The big challenge of the first Comboni Missionaries among the Chinantecos was to learn the language and deepen the knowledge of their history and their culture. From the beginning the main concerns of the missionaries were first evangelization, formation of catechists and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, formation of permanent deacons, and moderating various groups, such as the elderly, prayer groups and others. This also involved regular visits to the communities in the field, a presence in the school of theology for laity in Tuxtepec, Oaxaca, and open the way for other communities, particularly those interested in Christian formation and the promotion of women.
Currently the Comboni Missionaries work among indigenous Na savi, and other Nahuatl descendants, although most of the latter no longer speak their original language. The indigenous peoples among whom they now work are deeply religious. They have an endless number of ministries such as singers, sacristans, musicians and dancers; they have myths, rites and symbols such as flowers, candles, incense, holy water, the cross; They also have many customs and practices such as their own traditions and organizations, offerings, confraternities, leadership figures, topiles (rulers’ scepters), etc.
The main ritual, however, is the xochitlialis which consists in asking permission from God and Mother Earth in a field for sowing, at a water-spring in thanksgiving and to have plenty of water, on a hill to open roads, or on a plot of land to build a chapel or a house.
Mother Earth is perceived as a living reality and remains wounded when roads and fields are opened, and paths plowed. The social problems that touch the earth, conflicts between landowners and owners, land invasions, mining, underpaid laborers, forest destruction, and opencast mines assume therefore a cultural and religious dimension. Lack of land resulting from expropriation or sale, not only causes lack of work, which in turn produce migration and the breakup of the family, but also causes the loss of cultural and religious identity, opening the door to the return of witchcraft, superstition and syncretism.
The neoliberal economic model cares little for peoples, individuals, human values, cultural or religious experiences, thus completing the destruction of the identity of these peoples. Politics has little credibility among them but divides people, because it looks like good business, founded on selfishness, nepotism, manipulation and intimidation where the denial of rights and a greater social disorganization dominate. It is no wonder then that there is an increase of social and domestic violence, both physical and sexual, self-esteem is lowered, despair increases together with hatred and resentment, all of which resulting in alcoholism, drug addiction, murders, kidnappings.
To answer these socio-cultural and religious realities, missionaries implement a liberating, integral evangelization with an indigenous face and heart, based on the identity of the people. As Jesus did, they aim to achieve a dignified life for the people. This also implies promoting traditional and organic agriculture, because it is in tune with the indigenous culture; creating conditions for the enculturation of the liturgy based on indigenous identity, their rites, myths, symbols used according to their deeper meaning; redeeming the rights of indigenous peoples as the focus of the work for justice and peace.