Una Mano Para Oaxaca (UMPO)2024-05-17T09:55:11-06:00

Una Mano Para Oaxaca • Mexico

The Zapotec people are concentrated in the southern state of Oaxaca, about a five hours drive from Oaxaca City, Mexico. They have their own language, way of life, and rich history that they hope to preserve and share for generations to come. After a massive earthquake in 2017, the indigenous and disenfranchised Zapotec community faced many challenges and difficulties in maintaining their way of life. In response, Una Mano Para Oaxaca (UMPO), a completely grassroots and community-led organization, was started to help the Zapotec people celebrate their culture and achieve self-sufficiency.

Today, UMPO has supported over 5,300 Zapotec people concentrated in Istmo Region Tehuantepec and Sierra Chontal, Oaxaca State. Through their efforts, the community has increased its resiliency and has found inspiring and meaningful ways to memorialize its history.


Cultural Preservation: UMPO runs cultural events and initiatives to strengthen the identity of the Zapotec community by partnering with community agents. Their three main initiatives are:

  • Conducting ”The River Song”, a music event incorporating local artists of all ages who are based around the “River of the Dogs”, a main source of water, to create awareness of environmental issues.
  • Sharing the Unraveling the Isthmus, a children’s book focused on the traditional clothing of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, so that their community never forgets the importance of ancestral knowledge and textile traditions.
  • Running the Flavor and Art Route, which is a social tourism opportunity that brings individuals to visit the murals of Ixtaltepec and allows direct interaction with the elder craftsmen who still use traditional practices and safeguard ancestral knowledge.

Emotional Healing: UMPO’s team works toward empowerment and collective healing among women through digital and blended learning circles. These opportunities give them the chance to manage their emotions and prevent diseases through the procurement of natural medicines and Zapotec herbal remedies.

Economic Development: UMPO’s Centro Popular De Artes y Oficios (The people’s center of arts and livelihoods) provides popular education, culture preservation, and self-generation of income workshops. Through their traditional crafts and art workshops, community cooperatives formed enterprises that led to the creation of several productive and artistic projects. The cooperatives have co-created the brand “Manos del Sol” which offers a sales platform for their products and services.

Food Sovereignty: UMPO collaborates with local women who form cooperatives to participate in a local economy that is both circular and educational. They offer training to transform fruit and vegetable waste from the region into different edible products. This helps women achieve expanded food sovereignty and advances gender equality through the increased participation of women in the local economy.


GoPhilanthropic started its partnership with UMPO in the summer of 2022, with a pilot grant that supports their “Strengthening My Roots” Program. The program provides an alternative education model for children and adolescents that uses participatory methods. The activities will include art, agroecology, and culture. This program is the first step to creating strong ties between them and their territory, their local culture, and ancestral knowledge.

The goals of the program workshops are:

  • to strengthen the participants’ ancestral knowledge and strengthen their cultural identity.
  • to improve their quality of life and decrease migration from their communities in the Tehuantepec Isthmus.

Through the GoPhil pilot grant, one cohort of 20 children ages 8-11 and 20 youth ages 12-14 from Tehuantepec Isthmus will be able to participate in the program.

This pilot grant will also support “The Gathering for the children and adolescents in our territory.” This will allow at least 70 representatives of local schools, non-profit organizations, and collectives to hold open discussions and promote work addressing the role of children and adolescents in migration, and protecting their culture and territories.


Since UMPO is community-led, the organization is based entirely on building the autonomy and solidarity of the community. The work of UMPO is not just about tackling and recognizing challenges, but about identifying solutions that celebrate and highlight the strengths of the Zapotec people. With UMPO’s Running the Flavor and Art Route initiative, for example, the Zapotec people have the opportunity to share their culture with others and increase their sustainability through income generation.

In all of their programs, the participants are at the forefront of the decision-making process, and mutual aid, fair trade, and grassroots support are actively promoted. Furthermore, the community networks that UMPO has established actively share knowledge with one another to help enforce community-level solutions. As a result, even the most remote Zapotec communities are reached and local markets have grown or even been reactivated.

If you are interested in supporting UMPO, please email us at [email protected]


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