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Santa María Yavesía

is a village in Oaxaca, Mexico, that has more than 9000 hectares of virgin forests.

In the 80’s the biodiversity of these pristine forests was endangered.

“For three years, we used to eat only potatoes when guarding the forest. We would stay there for three-four days without coming back to the village. All this without remuneration,” says Eliel Cruz Pérez.

During those times, Oaxacan indigenous communities united to gain back the rights to their forests that had been concessioned by the federal government to privately owned companies.

They saw their forests dissappearing, their waters being polluted, their inhabitants getting sick due to mining while their communities were not benefiting economically. Broken promises of development.

Forty years later, many of these communities in the region of Sierra Juárez benefit from sustainable management of their forests or from virgin forests that they decided not to touch. We visited five mountainous villages and towns to explore the system of communality that allowed this change to happen.

Communality A response to
deforestation