Diversity at EAAMO '22

Learning from Indigenous Voices in Mexico

One of the most ambitious diversity programs that we undertook at EAAMO ’22 was the sponsorship of a cohort of 8 female indigenous students from the Huasteca region of San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Their participation in the conference was the culmination of the “MD4SG-COPOCYT Summer of Science”, a collaboration between MD4SG and the Science and Technology Council of San Luis Potosí ( COPOCYT). The Summer of Science is a new program in which indigenous students prepare research proposals aimed at using STEM to improve their local communities. Researchers from the MD4SG community are paired with students on the basis of how their research interests match with student proposals, and over the summer, they meet virtually to work towards preparing an academic poster. These posters are subsequently presented at EAAMO to the wider academic community participating in the conference.

This year’s students were selected with projects under the themes of: preservation of indigenous language/culture, affordable housing, and equitable access to healthcare for indigenous communities. We invite you to read more about their backgrounds and projects below!

Acknowledgements: We are deeply indebted to our EAAMO sponsors, the McArthur Foundation, the Sloan foundation, and PIT-UN, for providing funds which paved the way for sponsoring these students registration fees. In addition, we would also like to thank the government of San Luis Potosi for providing travel funds for our students, as well as the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey and the National Association of Universities and Higher Education Institutions of Mexico (ANUIES) for greatly facilitating and sponsoring our students’ visa process.

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María Teresa Santiago Marcelino
Nancy Santiago Santos
Eira Krystel González Pérez
Idalia Rojas M.
Leydi Rojas Martínez
Edna Marlene Martinez Hernández
Xóchilt Rosales Terán


María Teresa Santiago Marcelino

Poster: “Perception and Knowledge of Linguistic Rights in Tének Youth”
Mentor: Michelle González-Amador

  • Can you tell us more about your community? (Name, language, geography, some traditions, etc.)

My community is called Xolol and it belongs to the municipality of San Antonio, S.L.P. The language spoken is Tének. My community has a strong relationship to the Catholic religion and we have many distinct customs. Some of the main traditions include: the patronal festival which takes place every year, the main celebration for our dearly departed, and the entrance and exit of local authorities, which is realized as a ritual, amongst many others.

  • Can you tell us more about your family?

I belong to a large family. I am the 9th of 10 siblings. My parents did not have the opportunity to finish their primary education. My father only reached 3rd grade and my mother only reached 1st grade. Despite this, they wanted all their children to study. Only their three last children were able to finish an undergraduate degree. My father worked in the fields and my mother was a housewife. They both had strong values.

  • What did you study?

I obtained an undergraduate degree in Administration and a Master’s degree in Human Rights.

  • Can you give us more details regarding your research area or research project?

My research topic is focused on the use of Tének in secondary school and high school students in my communities of Tocoy and Tanjasnec. We completed a survey amongst these students to classify their language and cultural patterns into three indicators: linguistic use, linguistic rights and ethnic identity.

  • What motivated you to work on your Summer project?

I was motivated to work on my project by the fact that I was precisely starting a summer course on the Tének language for children in primary and secondary schools in my community. Once I saw the call for proposals, I saw an opportunity to continue learning and to share my research with others who might be interested in it.

  • What are some of the key challenges you have faced in the project?

The main challenge was to pick up old research once again, albeit with a different vision, more maturity and other perspectives.

  • What are some of the key findings from your project?

The possibility of having further clarity on future service projects that can arise from the findings of my work.

  • What is the future of your work?

To find new horizons for the Tének language. It is true that these days there is much work underway to revive the language. However there is still much to do in terms of finding support from within the community, as well as launching external efforts to strengthen the Tének language.

  • How did you become involved with MD4SG/EAAMO?

I wanted to establish further communication and connections with researchers in the wider EAAMO network, especially with Spanish-speakers within the EAAMO community, of which there were many at the conference.

  • What was your experience like at EAAMO?

It was an incredible experience. The conference was very well-planned amongst all the organizers. Dr. Francisco was also very attentive at all times.

  • What are some key memories you have from EAAMO?

I have two. First of all I enjoyed the opportunity to learn about a wide variety of projects in different disciplines. Second of all, I remember feeling that there was not enough time to talk to all the people I would have liked to during the conference.


