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New Grants

Ñepi Behña Asociación Civil (Ñepi Behña), $220,085 over three years; counterpart committed, $168,203.

Ñepi Behña, a nongovernmental organization, and Ya Muntsi Behña, a cooperative comprising 250 women in Hidalgo, will develop their jointly-owned enterprise operating on the principles of fair trade, through training, the application of a new strategy for reaching niche markets, and the participation of 520 women suppliers in the states of Chiapas, Puebla, Mexico State, the Federal District and Hidalgo. (ME-515)

Unión de Museos Comunitarios de Oaxaca, A.C. (UMCO), $145,134 over three years; counterpart committed, $353,433.

UMCO will partner with primary and secondary schools to develop the leadership, technical skills and cultural identity of children and adolescents in 15 rural communities of Oaxaca through a series of workshops, festivals, exchanges and exhibits. The activities will involve 2,700 children, 500 adolescents and 300 adults. (ME-516)

Comunidad y Biodiversidad, A.C., $266,232 over three years; counterpart committed, $405,414.

COBI will work with a fishing cooperative in Quintana Roo to manage a community-based marine reserve, restore its reefs and benefit traditional fishers and local tourism enterprises. The project will directly involve 230 fishers and members of their families and will also reach 5,000 residents of villages in Quintana Roo. (ME-517)

Grupo Autónomo para la Investigación Ambiental, A.C. (GAIA), $218,080 over three years; counterpart committed, $458,637.

GAIA will work in Tabasco with 210 residents of seven ejidos, or indigenous communities, organized as the Unión de Ejidos de la Sierra de Huimanguillo (UNESIH) to manage natural resources and a territory extending over roughly 12,722 hectares used for agriculture, livestock and forests. (ME-518)

Instituto Mora (IM), $121,980 over two years; counterpart committed, $264,122.

IM will host a training program directed at preparing 40 young Mexicans between the ages of 22 and 29 for positions of leadership in community foundations. The program will offer classes in a traditional setting and online, internships with the foundations, and the opportunity to undertake research on foundation priorities. Some 700 foundation employees and volunteers are expected to benefit indirectly. (ME-519)

Fondo Acción Solidaria, Asociación Civil (FASOL), $360,000 over three years; counterpart committed, $2,869,100.

FASOL will award 350 subgrants of up to $6,000 to grassroots and nongovernmental organizations involved in development and conservation and will provide related technical support. At least 7,000 Mexicans should benefit directly. (ME-520)

Supplemental Grants

Innovación y Apoyo Educativo, A.C. (IAE), $52,750; counterpart committed, $101,250.

IAE will strengthen five student councils in schools in Chiapas and four Consejos Comunitarios de Participación Social en la Educación (COCOPASE) whose members, drawn from teachers, parents and students, work to improve education. Students will learn from each other during exchanges and can apply for subgrants to fund their proposals for better schools. (ME-488-A4)

Centro de Formación Integral para Promotores Indígenas A.C. (CEFIPI), $85,351 over six months; counterpart committed, $78,548.

CEFIPI will train individuals who will assist in monitoring the application of practices consistent with the responsible use of the environment in indigenous communities in the municipalities of Chilón, Xihtalhá, Salto de Agua, Sitala, Palenque, Ocosingo, Yajalón, Simojovel and Pantelho. Its staff will work with two ejidos to resolve disputes and develop plans for land use. (ME-489-A2)

Sistema Comunitario para Manejo y Resguardo de la Biodiversidad de Oaxaca, A.C. (SICOBI), $42,528 over nine months; counterpart committed, $27,220.

SICOBI, which represents nine communities, will continue to work in the Copalita-Zimatan-Huatulco watershed in southern Oaxaca to further economic development and biodiversity and will evaluate and disseminate its experience. (ME-496-A3)

Consejo Civil para la Silvicultura Sostenible (CCMSS), $108,900; counterpart committed, $430,830.

CCMSS will provide the training and technical assistance that enable farmers organized as ejidos and other forms of communities to access the environmental fund developed with support from its initial IAF grant. (ME-505-A1)

A Focus on Heritage and the Future

"There are more museums here than can readily be explained: museums devoted to stamps, to pre-Columbian statuary, to the region’s cultural histories, to contemporary artists, to archaeological sites,” wrote Edward Rothstein in “The Past Has a Presence Here,” an article on Oaxaca that appeared in The New York Times of June 28, 2012.

Museos comunitarios, or community museums, have been emerging in Oaxaca since 1985, when the villagers of Santa Ana del Valle came upon ancient Zapotec burial objects. Rather than surrender them to Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia (INAH), they founded a museum, Shan-Dany, to house these and other treasures. Over the course of more than two decades, residents of other mestizo and indigenous Zapotec, Mixtec, Chatina, Mixe and Chochotelce communities have refurbished municipal buildings, market places, abandoned haciendas, even a 16th century dwelling to host exhibits documenting local life and traditions. Indigenous communities often follow usos y costumbres, centuries-old practices recognized in Mexican law, to designate the individuals who serve on the committees that manage the museums and ensure their success and sustainability. The museums have revitalized local culture, boosted tourism and inspired similar initiatives throughout Mexico and Central America. They are also a “rallying point for the population and locus of communal energy,” wrote anthropologist Jeffrey Cohen in the journal Practicing Anthropology.

More than a decade ago, local museums organized into the federation Unión de Museos Comunitarios de Oaxaca (UMCO). An IAF grant to UMCO in 1997 funded a center that continues to train Mexicans and foreigners in the skills needed to launch and operate spaces that display and preserve the patrimony of their respective communities.

UMCO will use its current award to focus on the future by exposing marginalized children and adolescents to archeology, storytelling, theater, indigenous weaving techniques and traditional medicine. Teenagers will learn techniques for interviewing as well as digital photography so that they can reach out to elders, record their experiences and document community life. All of the young participants will apply what they learn to projects that incorporate aspects of their heritage. In addition to partnering with primary and secondary schools, UMCO will collaborate with the Oaxaca Forum for Children, the Secretariat of Culture and the Arts of Oaxaca and INHA. Discussions between students and the adults serving on the museum committee are expected to enrich an inter-generational dialogue with mutual understanding and ensure a future stream of museum-goers and committee members. For more information, visit

—Gabriela Boyer, IAF representative