An Initiative for the Women of Iztapalapa and their Families

In Iztapalapa, Mexico an inspiring group of women created and run El Colectivo Chalchiuhtlicue (the Chalchiuhtlicue Collective), an initiative dedicated to promoting and coordinating activities based on enjoying and celebrating the local heritage. The Chalchiuhtlicue Collective won one of Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology mini-grants for Latin American and Caribbean groups and organizations. With this support and the Collective’s incredible dedication, a series of introductory workshops about regional birds and their observations were conducted. The workshops were y geared towards women, their children, and other Iztapalapa community members; although participants from Venustiano Carranza, Iztacalco, Coyoacán and la Gustavo A. Madero, also joined the events. 

Activities were designed to share the rich culture of the region. These activities were carried out both in person and online and focused on birds and their. One ourdoor activity helped participants learn more about and connect to the green urban areas of the town through birds. The group visited the various ecological conservation zones of the Área Natural Protegida Sierra de Santa Catarina (Protected Natural Mountain Area of Santa Catarina)where they observed, photographed, and learned more about the various bird species living there. Participants and coordinators shared their knowledge and perspectives about birds, further enriching the learning experience. The group identified 57 species of birds! Their observations were shared on AverAves (eBird Mexico) as well as iNaturalist, where they included other flora and fauna observed. There was a great sense of comradery among the participants, most of them women, and many long-lasting friendships were formed.

For October Big Day the participants hiked in the Centro de Cultura Ambiental Yautlica (Center for Environmental Culture Yautlica). The Collective coordinated with Ileana Alcocer, biologist and Director of the Center to develop the activities. The community was able to explore and connect to the rich wildlife protected by the Center. The Center received the observations made by the group, as well as an opportunity to be recognized by and collaborate with the community. We all win when we work as a team!

There were also activities facilitated through various online platforms, such as film showings and storytelling. During these activities dozens attended in person and many connected to the workshops online. In total over one thousand participants registered! In these virtual sessions participants explored topics such as the protected natural areas in the region, the basics of birdwatching and identification, and the responsibility of individuals to protect the cultural connection to nature in the region. Information about environmental services that birds provide was shared, along with discussions about the cultural importance of local bird species. General information about bird anatomy and migratory patterns was also available. Additionally, the Collective shared advice and techniques for birdwatching and monitoring, basic equipment and how to document observations. 

Three theatrical performances were held in the Center for Environmental Culture Yautlica auditorium, belonging to the Secretaría del Medio Ambiente (Environmental Ministry) within the Santa Catarina Mountain Range’s Protected Natural Area. As part of the oral tradition of storytelling, three short stories based on the retellings of writer Andres Henestrosa were streamed. The storyteller Silvana Melara Montenegro, known as Saharaltair, filmed the stories in the Guadalupe Mountain Range showing off the breathtaking landscapes north of Mexico City. Another part of the artistic and cultural activities was a workshop dedicate to painting and printing the beautiful birds of the region on fabric. 

Another aspect of the event was the Collective’s work with family and community run orchards and the legacy of field knowledge in the area. In the mornings different birds can be heard and seen while walking towards, planting, and harvesting in the orchard. The Collective held different birdwatching, identification and recording activities in connection with the orchards. The Collective was also able to promote local birdwatching that participants could take part without travelling or even interrupting their daily tasks. As a result of these activities, the Collective formed a group of women birders in the region. These women feel confident and proud of going birdwatching either together in natural areas, from their homes, in the orchards.

This project would not have been possible without the support and collaboration of diverse agents like Úumbali (TikTok: @biomuseouumbali), and its director veterinarian Susana Casas. It also counts on the biomuseum Úumbali, a center dedicated to education, environmental culture and wildlife rescue, which the Iztapalapa community got to experience through a virtual visit with the Úumbali team. The event was also successful because of the enthusiasm, perseverance, and constancy of the participants. We also want to give a special thank you Silvana Melara Montenegro for her enchanting stories.