Our Community Approach


We believe that our communities are the experts in their own lives, and we strive to meet them where they are at.
We believe that healing resources reside inside in our communities: our natural, inherent tendency as living beings, is to move towards health. And so, we believe in optimism: change is ever possible for all of us.
We believe that in human connection is transformational and restorative: it must be non-violent, respectful and non-hierarchical.
We believe in diversity. We strive to continuously nurture a deeply open, non-judgemental way of relating with diverse ways of being in this world.

We believe in integrity and solidarity.



The Community of Manuel Antonio Ay

A history of Resilience



Always in close consultation with the community, we aspire to become supporters and allies in their path to local development.


Manuel Antonio Ay is located in the Solidarity Municipality of the State of Quintana Roo, Mexico. The community has around 400 inhabitants. Some of them speak only Mayan, although most speak both Mayan and Spanish. The houses are humble and some of them have a single room and dirt floor. However, almost all have electricity and sanitary facilities. The population has a health center that consists of a single-room construction where a nurse comes from time to time equipped with gauze and disinfectants, but not even an instrument to take blood pressure.

The population only has a kindergarten and a primary school. Those who persist, have to travel to Coba or Francisco Uh May at 10km to continue with secondary and high schools. A portion of the population has no schooling and some other has not completed it. Only a smaller percentage have higher education.


The Maasewal Maya of the area have their own identity. It is different from that of the Yucatecan and Campechan Mayan people, which has been the result of their ongoing autonomist struggle. Máasewal is a word of Nahuatl origin that means plebeian or humble people; among the Mayans it is synonymous with peasant. Theirs is a living presence, the result of a tradition of resistance that does not surrender, even after 500 years of colonization, oppression, systemic discrimination and the consequent attempts at extermination and relentless drive toward assimilation. 



The Community of Manuel Antonio Ay



Carlos Meade explains clearly how, even in the last century and up to the present day, the Maya Maasewal society has been subdued and colonized in different ways: through arm force, then by an agrarian land distribution that has sought to divide and confront through induced migrations of landless peasants, dynamic reinforced by voracious and fraudulent developers of today. Also through the 1910 post-revolution school system that sought to assimilate the youth by forcing them to forget their language and Mayan roots. Then came the opening of the markets, the arrival of Coca Cola and junk food, which have devastated the health of the people. Finally, the tourist industry arrived, which has had disastrous effects for the environment and the Mayan community of Tulum and surroundings. Let us not discount in turn, the arrival of countless migrants like us who, when arrived to settle in the Mayab, we conformed a wave of contemporary foreign settlers.


Israel Chen, community leader in Manuel Antonio Ay, explains his vision of the main problems in the population. For him, the division in the community by land tenure is the first. Another issue is access to health, the main hospitals are far away and people die or suffer irreversible damage in a medical emergency in a population that does not have continuous transport services either. Another complex issue is that of domestic and gender violence, a problem that is practically invisible because families and women do not dare to bring it into the open.


Israel believes that it is essential to foster unity in the community to transcend its many challenges: that the community needs to become aware of its autonomy and the possibilities of development that exist within it. "If we unite, we can move forward without depending on the government and its conditioning to send us resources in exchange for the vote; that young people understand that we can develop investment schemes in the community itself "explains Israel when we asked him about his ideas for the future of Manuel Antonio Ay. He also believes that IAE.MX, as a change agent, could help catalyze solutions in the community in the areas of gender violence through workshops in the community, sustainable ecological solutions and protection of the jungle, as well as garbage recycling among others.


The town is named after a leader of the Caste War, who fought for the Mayan people against the yoke of the colonial forces that oppressed the Maasewals. Manuel Antonio Ay, batab (local village chief) was originally from Chichimilá. Professor Cutz Medina tells us that the murder of this leader persists in the memory of the Mayan people. Máoxo'ob wach 'sakbej (batabo'ob: ̔ Mayan leaders') tell us how the government learned about the rebels' plans when Manuel Ay was getting drunk in Chichimilá and a letter sent by Cecilio Chí fell from his hat. In the letter, Chí conveyed the thoughts of Pat, another leader, and of Ay regarding the rebelion. Manuel Antonio was murdered in the Santa Ana neighborhood of Valladolid in Yucatán on July 26, 1847.


Thus, impregnated in the name of this community is the memory that reflects the set of histories of most of the indigenous communities of the Americas: a history of profound resilience in refusing to be dissolved in the mist of the discarded past.