Mexicans

Indigenous Mexicans turn inward to survive COVID-19, barricading villages and growing their own food

<span class="caption">Zapotec farmers return from their 'milpa,' the garden plots that provide much of the communities' food, in Oaxaca, Mexico. </span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Jeffrey H. Cohen</span>, <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:CC BY-SA">CC BY-SA</a></span>
Zapotec farmers return from their ‘milpa,’ the garden plots that provide much of the communities’ food, in Oaxaca, Mexico. Jeffrey H. Cohen, CC BY-SA

While the coronavirus hammers Mexico, some Indigenous communities in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca are finding creative ways to cope.

Oaxaca, one of Mexico’s poorest and most ethnically diverse states, is home to numerous Indigenous communities, including the Zapotec people. I have spent many years in the central valleys of Oaxaca conducting anthropological research in rural Zapotec villages, documenting the people’s lives, migration patterns and food culture.

Map of Mexico showing Oaxaca
Map of Mexico showing Oaxaca

Now, my summer research in Oaxaca canceled due to the pandemic, I am learning from afar how the Zapotec are confronting the coronavirus given such complicating factors as chronic poverty, inadequate health care, limited internet, language barriers and a lack of running water.

Working with colleagues at Mexico’s Universidad Tecnológica de los

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