Zacatecas, Mexico (English)

Relevance of the Research

Women participating in research activity

Photo: Dulce Sosa

There is little information on interactions between large-scale renewable energy projects with local populations in the study areas due to the fact that these larger-scale projects have only just begun to be developed. The benefits and costs of the larger-scale projects for women are unknown. There is also a lack of information on current small-scale, decentralized use of renewable energy technologies and the effects of these on urban, peri-urban and rural women’s lives and livelihoods. The lack of information hinders the possibility of designing technologies that respond to the energy needs of women. Photo: Dulce Sosa

Zacatecas: General Characteristics

Zacatecas is located in the north-central region of Mexico. It has a population of 1,579,209 inhabitants, 59% urban and 41% rural. The state has a cold and dry climate; 75% of its territory is arid or semi-arid, with an average annual rainfall of 16.8 inches. Its vegetation includes bushes, pastures, trees (mesquite, huizaches) and diverse species of cacti. The most important economic activities are the extraction of silver, trade, agriculture (beans, fodder) and livestock (cattle). Zacatecas has high rates of international migration (4.8% of the state population).

Wind energy in Zacatecas

Windmilll & storage tank.

Windmilll & storage tank.

Photo: Karina Martinez

Wind energy is new in Zacatecas. Contrary to the state of Oaxaca, where there are already 23 farms, there are only two in Zacatecas: Vientos del Altiplano (2011) and La Bufa Wind Farm (2016). The research was conducted in the area of ​​influence of La Bufa Wind Farm, where there is no research linking gender equity with renewable energy.

La Bufa Wind Farm was built by Mexico Power Group with an investment of 350 million dollars. The farm is composed of 90 turbines that occupy 11,000 hectares of private and ejidal lands belonging to the municipalities of Zacatecas, Guadalupe, Génaro Codina and Villanueva. This will produce 560 million kilowatts, equivalent to the annual consumption of 70,000 households. The energy will be sent to the Volkswagen plants of Puebla and Guanajuato over a period of 20 years. 

Solar energy in Zacatecas

Between 2013 and 2015 Zacatecas inclusion (IZAC) carried out a training program for the construction of solar water heaters financed by the National Institute of Social Development (INDESOL). The project lasted three years, with ten courses per year and a total of approximately 600 beneficiaries, because in each course between 15 and 20 participants were accepted.

Solar oven

The facilitators of the solar heater workshops also gave courses in solar cookers, but these were not as well received as the solar hot water heaters; this was attributed to people's daily habits.

Photo: Dulce Sosa

The courses were convened through a person from the locality of interest who had to invite another 15. Gender parity was sought in the formation of the groups, but there was a greater female presence, supposedly because the men did not have time to go to be trained. In some localities there was a lack of interest and skepticism on the part of the men towards the project. 

The training lasted one month, with four hours a day. The heater is constructed with PET plastic containers (polyethylene terephthalate), PTR tubes (Rectangular Tubular Profile) painted black and galvanized sheet. All the material was financed by INDESOL except the bottles; each participant had to collect 150 for their heater.

Study Sites

The field work was carried out in three towns belonging to the municipality of Zacatecas, with different characteristics: a rural community (ejido Benito Juárez), a peri-urban (Camino Real neighborhood, part of the suburban ejido of El Orito) and an urban one (Alma Obrera neighborhood, City of Zacatecas). The selection of these locations was due to the presence of the IZAC (Inclusión Zacatecas AC) project in all of them. In addition, two of the three locations (El Orito and Benito Juárez) are close to the La Bufa wind farm, so they have rented their land for their operation or received offers to do so.

The ejido of San Cayetano Benito Juárez was selected on the recommendation of Alejandro Gaspar (former collaborator of IZAC). According to him, in rural communities like this one there was "the paradigm shift" with the replacement of wood heaters by solar. In this town, in addition to agricultural activities, men are engaged in the extraction of slab for sale. Benito Juárez ejidatarios refused to rent their land for the La Bufa wind farm. Photo: Dulce Sosa 

Map of Mexico showing Zacatecas in the middle

Pile of slab

Photo: Dulce Sosa

Activities Accomplished

Woman pointing to large piece of paper on wall as part of workshop activity

In the Alma Obrera urban neighborhood, workshop participants reflected in teams about the change in the landscape of their neighborhood, from rural to urban and the change in the use of energies that entails.

