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Inspiring Change from the Ground Up

Photo courtesy of Rodale Books

Not many kids have a calling, one that defines them and shapes their destiny. But Xiuhtezcatl Martinez knew his, even as a small child growing up in Boulder.

At age 6, Xiuhtezcatl (pronounced ‘Shoe-Tez-Caht’) stepped before a crowd of local climate activists and recited a prayer from his Mexica culture, first giving thanks to the elements—water, fire, earth and air. And then the tiny boy with flowing hair launched into a fiery speech pleading with listeners to respect the earth and reduce their consumption.

Now 17, Xiuhtezcatl has stood on stages worldwide, including at the United Nations, to urge people everywhere, particularly youth, to stand for the planet and against climate change. He’s the youth leader of Earth Guardians, a global, Boulder-based environmental-activist organization, and author of the new book We Rise: The Earth Guardians’ Guide to Building a Movement that Restores the Planet (Rodale Press, $22.99). His book explains why this movement is so important for all of us, and how everyone has a place in it and a contribution to make. A hip-hop artist, Xiuhtezcatl also realizes how music can influence this cause, and is currently releasing his second album, Break Free.

That’s pretty weighty stuff for a teenager. Perhaps his native culture gave Xiuhtezcatl his wisdom. Or maybe it was his name. Mexica people believe that with our name comes our destiny. “We gave him his name with intention to bring him light, guidance and knowledge from his ancestors,” Xiuhtezcatl’s grandfather says in We Rise. Xiuhtezcatl’s name means “Blue Mirror” and incorporates the blue light of the universe, the blue fire of the stars, the blue of the sky, and the reflection of the celestial gourd.

With that start to life and the ancestors’ knowledge to steer him, Xiuhtezcatl is mirroring how to live in harmony with the planet and inspiring young and old to join him. Given his roots, how could he do anything else?

—Carol Brock

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