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Manuela Avila Velasquez

By: Armando Tomás

Manuela Avila Velasquez

Manuela Avila Velasquez was unable to attend school and helped her mother with household and farming tasks. She married Miguel Rodriguez in her late teens, moving to his village of Chup. They have five adult children, all of whom they have been able to send to school.

Manuela has the important role of midwife in her community. She gives instruction to women who are pregnant and maintains prenatal and postnatal controls. She says she puts her heart and all her experience into giving guidance to the women of her community, and after         assisting a birth, she provides instruction on both newborn care and postpartum care for the mother. Manuela has received workshops on midwifery and women's leadership. Currently she participates in a local committee of women organized to defend the rights of indigenous women and encourage their money making projects. Her prayer is that God will give her more years of life to continue the work of accompanying the women of her community.

Manuela gets up early to take the nixtamal (corn cooked with lime) to the mill, returning home to make the tortillas and prepare the other foods for the day. She feeds the farm animals and then goes to work in her vegetable garden. For most of the vegetables and herbs she         cultivates, she has learned how to harvest and save their seeds for the next planting. If a    village woman goes into labor, she drops everything and goes to assist in the delivery, which she understands as her community responsibility.

Manuela is excited to be involved in this tree planting project because she believes that if things continue as they are, in a few years there won't be any trees left on the hillsides.

She and her husband hope that their tree nursery will help to preserve the ecosystem of their community, but she realizes that this is a constant fight. She believes that she and her     community must fight to prevent the springs that provide all their water from drying up. She says that planting just one tree has a great significance for her as a woman and a mother. She wants a future where the children and grandchildren of her community will be able to enjoy what she and her husband have enjoyed, a healthy and dignified life, from their own agriculture.