The many sides of Xiuhtezcatl Martinez

This environmental activist, musician and public speaker is giving nature a voice.

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From eliminating pesticides in Boulder’s parks to gaining a moratorium on fracking and from writing a book to releasing an album, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez has reached phenomenal heights given he’s just 18 years old. From a small organization within his local community to a global movement reaching hundreds of thousands of young people, his power and passion cannot be understated. Shaped by his upbringing, which was spent surrounded by nature and learning every inch of his cultural heritage and ancestry, Martinez soon saw the desperate need to advocate for change: “I saw that the world was dying, I didn’t see it as an ‘environmental problem’; I saw it as my home.”

Propelled by the instinct to protect, Martinez founded Earth Guardians, a worldwide conservation organization. But his activism doesn’t stop there; an active musician with an album coming out soon and more in the pipeline, he’s just reached the end of a busy tour. But his transdisciplinary approach to bringing change goes even further, diving into the world of fashion and working with brands to promote innovative, circular and sustainable fashion. He’s a force of nature, giving nature a voice.

Firstly, how was your tour?

Oh my gosh, the tour was amazing. It came to an end about five days ago and now we’re just running around doing some other gigs, doing my thing, doing some photo shoots. Yeah, it’s been super wild and inspiring and incredible. Life is lit right now.

From eliminating pesticides from parks to gaining a moratorium on fracking, writing a book and working on music, you have not only achieved great things but also made a significant impact. What do you consider your greatest achievement to date?

So, I think that’s just a tiny thing in the context of the rest of my life and the greatest achievements I have in me… but up until now? I think the most significant moment of my life is just making this change and realising that it’s basically because of someone who’s seriously fighting for what they believe in to actually change someone’s life. I mean, it’s very inspiring to be a part of something which is moving the masses into an overwhelming pride and joy. And seeing how all this has grown from a small organisation within my community to become a global movement. I think part of that is the unfaltering effort many people have put into it and playing a role as a leader and a spokesperson and an ambassador all over the world—that’s one of my greatest accomplishments.

To grow my organisation from being in one community to being in hundreds of communities across the world, reaching hundreds of thousands of young people across the planet. And also putting out music, putting out these two songs on my album coming in June. So yeah, I’m looking forward to the release of those songs, going out on the road again and seeing how my music and the message behind it actually touches people. As the artist, I mean, I felt so much pride in that—it was overwhelming. It’s fine just being an environmental activist—that’s dope—but I actually feel I’m so much more than that. My art is my way of expressing myself and I want the world to see what I stand for through my songs. Seeing the feedback is super inspiring.

How far would you say your upbringing has influenced your outlook on the world?

The way I was raised has shaped who I am greatly. I wouldn’t be who I am without how I was raised, without what my parents taught me. My entire childhood from zero to ten was all just being in nature and learning about my cultural heritage and about my ancestry, my language and through my mum, learning about our planet and our responsibility to protect it and our responsibility to fight for what’s right. That’s totally influenced who I am today.

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Following ‘Pain’, the theme of the latest issue of Glamcult is ‘Pleasure’. What would your definition of pleasure be? And what gives you the greatest pleasure in everyday life?

Music for sure. But yeah, I think pleasure is experiencing passion and being able to interpret it in your own way. Like when I feel pleasure from listening to someone else’s music I think it is just me experiencing their passion. Or when I’m connecting with another person or when I’m enjoying a meal, I think it’s an experience of pleasure, experiencing passion through your own interpretation and the way you see things. My greatest everyday pleasure is in writing, making and listening to music.

How was the process of writing your record and how pleased are you with the final outcome?

The process of making a record has been totally life-changing and taught me so much about myself—about how much of a perfectionist I am. Part of why I made this record is because I feel the media and the people who know my story don’t know the whole thing. Or often don’t tell my story in the right way. I love working with publications that deal with art and don’t specifically focus on the environmental story, but focus more on my music and me as a person because I think you get more of the story. The way I put the album out is the way I want the world to see me. So I’ve been very careful in how I’ve been cultivating that. I’m very pleased with most of the music I’ve created—I’ve written about 25 songs and there’s only going to be 13 on the record. So I’ve been creating these songs that no one is going to hear but are powerful songs but more than anything were stepping stones in the journey for me to be able to make my best music. And I need to release it quick before I continue to grow and get better in making music, and don’t see the songs for the record as my best work anymore. I just wanna go on writing and producing, and thinking bigger and better in what will be going on the records. I mean, it’s just the constant struggle of an artist—being a perfectionist and never quite being happy with your own art, and always wanting to make it better.

Going from your most recent work to first starting out, what first sparked your need to put your foot down and change things?

I saw that the world was dying. And when I saw the world as coming to a collapse, seeing the beautiful planet dying from climate change and basically seeing how people were being betrayed by these issues, I didn’t see it as something disconnected from me, I didn’t see it as an ‘environmental problem’, I didn’t see it as something that needed to be ‘solved’. I saw it as my home. And I think the instinct in me to protect my home is something that was triggered at the age of like 6 or 7; that was when I first vowed to not just recognise that I had to do something but that I really wanted to use my voice to make a difference and create some kind of solution. I had to do something. And ever since that I’ve been doing it, fighting like hell and trying to make as much of a difference now.

Over the span of your career so far, you’ve embraced documentary, rap and various genres of music, and literature to bring movement to the masses. Are there any other forms of art you would delve into to promote your message?

Yeah, I think fashion. I mean, right now in Sweden I’m diving into the world of modelling and working with brands to use innovative fashion to reach a whole different market of people to know my story and promote circular and sustainable fashion. That’s something that’s pretty new to me but I enjoy it. And actually starting to design my own lines of clothing and merchandise for when I’m touring and working with artists.

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Your story to date is incredibly fruitful. Which direction do you see yourself taking next?

Yeah, so this year is gonna be a huge year for me in music. That’s gonna be my focus honestly. Continuing to grow the movement and support the non-profit and everything. But I’ll be putting most of my energy into my music projects and building my impact and influence on the world of art and partnering with the right people to have my story told in the right way in that space. Making an impact and looking to inspire people. I’m looking to release two records this year, one of which I haven’t even started talking about yet and one of which is already in the works and coming out this summer—it’s on its way. So yeah, that’s my move. I’ve seen how art can influence cultures immensely and I look up to artists to have messages to inspire people and touch people… like Chance the Rapper, Kendrick Lamar and Joey Bada$$, and I get extremely proud how lots of artists are doing things to inspire people and touch people’s lives in the bigger way. I wanna be a part of that.

It brings it back to your definition of pleasure actually; as experiencing someone’s passion.

Yeah, exactly! And I want to use my art to bring pleasure to as many people as possible.

As a young musician and activist on the road, what’s your guiltiest pleasure?

Oh Christ, sugar. So much sugar, it’s really bad. I mean, I try as hard as I can to stay healthy—I don’t smoke, I don’t drink that much and I’m vegan and I try to be really conscious of the food I put in my body but everywhere I go, like bakeries, sweet shops, any place that does vegan ice cream, vegan donut shops… I have a severe addiction to processed sugars.

Well, it’s been really lovely talking to you.

Yeah, it’s been really lovely speaking to you! Have a great day and continue having a beautiful voice.

Have an amazing time and good luck with everything to come.

Follow Xiuhtezcatl on Soundcloud and Instagram

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Words by Louise Goodger

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