Nancy Santiago Santos

Poster: “Equitable Housing for Indigeneous Tenek Communities”
Mentor: Dr. Rubén Martínez Cárdenas

  • Can you tell us more about your community? (Name, language, geography, some traditions, etc.)

My community is called Santa Martha. It is located in the municipality of San Antonio, S.L.P., and the main languages are Tének and Spanish. A couple of days ago we celebrated day of the dead, also known as Sanctorum or Santorum. It takes place on 2 November during noon. We leave offerings and pray at tombs belonging to family. Afterwards, when we collect all our offerings in a circle to come closer together as a community. In the community there are other important traditions such as the “four corners”, which gives thanks to Mother Earth for the harvest.

  • Can you tell us more about your family?

Of course. My grandparents worked in the fields harvesting beans, maize, pumpkin and cilantro. My maternal grandmother made petates [traditional bedrolls], harvested cotton and used this cotton to weave blankets and to embroider. My mother currently makes artisanal crafts and works in the fields.

  • What did you study?

Architecture

  • Can you give us more details regarding your research area or research project?

It is focused on social housing and adequate housing for elderly indigenous women who suffer from domestic violence or abandonment from their families. In addition, it focuses on the critical situation they live in due to their physical condition.

  • What motivated you to work on your Summer project?

I had already studied issues pertaining to elderly individuals in the community after working with pension departments of the federal government. Now in my graduate studies I am focusing the topic on how indigenous communities have more land ownership, despite which women often suffer from dispossession and abandonment. In my Summer project I am studying how to properly endow affordable housing for elderly indigenous women with sanitary infrastructure.

  • What are some of the key challenges you have faced in the project?

The biggest challenge I have faced is the physical distance from my community, especially since I am currently working in the capital of the state and my community is far from here. In particular, the time required and cost to travel to my community can be difficult.

  • What are some of the key findings from your project?

I found previous research pertaining to financing for housing in indigenous communities in Puebla. The building materials used for the housing were different from what is used in my community, but the antecedent of such programs is important. I also found relevant construction manuals for sanitary infrastructure of potential use for my community.

  • What is the future of your work?

Once I finish my graduate studies, my goal is to return and focus on creating adequate living conditions for my community as well as fostering self-construction where it can be most useful.

  • How did you become involved with MD4SG/EAAMO?

I received a call for proposals via the COPOCYT. I really enjoyed working with Dr. Rubén, especially in terms of how to prepare my poster.

  • What was your experience like at EAAMO?

At EAAMO I really enjoyed presenting my research topic. Though I am not fluent in English, I am preparing to learn more English to be able to further explain to others why my research project on affordable and adequate housing has become my life project.

  • What are some key memories you have from EAAMO?

Seeing so many people from different countries who are seeking to help various communities through research and algorithms. It was also interesting to meet various people who have learned Spanish and who are building support groups in the academic sphere.


Eira Krystel González Pérez

Poster: “Contextualizing Tuberculosis Medication Adherence in Indigenous Communities of the Huasteca Potosina: A Roadmap to Adequate AI-facilitated Approaches”
Mentor: Dr. Francisco Marmolejo Cossío

  • Can you tell us more about your community? (Name, language, geography, some traditions, etc.)

I am originally from the Huasteca Potosina, Mexico, and I am proudly indigenous. Where I live there are many traditions and customs such as Xantolo, which is the largest and most important festival of the Huasteca. The weather is warm and humid, and we have a rich diversity of rivers and vegetation.

  • Can you tell us more about your family?

My grandparents are indigenous and speak Náhuatl and Spanish. I still have my maternal grandparents, and they only had basic primary education. Despite this, they were able to provide for all their children to have a professional degree. My mother is a retired teacher and I am currently married with 2 children.

  • What did you study?

Undergraduate degree in Nursing

  • Can you give us more details regarding your research area or research project?

My research project focuses on the importance of adherence to Tuberculosis treatments in indigenous communities. There are many factors that impede adherence to treatment in these communities, such as language barriers or the lack of physical access that medical personnel have to these communities. Furthermore, if someone is infected by Tuberculosis, there would be quick propagation in the community due to a lack of education about the sickness, and mostly due to the fact that this is a marginalized area situated in the highlands of the local mountains. Public transport is sparse and road conditions are typically dangerous for multiple reasons.

  • What motivated you to work on your Summer project?

