One Equal Heart supports programs in rural Tseltal Maya communities, in Chiapas, the southernmost state of México. Chiapas is home to one of the largest indigenous populations in México, including the Tseltal Maya, who number around 500,000.
For hundreds of years, the Tseltal Maya People, like other Indigenous Peoples of the Americas, have survived despite many challenges, including poverty, discrimination and exclusion from civil society. From the time of the Spanish Conquest to the present, they have struggled to regain and defend their ancestral lands.
Chiapas has the highest rate of poverty (74.7%) in Mexico, with almost half of poor indigenous families living in extreme poverty (46.7%);
Women participate in the labor force at rates 30% lower in Chiapas than the rest of Mexico;
Chiapas ranks at the bottom in the areas of housing, income, jobs, education, environment, life satisfaction and health;
People in Chiapas have fewer years of schooling (6.7 versus 8.6) compared to the rest of Mexico.
But these statistics don’t tell the whole story: Tseltal Maya communities have an important development advantage.
Their rich cultural heritage and vibrant community life are vital resources. By learning skills and strategies targeted to the realities of life in Chiapas, indigenous women and their families can marshal their cultural, organizational and environmental resources to tackle development challenges.