The Return of the Mermaid: Revitilizing the Lerma Wetlands in the highlands of Central Mexico with the guidance of the Mother of the Waters

Mindahi Bastida and Geraldine Encina


The Lerma Wetlands in the highlands of Central Mexico have been home to Otomian peoples for at least ten thousand years. In their belief system, the rich biodiversity in the sweet water wetlands and the valley was the fruit of the generosity of Creation Mother, the Tlanchana, who would show in her favorite springs, at the feet of the Sierra Mountains that separate the Toluca Valley from the valley of Mexico to the east. When in the 1940s hundreds of springs were destroyed with dynamite as per instructions of an international water consultant, the Tlanchana abandoned her people and the waters were swallowed into the aquifer, with fish and all: the 20,000 ha wetland shrank to a few scattered ponds.

What Mindahi and his wife Geraldine bring is his biographic accounting of what has happened in the time of his grandfather, his father, himself, and their children, at a time when Tlanchana seems to be announcing her return. Will they be ready to receive her?


Mindahi Bastida Muñoz was born in San Pedro Tultepec, an island in the Lerma Wetland in Mexico State. He has a PhD in Rural Development and is member of the Otomi National Council of Mexico. He served for eight years as head of the Sustainable Development Division of the Intercultural University of Mexico State, and has promoted the rights of indigenous peoples to self-determine the future of their ecoregions for decades. He is a traditional ceremonialist and member of the Grand Council of the Eagle and Condor, also known as Earth Elders. He is the main author of the renowned book Ancestors, and is the co-producer of an online educational curriculum on the subject. He is also a proud contributor of Rooted in Ethics. Honoring life through a biocultural rights-based approach to care for trees and communities. He continues to support his community to protect the Wetlands and carries out yearly ceremonies in reverence to the Mother of the Waters.

Geraldine Patrick Encina is fourth generation Scottish, and she acknowledges both her Celtic and Mapuche ancestors. She is an Ethnoecologist and a Mesoamerican Cultural Astronomer, who has specialized on ancestral conceptions of time-space. She has recovered the original Otomi, Maya and Mexica-Aztec calendar systems and is currently working on a book to shift the paradigm of Mesoamerican conceptions of time-space. (Her scientific breakthrough implies changing every single Olmec, Maya, Toltec, Otomi and Aztec historical record that has been published in the last century). Her work sheds new light not only about the way that ancient civilizations conceived their place in the world, but also of why their inheritors today are so resilient and stubbornly connected to Mother Nature and lifecycles. She is author of Wetland Ecology and Culture in Almoloya del Río, and was a professor of Ethnoecology at the Intercultural University of Mexico State while raising her two children. She is currently an Indigenous Relations Advisor for One Earth, and is supporting the community members of the Lerma Wetlands to defend their rights as a socioecological unit.

The Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery and Biodiversity Network are interested in promoting a wide variety of views and opinions on nature recovery from researchers and practitioners.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this lecture are those of the author alone, they do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery/Biodiversity Network, or its researchers.

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