To bring relevant public health knowledge to my community and to contribute to a future in which we can eradicate or greatly decrease the incidence of this sickness.

  • What are some of the key challenges you have faced in the project?

A key part of our project consisted of preparing a survey for 150 families in our community. Only 100 families accepted and received the corresponding information. In addition, the survey had a component that asked families whether they would be open to novel methods for tackling adherence, such as using mobile technology. This was difficult to contextualize due to the fact that many individuals surveyed do not even have access to mobile devices.

  • What are some of the key findings from your project?

That the majority of individuals surveyed are in favor of implementation of new technologies to help with medical adherence. This is in spite of the fact that our communities can be old-fashioned and adverse to using new technology. In addition, we were able to further educate multiple families on tuberculosis and preventative measures.

  • What is the future of your work?

A large part of the work involved providing in-depth proposals for technologically-assisted methodologies for fostering medical adherence in the context of our community. I hope to follow through with these going forward.

  • How did you become involved with MD4SG/EAAMO?

Since I had previously received a scholarship from the COPOCYT in the state of San Luis Potosí, México, they sent us details regarding MD4SG and the Summer of Science program.

  • What was your experience like at EAAMO?

It was an experience full of learning since we had the opportunity to travel for the first time to another country, where we learned about various issues being worked on by people from all over the world. In addition, we were able to learn about new solution frameworks which we might be able to implement in our communities. Finally, I really enjoyed the poster sessions, general conference and innovative use of algorithms throughout the conference.

  • What are some key memories you have from EAAMO?

I enjoyed the poster presentations the most, since this gave me the time and space to speak with presenters more personally to learn about their projects and overall experience.


Idalia Rojas M.

Poster: “Learning about Humanizing Childbirth from Pregnant Women in a Rural Community of Tancanhuitz, S.L.P.”
Mentor: Dra. Tilsa Ore Monago

  • Can you tell us more about your community? (Name, language, geography, some traditions, etc.)

I am from San José Pequetzén. The language spoken is Tének or Huasteco. It is a very beautiful community, lush and full of trees. The climate is humid, even in times of drought. There are various rivers and we are just next to the base of a hill, hence the name of the town. The community is large and many of the important traditions take place on day of the dead. At this time of the year, a festival called Santorum takes place where we celebrate our loved ones who have passed. We remember them and create arches made of marigold flowers and palmilla leaves. In addition, we cook much traditional food on these days, such as bolim, tamales and zacahuil. The community also has its patronal festival, where dances take place in honor of San José. When we have problems with water, people also get together to pray rosaries and dance to help alleviate drought.

  • Can you tell us more about your family?

My family is numerous and close. In total with my parents we are 11 people. Everyone has a university degree and they belong to various professions. Most of us speak the traditional language of my community.

  • What did you study?

Undergraduate degree in nursing and obstetric practices

  • Can you give us more details regarding your research area or research project?

My project has a survey component which aims to measure the degree of knowledge that pregnant women have regarding humane childbirth. In addition, we also provide a series of workshops to teach pregnant women in the community about their legal rights pertaining to childbirth.

  • What motivated you to work on your Summer project?

I am motivated by the knowledge held by traditional midwives. I am interested in how they are able to facilitate respectful and humane childbirth in spite of the fact that they often lack further scientific studies, have cultural/language barriers, and operate in low-resourced settings. Respectful and humane childbirth is diminishing in certain communities as many women have suffered obstetric violence or simply are unaware of what legal rights they have pertaining to childbirth.

  • What are some of the key challenges you have faced in the project?

A great challenge for me was getting women to participate in my project in the first place. There were women who did not want to participate due to fear or shame. Furthermore, language barriers were a key issue, for women from a non-Tének speaking background were less likely to participate. A final challenge was simply the fact that women whom we wished to work with typically lacked the time to do so due to their working schedules.

  • What are some of the key findings from your project?

80% of women whom we surveyed are unaware of their legal rights pertaining to childbirth, and many midwives also lack this knowledge. In addition, many midwives also reported increased hostility to their services, since an increasing number of medical centers are not allowing them to work with them.

  • What is the future of your work?

I hope that one day I am able to fully implement humane childbirth practices in hospital units throughout my community and beyond. I also want to create a repository of knowledge between professional midwives, both traditional and professionally trained as nurses. I also want to further educate my local community on humane childbirth. I hope to do so in my language, Tének, so that more women from my community can learn about their legal rights pertaining to childbirth and also have access to humane childbirth practices at different hospital centers throughout the region. Finally I want to work towards eradicating violence towards women in childbirth in hospital centers.

