An indigenous environmental activist from Oaxaca has been named one of eight winners of the Global Citizen Prize.
Mitzy Cortés Guzmán, 23, from San Sebastián Tecomaxtlahuaca, 270 kilometers west of Oaxaca city in the Mixtec region, was one of 10 indigenous women land defenders who acted as a delegate at the UN Climate Change Conference 2021 (COP26). She is a member of the environmental groups Semillero de Mujeres Defensoras (seedbed of women activists) Milpa Climática (climate milpa) and Futuros Indígenas (indigenous futures).
Cortés also runs the “Pulques Contra el Cambio Climático” (pulques against climate change) podcast.
The prize provides the winners with one year of support from Global Citizen and a donation toward their work.
Cortés said that local communities should have control of their own destinies.
“Those who are fighting and have to pay [for damage] are often the people. It is the communities that are saying: ‘We don’t want a mine, we don’t want a company, we don’t want another way of life, we are happy with our way of life,’” she said.
Cortés added her work was necessary due to a growth in societal problems. “There is a huge increase in violence, a lot of injustices and corruption where inequalities, instead of being ended, are increasing,” she said.
The activist, who was recently appointed minister of communal property in San Sebastián Tecomaxtlahuaca, said that work in the town was her priority. “One can have many accolades, but there is also a responsibility within the community … It’s important to talk about what is happening in our communities, but it is even more important not to detach ourselves from our land and everything that happens here,” she said.
The seven other prize winners are women from Germany, the United States, Samoa, South Africa, the United Kingdom, India and Nigeria. They were all credited at a ceremony in New York on Sunday, which will air on Youtube and Twitter on June 2.
At least two Mexicans have previously received prizes from Global Citizen: environmental activist Martha Isabel Ruiz Corzo was awarded a prize in 2020 for her work protecting the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve in Querétaro and former President Enrique Peña Nieto received an award in 2014 for his leadership in creating the Pact for Mexico, a cross party deal for policy reform signed in 2012.
Global Citizen aims to end global poverty and works toward the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
With reports from El Universal