The Urgency of Wirikuta in Mexico

Source: Desinformémonos

The definitive cancellation of mining and agro-industrial contracts in the sacred territory of the Wirrárika is urgent due to the serious ecological, social and spiritual effects that are affecting the indigenous and communal [mestizo] farmers of the region.

Wirikuta is for us, the Wixárika people. It is the fundamental base of our community and family life.
Without Wirikuta, we as a people will die. -Wirrárika authorities.

With regards to the concessions of mining permits that affect the sacred zone of Wirikuta, “the State is the one committing irregularities and not consulting the people,” explains Santos de la Cruz, president of the autonomous commissary of common goods of Bancos de San Hipólite and member of the Wirikuta Defense Front. “That’s why we demand that they look for alternatives to find a solution,” he added.

The traditional authorities of the common goods in San Sebastian Teponahuaxtán, Tuxpan de Bolaños, Santa Catarina Cuexcomatitlán and Bancos de San Hipólito, that represent the voices of the maraakame, along with the council of elders, and assemblies of 500 Wirrárika ceremonial centers, reaffirm before the new federal government their determination to defend their territories against the mining and agricultural industries.

One year after the traditional pilgrimage on February 7, 2012 to the Cerro Quemado, Wirikuta, in San Luis Potosí, the Regional Wixárika Counsel took the pilgrimage to Mexico City, to reiterate and present their demands in two parts to the new executive government.

De La Cruz claims their demands are the same and “our position is clear; we will continue to strengthen our community organization, along with other communities.”

The demands, presented in an “urgent letter” are directed to the peoples and governments of the world, summarizing the unresolved issues from ex-President Felipe Calderon’s administration. This includes declaring Wirikuta a Natural Protected Area; the cancellation of mining contracts – following the recommendations of the National Commission of Human Rights; the closure of tomato agricultural industries; and adding Wirikuta to the list of Natural, Material and Cultural Heritage of Humanity sites of the the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizationn (UNESCO).

A place of incalculable cultural, spiritual, and natural riches, situated in the plains and mountains of Catorce, Wirikuta is part of the Worldwide Network of Sacred Natural Sites. In 1999, UNESO declared it one of fourteen sacred natural sites of the world that needs protection. The Wixárika people go to Wirikuta to collect peyote.

Each year, since before anyone can remember, the Wixárika people have gone there in pilgrimage, recreating the long route their ancestors took during the formation of the world, to the birthplace of the sun, in the semi-desert of Real de Catorce. There is where their ancestors rest and the natural springs are found, a place also sacred for the Wixárika  people.

The Wixárika delegates propose the designation of Wirikuta as a Natural Protected Area with a biocultural focus. This means that it should guarantee human rights to communal farmers, territorial rights to indigenous peoples, as well as ecological restoration.

Wirikuta is a biological oasis in the desert. It is home to 80% of the birds in the entire desert, 60% of the mammals and 50% of the native plant life. The sacred territory of the Wixárika is 35,000 acres located mainly within the state of San Luis Potosí. Close to 70% of the area is threatened by mining concessions and agro-industrial projects. The demands of the indigenous peoples, who believe the area to be the center of the world and the birthplace of their gods, is for the area to be free of mining and ineligible for future contracts.

“The ecological, social and spiritual effects of mining and agribusiness activities would be severe and gravely affect the Wixárika people and the ejido residents in the region,” says Tunuary Chávez, coordinator of the environmental committee of the Wirikuta Defense Movement. Thirteen locations would deal with the immediate scarcity of water and several streams drying up – among those are Estación Catorce, Estación Wadley, Coronados, Ojo de Agua, San Cristóbal, La Cañada and La Palma. In addition, the social cost would be very high since, out of the 3,110 people that live there, only 166 people could be hired due to the age range of the workforce.

The Wixárika have kept busy. After the music festival Wirikuta Fest, in May 2012, the communities dedicated themselves to strengthening community organization, keeping up with the legal defense and implementing productive and ecological restoration projects, like dry tanks, pipes, a capacitation center, and fruit trees.

“We know that judicial processes are long,” says de la Cruz, “besides the judges make them long.” he added. There is currently an order of suspension that states that the area should be preserved and that directly affects the mining activities of First Majestic Mining company.

“We continue to document the irregularities that not only the mining companies commit, but also the tomato businesses that cause such great devastation affecting the flora and fauna,” explains De la Cruz.

The campaign against the indigenous peoples

To create friction and conflict between the mestizo and indigenous residents of the area and to avoid naming Wirikuta as a Biosphere Reserve, the First Majestic mining company (who owns 22 mining contracts within the sacred area), together with the municipal president of Catorce, kicked off a defamation campaign, denouncing the Wixárika authorities and the Jaliciense Association that supports the Indigenous Groups (AJAGI in Spanish).

The Wixárika people look to align with the mestizo population, indicates Santos de la Cruz, even though it has been difficult because of the propaganda from the mining companies. “They [mestizos] want jobs and the company says it will creat them without contaminating the environment,” says de la Cuz, commissary of Bancos de San Hipólito. He says the current scarce water supply now will undoubtedly be contaminated if mining is allowed to continue.

The other argument is that, by declaring Wirikuta a Biosphere Reserve, the Wixárika would evict the mestizos from the area and not let them plant their crops, “but we are working to clarify that with them,” says De la Cruz.

“We know that this campaign doesn’t come from those who live there,” explains de la Cruz, “we want a direct line of dialog, from one people to another” so that the solutions benefit both, finished the commissary.