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Hunab, a green nonprofit started by a little girl, flourishes after 2 decades

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Lee Steele
Lee Steele is the founding director of Roof Cat Media and has published Yucatán Magazine and other titles since 2012. Sign up for our weekly newsletters, so our top headlines will appear in your inbox each Monday and Thursday.

A student inspects insects crawling on the trunk of a ceiba tree. She and her classmates are reading Hunab, a periodical that covers the environment. Photo: Facebook / Hunab

Mérida, Yucatán — There’s a new newspaper in town and it’s practicing green, not yellow, jouralism.

Hunab first appeared in October with the aim of giving kids an education in environmental issues.

With a monthly circulation of 5,000 copies, the colorful newspaper is sponsored by the National Geographic Society with support from Grupo Megamedia, publisher of Diario de Yucatán; cookie-maker Galletera Dondé and the City of Mérida.

The newspaper has articles and puzzles or games with lots of photos and illustrations. It costs 3 pesos, about 15 cents, in private schools and is free to third-, fourth- and fifth-graders in public schools.

The nonprofit organization Hunab, founded by Maritza Morales Casanova while still a child in 1995, urges school teachers to order a free one-year subscription. In return, teachers will go to the Hunab Ceiba Pentandra park and deliver two six-month reports on the usefulness of the newspaper as a teaching tool.

The founder of the organization explained that the newspaper contains scientific information on various environmental and academic issues presented for the classroom.

At present they have 20,000 readers and they want this number to grow.

Hunab’s roots

Morales Casanova was 10 when she started Hunan, an acronym that for what in English is Humanity United to Nature in Harmony for Beauty, Welfare, and Goodness. She was moved to action after seeing neighborhood children vandalize trees, harm their own pets and hurt other kids.

She instills a new respect for nature by teaching kids how to grow plants and care for animals.

By 13, she was asking Mexico’s president to create a protected area in Yucatán to train kids about environmental issues.

“My biggest challenge was gaining credibility,” Morales Casanova said in a National Geographic article in 2016. “Although I had been developing solutions for years, authorities and business leaders only looked at my age, not my experience.”

Eventually, Mexico donated land to open the Ceiba Pentandra Park. She hopes to educate 64,000 children at the facility every year.

Hunab continues to be run by children, some as young as eight. Morales Casanova, now in her mid-30s, says their perspective is essential.

“I know children have great capacity to be leaders because I have lived that experience,” says Morales Casanova, a Rolex Laureate and National Geographic emerging explorer.“When we are children, we have a closer relationship with nature and are also more disposed to create and participate with honest commitment.’’

Education is the most powerful tool there is for solving environmental problems, says Morales Casanova.

“Empower children with information, leadership skills, and confidence, and they will change the world,” she says.

For more information on Hunab, call 999 943-1320. The Hunab Ceiba Pentandra park is at Calle 48, No. 420 between 27 and 29, Col. Nueva Yucatán, in Mérida.

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