  • How did you become involved with MD4SG/EAAMO?

Thanks to the COPOCYT’s existing projects focusing on incorporating indigenous women in graduate education.

  • What was your experience like at EAAMO?

It was very gratifying, I learned certain topics that I was completely unaware of before. In addition, I learned that you can always continue studying–potentially abroad– to further expand your knowledge.

  • What are some key memories you have from EAAMO?

I remember an interesting presentation on novel technologies to diminish maternal death in India. I was astonished at the scope and impact. In addition it was also inspiring to meet a fellow Latin colleague who is currently studying a PhD in the university of Pittsburgh.


Leydi Rojas Martínez

Poster: “Factors Associated with Senior Adult Malnutrition in an Indigenous Community of Tancanhuitz, S.L.P.”
Mentors: Dra. Tilsa Ore Monago and Dra. Imelda Flores Vazquez

  • Can you tell us more about your community? (Name, language, geography, some traditions, etc.)

I am from the community of San José Pequetzen, Tancanhuitz. It is situated in the Huasteca Potosina in the state of San Luis Potosí, México. I belong to the Tének (Huasteco) ethnic group, where we have many traditions such as Santorum, or Xantolo, which is the festival where we celebrate those who are no longer with us. We remember them with much love and respect, and create arches of flowers under which we place offerings of food that they used to eat. In addition we also celebrate the day of indigenous languages, where we celebrate our language and work to preserve our culture.

  • Can you tell us more about your family?

My family is composed of my parents, they are retired bilingual teachers of the Tének ethnic group, and my 8 siblings. 6 of them are primary teachers of the Tének ethnic group, and 2 more of them are nurses.

  • What did you study?

I completed my undergraduate degree in nursing. Currently I am working towards a Master’s degree in public health at the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León (UANL), México.

  • Can you give us more details regarding your research area or research project?

My area of research is in public health, especially in regard to elderly adult nutrition. There are many challenges pertaining to this topic in our community as it belongs to a vulnerable population.

  • What motivated you to work on your Summer project?

I realized that there are many elderly adults in my community who suffer from malnutrition, and many of them do not have the necessary resources to cover a balanced diet according to their necessities.

  • What are some of the key challenges you have faced in the project?

A great challenge I faced during my life was discrimination against my indigenous background while I was studying my undergraduate degree in nursing.

  • What are some of the key findings from your project?

We found that there are important factors that can contribute to malnutrition in elderly adults in my community, and we are working towards public health measures that can specifically improve quality of life in the elderly.

  • What is the future of your work?

Based on the results of this small research project, I reached out to local authorities to implement new public health measures. We are still working through this process but I am optimistic we can get something implemented in the long term.

  • How did you become involved with MD4SG/EAAMO?

I was originally funded by the COPOCYT for graduate study. As a part of the COPOCYT’s network, they reached out to us with a call for proposals for the Summer of Science, which led me to work with MD4SG researchers.

  • What was your experience like at EAAMO?

I never thought that I would reach so far. I always saw the possibility of attending a conference as impossibly distant, much less one abroad. My experience at EAAMO was incredible, from the research work with my supervisor, to the support I received in traveling to another country, along with the huge impact that it has caused me personally. I feel inspired to realize more impactful work towards my community. My experience at the actual conference was also wonderful. I met many truly good people who believe in you and help you. What impacted me the most was the feeling that knowledge should be shared and that together we can realize actions to positively impact our communities.

  • What are some key memories you have from EAAMO?

The most beautiful memory for me was when other participants at EAAMO helped me translate my work and overall ideas. I understand now that a limitation I have is my level of English and I am currently working to improve this for the future. I also want to thank Dr. Francisco Marmolejo for believing in us, translating the conference material, helping us at all times, and explaining to us the main themes and techniques from conference presentations.


Edna Marlene Martinez Hernández

Poster: “Contextualizing Tuberculosis Medication Adherence in Indigenous Communities of the Huasteca Potosina: A Roadmap to Adequate AI-facilitated Approaches”
Mentor: Dr. Francisco Marmolejo Cossío

  • Can you tell us more about your community? (Name, language, geography, some traditions, etc.)

