Nahua biocultural diversity, landscape and history: a program for primary school children in the Sierra de Zongolica, Veracruz




A session at school using a storybook on natural resources and women's knowledge, El Carril, Zongolica (Photo: B. Contreras)In 2015 Belinda Contreras, Fortunta Panzo, Elizabeth Sánchez and Leonardo Alvarez, started working in two primary schools in the Sierra de Zongolica, developing  materials and working with teachers to integrate key aspects of the environment as it relates to local knowledge and the revitalisation of traditional
management practices. The response among school children and teachers has been overwhelmingly positive; there is clearly a huge demandfor pedagogical materials that address the lived reality of children and their need to understand a world that is rapidly changing around them in a way that draws on and supports- rather than undermine- their own abilities, and social and linguistic identity and self-esteem.

Activities are directed to support the process of experiential learning about the environment, for example by collecting edible plants, medicinal plants, by recognizing tree seeds and by learning about their ecological attributes.This initiative also motivates them to learn about wool weaving, the manufacture of local ceramic, and the preparation of ritual dishes, customary skills and traditions that link people to their biodiversity, their past, their communities and their identity. Facilitators make use of the diverse materials producedduring the last four years, including storybooks, videos, photos and different artefacts and specimens brought into the classroom. 


 Activities and Outputs

Los Textiles de la Tlasesekya: Cuentos sobre hilos, telares y vellones. Belinda Contreras J. & Miguel A. Sosme C. 2014 (Spanish and Nahua). The stories in this children's book, both illustrated an included in an audio CD narrated in Nahua, contains a wealth of local knowledge collected from the weavers of the Sierra de Zongolica. The art of weaving, currently in danger of disappearing, represents the end-point of an entire complex cultural and resource management system that includes native breeds of sheep, raised for wool, and a wide range of plants, cultivated and managed to source the dyes. The book is the result of years of work accompanying the weavers and facilitating a series of workshops, meetings and exchanges to promote the transmission of knowledge and support the weavers in their efforts to revitalise their art and the cultural and ecological systems that underlie it.