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Sofia Robles Hernandez: Defending Communal Land and Culture

October 2018

Sofia Robles Hernandez, a Zapotec Indigenous leader from Mexico, is one of the panelists speaking at Grassroots’ 35th anniversary celebration on October 20th.   The president of Mixe Peoples’ Services (SER Mixe, a Grassroots International partner),  Sofia has spent much of her life working to elevate the rights of Indigenous peoples and Indigenous women in the southern state of Oaxaca.  In addition to leading SER Mixe, Sofia has worked with Mexico’s National Network for Sexual and Reproductive Rights for over 15 years. She was elected Municipal president of her home town, Tlahuitoltepec, in 2012.  Over the last decade, she has trained Indigenous women in leadership skills for the Indigenous Women’s Alliance at the Mexican Autonomous University.

Sofia considers raising Indigenous women’s status, human and land rights in Mexico as important challenges to face, and as key to the future.  “Women are fundamentally important for the advancement of the community. Here [in my area] women have the right to land and the right to inherit it, but in many places, women do not. Women are stopped from taking on important leadership roles because people think that only men are capable of doing it. And the worst is that many women also believe that!”

Her leadership at SER Mixe provides an important role model for Indigenous women in Oaxaca and allows her to build political and social space for women and women’s voices in Mexican society.

SER Mixe serves more than 130,000 Indigenous Peoples across 30 communities in the northwestern part of Oaxaca. They provide legal assistance to communities and advocate for their rights to land, culture, language and territory.  Their work includes organizing against mining and extraction, stopping land expropriations, and resolving territorial conflicts between Indigenous communities. SER Mixe also works with communities to promote agroecology and strengthen the voice and participation of women. In addition to being an active member of the Network in Defense of Corn and the Oaxacan Collective in Defense of Territories, SER Mixe is also is connected to international Indigenous movement building networks.

Grassroots International is honored to welcome Sofia to speak at the “Resistance, Resilience and Power” panel on Saturday, October 20 in Boston, and join our 35th anniversary celebration that evening. Other panelists include Ozawa Bineshi Albert from the Indigenous Environmental Network, and Alaa Hammouda from the Gaza Community Mental Health Program. The panel is free, but pre-registration is required, and tickets are available for the evening event. For more information about all the events during Grassroots International’s 35th Anniversary, including how to get tickets, visit

At the 35th Anniversary event, Sofia will be speaking about her organization’s resistance and resilience as they defend communal lands, territories and natural resources. In addition she will talk about their powerful work defending Indigenous identity and culture, building respect for Indigenous autonomy and self-determination through legal efforts.

“The road ahead is still very long” notes Sofia.  “But that is why we are organizing, doing workshops, and opening spaces for the participation of women.”

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