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NORTH AMERICA / MEXICO
Indigenous protest mining concessions
11/11/2011
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Members of the Wixárika people demand cancellation of mining permits on their lands.

Mexico’s government has granted more than one hundred mining concessions to foreign companies in the San Luis Potosi state, putting the survival and way of life of the state’s indigenous population at risk.

More than 200 members of the Wixárika, or Huichol, people in late October marched through Mexico City against the concessions, most of which were for areas in the San Luis Potosi desert, where is Wirikuta, a 140,000-hectare (350,000-acre) area that is sacred to this group.

“We want life; we want to exist,” said Santos de la Cruz, a Wixárika leader, during a press conference. “The state is killing and kidnapping our sacred lands. They want to finish us, kill our Mother Earth.”

Even though President Felipe Calderón promised in 2008 to preserve and invest in the Wixárika culture, one year later the government granted 22 concessions to the Canadian mining company First Majestic to drill and extract metal in the area. Of the more than 6,300 hectares (16,000 acres) in these concessions, 70 percent are within Wirikuta, which was named part of the Network of Sacred Natural Sites by UNESCO in 1998 and a protected nature reserve by the Mexican government in 2001.

According to the Wirikuta Defense Front, “the Wixárika people are known for conserving their spiritual identity and practicing their traditional culture and religion for thousands of years.” Additionally, Wirikuta is part of a unique ecosystem, with the highest concentration of cactae per square meter in the world. A large part of its flora and fauna is native to the area and is the home of the Royal Eagle, one of Mexico´s historic symbols.

The organization said the mining concessions contradicted regulations that prohibit contaminating activity in the area, including large-scale, open-pit mining, the kind that First Majestic operates.

The management of Wirikuta, under a plan developed jointly with the Wixárika, establishes the protection of the area’s water, soil, flora and fauna as well as its buffer zone, prohibiting any dumping of contaminating substances in the soil or bodies of water, including rivers and aquifers.

“Wikiruta is the material and cultural foundation on which the Wixárika people’s identity is based,” said the Wirikuta Defense Front. “The destruction of the Wirikuta implies the destruction of the Wixárika people as we know them.”
—Latinamerica Press.


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