Climate activists you should know: Xiuhtezcatl Martinez

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Name: Xiuhtezcatl Martinez

Age: 21

City: Portland, Oregon

Area of focus: Environmental justice and Indigenous sovereignty

Youth of color are often erased in organizing.

But if you’re following climate justice movements, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is a name to know.

The 21-year-old has stood on the frontlines of climate movements since early childhood. In 2015, Martinez gained national attention after speaking in English, Spanish, and Nahuatl at the United Nations.

He told those gathered:

“What is at stake right now, what we are fighting to protect, what is in your hands, what is in our hands today is the survival of this generation and the continuation of the human race.”

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For Martinez, organizing is a family matter.

His mother, Tamara Roske, was a co-founder of Earth Guardians, an intergenerational organization addressing global environmental movements. Martinez served as Earth Guardians’ youth director until 2019.

Martinez’s activism includes a few climate-related lawsuits. He’s one of 21 people suing in Juliana v. United States, where young people say the federal government has violated their rights by failing to act on climate change.

When I was raised in the culture of my people, we are taught that the work that we do on this earth is in honor of our ancestors, of those who came before us. And in honor of the future generations. So there’s still that consideration. But at the same time, this is survival.

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Martinez’s father is of Mexica descent. So as an Indigenous person himself, Indigenous practices and sovereignty are central to Martinez’s organizing.

This shows up in a number of ways. For example, Martinez has fundraised $51,000 to place 20 billboards across North America to support the Land Back movement.

Martinez is also a hip-hop artist, so he uses music as another way to build movements.

As the youth begin to lead these movements, we are organizing from a more intersectional place than ever, seeing that we can more effectively build power when we are committed to each other’s liberation.

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