Ramón Vera Herrera
This profile was prepared when Ramón Vera Herrera was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1991.
The New Idea
For Indians to be accepted as equals within Mexican society without having to give up their culture, their own points of view need to be understood and appreciated by the majority who have traditionally ignored them. "Democracy is more than the vote," Ramon says.There are 56 indigenous groups in Mexico, speaking some 40 languages, most of these living in the isolated corners of the country where they have their own ways of seeing the world, of understanding and explaining life, death and rebirth.Although Indians represent 10 percent of the population, the majority of Mexicans have very little idea of how indigenous people think and feel. "There are people," Ramon says, "who say that Indian culture no longer exists, and that, quite simply, Indians should integrate if they want to improve their standard of living.""It would be easy to accuse the majority of being racist," Ramon says. "The non-Indian population has been apathetic and insensitive. Consistent, intelligent information has not been generated; consequently, the majority of the population has a stereotypical and one-dimensional view of these peoples." The country suffers because it is ignoring the people who are often in a unique position to help find solutions to pressing national problems. Although many Mixtec Indians have undergone the conflicts and problems of migration to California, few have consulted them on their difficulties encountered in integration or their perspective on problems of poverty. Greater respect for indigenous opinions might also lead to more creative solutions to environmental issues.