Photo: Dulce Sosa

After several tours and exploratory interviews, in November and December of 2017 a survey was conducted with 120 questionnaires applied in the three locations (40 questionnaires in each). The topics addressed in the survey include the following: characteristics of housing in relation to energy sources; energy use of women in their homes and outside them; perceptions about climate change and renewable energies (solar and wind).

In the same months, three workshops were held with the women of the study localities (15 participants in each workshop approximately). Three activities were carried out: a map of their locality, a count of the uses of energy in the locality through time and a matrix of analysis on different sources of energy. The objective was to deepen the availability, affordability and reliability of energy in each locality over time from the perspective of women.

Preliminary Results


Paper in Spanish identifying advantages and disadvantages

The women identified the advantages and disadvantages of using different sources of energy to heat water for bathing, cooking and transportation.

Photo: Dulce Sosa

Electric power service is provided by the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) in the three locations. It is always reported as cheaper than gas, except in a few cases where prices are high and unjustified. Most of the women reported having a refrigerator, blender and television. Appliances have contributed to the growing domestication of women, which they interpret as progress. They are more "housewives" than "peasants," including the rural community. Women describe the previous life of their localities as more difficult; although they also highlight the advantage that before, they consumed more crops from the field that were healthier.

In the three workshops, the women analyzed the advantages and disadvantages of using different sources of energy for their daily activities; for example, the differences between the solar boiler or the wood boiler to bathe in relation to the time spent with each device, the efficiency of heating water, and the economic expense they represent. Some of the observations were that the solar boiler does not present an economic expense to heat water, but it does not work on cloudy days; and that the wood boiler heats the water quickly, but it takes a lot of work when having to get the fuel. In all three locations, including the rural one, there is a transition from firewood to gas, both for cooking and for bathing. In all three, disagreement was also detected due to the high price of gas. There is an increasing dependence of women on privatized sources of energy. The wood is seen as old-fashioned - it makes you smell bad even after a bath - and very hard to get. The responsibility to bring it is attributed to men, but there are very few who do it.

Gender Stereotypes & the Environment

The training provided by IZAC (Zacatecas Inclusion) contributed to the change of gender stereotypes since women had to learn to use a traditionally male tool; for example, the drill or the saw. At first they felt fear, but little by little they were integrated into the work because it was not a question of the same person making their own heater from beginning to end, but building several by stages, taking advantage of the skills of each participant. "Neighbors who did not support themselves" began to do so.

Self-built solar heater

Self-built solar heater, made by user of Camino Real neighborhood. Two years after its construction, the four members of her family use it.

Photo: Dulce Sosa

In the Camino Real neighborhood, a woman who participated in the IZAC training courses was visited. She had been using her boiler every day for two years and the heater was still in very good condition. The user explained its operation and the significant money savings from not spending so much on gas. The heater serves to bathe two people, then you have to wait 20 minutes to bathe two other people. There is a way to shut off the water if there is no sun and use the gas boiler. The client noted that her son and daughter bathe when returning from school. Both have learned to relate the presence of the sun to hot water, which she thinks is good because they have learned to take care of the environment.

The survey participants reported saving not only money, but also time with the use of the solar heater, since they do not have to wait for the delivery truck and do not have to worry about turning on the gas or wood heater. They only use the water during the hours when the sun is available. The time gained is used to "overtake the task," which could indicate that women have more time to rest at the end of their domestic work.

Wind Farm

About the wind farm, women mentioned not receiving benefits. Many were unaware of the project, its purpose or the destination of the energy generated there. There is a widespread perception that if the project offered them benefits they would agree with it, but they mentioned not having enough information to have a position on it. On the other hand, the ejido owners of El Orito who rent their land for the wind farm only mentioned that the farm will provide them with economic benefits and that it has not generated any significant change in the landscape or in the locality.