Fifty-seven miles from Oaxaca City, along a dirt road in the Mixteca Alta, is the community of San Andres Nuxiño. Founded in 1825, the Mixtec people named this place “community in movement” or “community that advances” as a testament to its founding dream of being a place of refuge and opportunity. Traditions like the “tequio,” whereby people willingly volunteer to benefit the entire community, and “la gueza,” where neighbors participate and cooperate around a need or celebration, have shaped a community mindset of collective efficacy and a sense that they are all connected and share a common story.
San Andres Nuxiño has a population of 1,898 people and like so many rural communities in Mexico there are a disproportionate number of women to men. Beginning in the 1930’s, local and international economic forces contributed to significant out-migration of men looking for jobs and this has led to separated families and a fragmented community primarily comprised of the old and the young. Community cooperation has fallen as the population has declined; farming is more narrowly focused on family-level production than before. The community mindset has shifted from a long term commitment to investing in the land and belief in prosperity, to short-term cash crops and subsistence. There is the sense that life is better elsewhere, that there is little reason to stay here and that they have been left behind as the world has moved on.
In response, Plant with Purpose and their local partner Mision Integral work to empower local community members to see themselves and their community as God’s beloved creation. While a wide variety of programs, such as agricultural and livestock training, water catchment systems, tree planting and village savings and loans associations, bring people together, Plant with Purpose focuses on long-term relationships to achieve a deeper mindset transformation that empowers people to see their own potential.
In San Andres Nuxiño, community promoters Alier and Esperanza have caught that vision. In partnership with local leaders, community members, and Plant with Purpose staff, a Community Center has been built and a youth group has started. The community is coming together and has a stronger sense of connection and empowerment. Youth are beginning to see San Andres Nuxiño not as a place to leave, but as a place of opportunity, belonging and purpose. Slowly, they are inspiring others to see the community differently, to move beyond subsistence to a place of dignity, hope and worth, truly believing that they have the gifts and talents that are needed to make that happen.