the last five years, including incidents such as the expulsion of the former mayor, the occupation of municipal headquarters by protesters and the community’s disavowal of its municipal administrator.

Order and peace must be priorities, the then-mayor elect told the news site Animal Político last August.

Luis hopes that her two-year term will help the community overcome the “conflict stage” and begin a “work stage.”

“I believe we’ve already started working and healing the conflict, as we’ve already achieved an agreement.”

That agreement, continued the young mayor, “is to have a two-year administration where social stability and governability prevail.”

Luis has no qualms in explaining her triumph as the logical result of the political-electoral reforms ushered in by the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto in 2014.

Those reforms establish gender quotas with which political parties must comply when selecting candidates.

“Thanks to that reform I was able to be a candidate,” said Luis, who originally entered the race under the banner of the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

Luis dedicated the intervening months between the election and her swearing in to strengthening her knowledge of her native Ombeyajts language.

The first Ikojts mayor, a lawyer by training, believes that her predecessors have failed to foster social unity in San Dionisio, and she intends to tackle the issue by working with the community’s common indigenous element.

“We will organize social and cultural events and actions geared toward making our Huave identity more palpable, because for me, saying I am Huave and indigenous is a source of pride.”

“Some find it hard to say it . . . but we may even be more special. We’re indigenous, Mexicans, Oaxacas and we can enjoy all the rights granted by the law to us,” she said.

While Luis is conscious of the municipality’s most urgent needs, such as the availability of electricity and running water, the cohesion of her people, even beyond San Dionisio, is what propels her.

One of her biggest dreams is the creation of an intercultural university that would give greater development opportunities to other Ikojts communities, like San Mateo and San Francisco del Mar, as well as neighboring Zapotec towns.

“It’s been clear to me since the beginning. I always spoke during the campaign about rescuing our culture, because we’re losing it and I believe it should be preserved.”

Source: Animal Político (sp)

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