The community which I’m from is called Tampate 2da. It belongs to the municipality of Aquismón, San Luis Potosí. Most people speak Tének or Huasteco. The main celebrations are: the patronal festival of each community, Day of the Dead (the most important tradition for the Tének community, where all of us create altars and provide offerings), the traditional festival of the municipality (Santiago and Santa Ana), Christmas and new year.

  • Can you tell us more about your family?

My family is of Tének origin. My mother and father are both speakers of Tének. In my family we are 6 along with my brothers and grandparents. All of them also speak Tének.

  • What did you study?

Undergraduate degree in nursing

  • Can you give us more details regarding your research area or research project?

My research project is in the domain of public health. It revolves around Tuberculosis which is a sickness that still affects rural populations in our state. The main problem we identified is access to treatment, since many individuals in our communities live far from the center of the municipality. Lack of infrastructure and of safe transport greatly complicates medical personnel from helping individuals take their medication and overseeing their progress. Our work focuses on understanding whether A.I. based methodologies for optimizing medical resources (including personnel) are viable and potentially helpful for our communities.

  • What motivated you to work on your Summer project?

The ability to further expand my knowledge on this relevant public health problem for our community.

  • What are some of the key challenges you have faced in the project?

The biggest challenges we faced were with regards to public participation in our survey-based research as well as obtaining relevant permissions from local government.

  • What are some of the key findings from your project?

The ability to bring interdisciplinary perspectives to a highly relevant local issue in our community.

  • What is the future of your work?

I see myself further delving into research in the domain of medical adherence to improve areas of my community.

  • How did you become involved with MD4SG/EAAMO?

I was previously funded by the COPOCYT for my graduate studies as an indigenous student. Through the COPOCYT I learned of the call for proposals to work with MD4SG.

  • What was your experience like at EAAMO?

It was a very gratifying experience to share my knowledge with people from different disciplines and to also be able to highlight unique problems for my community in particular.

  • What are some key memories you have from EAAMO?

My favorite memory was being able to present the poster pertaining to our Summer research. This allowed us to share our experiences with people from different universities and see the interest generated from our local realities.


Xóchilt Rosales Terán

Poster: “Dignified Housing: the Case of Housing Fraud against Indigenous Women in the Municipality of Xilitla, S.L.P, Mexico”
Mentor: Dr. Rubén Martínez Cárdenas

  • Can you tell us more about your community? (Name, language, geography, some traditions, etc.)

My community is called Tierra Blanca Fracción. We are of the Náhuatl ethnicity and we are located in the municipality of Xilitla, San Luis Potosí.

  • Can you tell us more about your family?

My mother’s name is Prisciliana and she is currently an auxiliary judge in our community. My father’s name is Asunción and he works in the fields. I have 4 brothers, two older and two younger, and I am the only daughter.

  • What did you study?

Undergraduate degree in Law

  • Can you give us more details regarding your research area or research project?

My research project is focused on access to justice amongst indigenous women of the municipality of Xilitla, S.L.P. More specifically, I focus on criminal activity pertaining to housing fraud in my municipality in 2019.

  • What motivated you to work on your Summer project?

The need to fight for my people, for women and for the access to justice.

  • What are some of the key challenges you have faced in the project?

Organizing and obtaining interviews from victims was very difficult, since it is not easy to obtain authorization to talk about criminal problems and to expose these problems as well.

  • What are some of the key findings from your project?

The level of confidence that women in our community have towards authorities is nonexistent. Women were not only affected in terms of their savings, but they were also deeply affected psychologically. Most of the women we talked to were also single mothers without steady streams of income.

  • What is the future of your work?

I want to be an activist for the rights of indigenous communities. I want to give a voice to those who do not speak.

  • How did you become involved with MD4SG/EAAMO?

The COPOCYT shared the call for proposals to work with MD4SG.

  • What was your experience like at EAAMO?

It was an incredible experience to get to know researchers from all over the world, along with their projects. What most impacted me though is that each of them and each of us have a same goal… to fight and solve societal issues.

  • What are some key memories you have from EAAMO?

What I most remember is simply getting to know other people from the conference, even when we did not speak the same language. We were able to connect through our respective projects, and I am glad to know that there are people from all over fighting to improve the world, and that we could coincide at a conference.