“My father taught me to see the magic in everything. Growing up, magic was in the sunrise and the rainfall. In every expression of life, no matter how small. I think that that was one of the most valuable wisdom that shaped who I was as a young boy. It gave me the perspective to see what was behind the dysfunction of our society, of our broken world, our dying ecosystems and corrupt leaders”
While Xiuhtezcatl started speaking about the environment at just age 6, he is now a 19-year-old indigenous activist, musician, and the youth director of Earth Guardians, an organization that trains youth across the world to use civic engagement and the arts to help solve environmental issues. As a hip-hop artist, Xiuhtezcatl also often uses music to convey powerful environmental messages. He is also not afraid to confront the government head-on, as he was one of the 21 plaintiffs that sued the federal government for their lack of action on climate change.
Martinez has spoken to large crowds about the effects of fossil fuels on the indigenous and other marginalized communities. He has spoken at the United Nations several times, and he gained popularity after delivering a 2015 speech at the United Nations General Assembly in English, Spanish and his native language, Nahuatl.
Martinez is one of 21 plaintiffs involved in Juliana v. United States, a lawsuit filed against the U.S. government for failing to act on climate change. The lawsuit was filed in 2015, and a federal court rejected the government’s move to dismiss the case in November 2016. Martinez is also one of seven plaintiffs in the Martinez v. Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission case; that case is a state-level lawsuit similar to Juliana v. United States.
As a teenager, Martinez has given TED talks and was invited to speak before the United Nations on environmental policy. In June 2015, he spoke at the age of 15 in English, Spanish, and Nahuatl before the UN General Assembly on Climate Change. Martinez urged immediate climate action saying, “What’s at stake right now is the existence of my generation.”
That same year, he competed with young musicians from around the world who submitted self-produced music “to inspire the negotiations” at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change with their music and Martinez’s selection “Speak for the Trees” was chosen as the Jury Award Winner.
Martinez asserts that education and young people are key elements of the movement for significant social and environmental change: “The marching in the streets, the lifestyle changes haven’t been enough so something drastic needs to happen. The change that we need is not going to come from a politician, from an orangutan in office, it’s going to come from something that’s always been the driver of change – people power, power of young people.” When addressing the criticism of young people overusing technology in a 2016 interview with Bill Maher, Martinez noted that technology also brings people together to focus on a shared concern: “I think it’s an important tool that we have for networking and connecting with people. Social media and technology – it’s either a downfall and distraction for our generation, or a powerful tool we can use.”