“This repeats itself every year, life comes stomping from the West, in San Blas, until the East in Wirikuta, and it returns, passes, and starts all over again. It takes a lot of effort to do it, accompany and be witness to it, but we must do it with love as we have always done, and it will renew itself the following years so that life may continue and so that it does not end.” These are the words of an older jicarero (pilgrim) from a ceremonial center of the community of Tuapurie, Santa Catarina Cuexcomatitlán, spoken at the end of the Dance of the Peyote ceremony.
In our previous article, we wrote about the latest threat that the sacred land of Wirikuta faces. Located in the northern part of the state of San Luis Potosí, the transnational mining company of Canadian origin, First Majestic Silver Corp. has finalized its first stage of exploration in the Sierra of Catorce where it has acquired 22 mining concessions that total 6, 326.58 hectares and place one of the most important sites of indigenous prayer in Mexico, and possibly the world, at risk. This is where the Huichol annually recreate the path of the ancient kakauyarixi or ancestors who, from birth, gave their lives to this world, finding our Father Sun ending a long period in the darkness, and finding the birth of the Sun in the Cerro Quemado (Burnt Peak) which today sits within said concessions.
The corruption that is generated by government agencies paves the way for a mining project with the characteristics of the one that First Majestic Silver seeks to accomplish; the amount of anomalies are endless. Additionally, the complicit attitude of the Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples (CDI for its Spanish acronym) becomes clearer: during the purported advisory process to the Wixárika Union of Ceremonial Centers of Jalisco, Durango and Nayarit, the CDI has limited itself to reporting on minor problems such as trash in sacred sites and fences for cattle ranching, while keeping silent on projects that can profoundly affect sacred places, such as the agro-industrial and mining projects in the plateaus of San Luis Potosí, as stated in the state’s Urban Development Plans, 2000-2025.
On June 9, 2001, Wirikuta and the historic Wixárika pilgrimage route were declared a Natural Sacred Site, recognizing 140,211.85 hectares that protect the longitude of the historic route that spans more than 138 kilometers. We can find two realities regarding this protected area. On the one hand, the official one where the fantasy of rhetorical discourses by political actors who intervene because of their interest in obtaining personal benefits; and the false protection of the site in order to maintain a positive image before UNESCO and before Huichol communities. On the other hand, the reality of the countryside, where one observes the continued marginalization and migration that impact the local inhabitants, an increasingly invasive and polluting agricultural industry, an increase in local chiefdoms empowered by municipal and state governments, the persistence of military harassment toward Huichol pilgrims during their ceremonies, and an increase in mining concessions within the so-called reserve.
Of the 6,326.58 hectares that make-up First Majestic Silver’s concessions, 68.92% of the surface (4,107.43 hectares) lays within the decreed reserve, of this, 42.75% (1,756.3 hectares) falls within what was classified as a Buffer Zone of Traditional Use where one “can carry out traditional activities that take advantage of natural resources that exist prior to the reserve…permitted activities are those carried out for the satisfaction of basic economic needs of the local inhabitants and of the wixárika peoples.” Thirty-one percent (1,287.65 hectares) fall within the Buffer Zone for the Sustainability of Agro-ecosystems where only traditional agriculture that avoids the risky practice of transgenics can be practiced.
An important focal point is that 25.29% (1038.97 hectares) of the conceded surface is within the polygon of the reserve zone classified as the Buffer Zone for Special Use, where according to the reserve management plan “mining and metallurgical activities can be carried out.” It nonetheless clearly states that this can take place “as long as significant alterations to the ecosystems do not occur,” strictly prohibiting the pouring or unloading of contaminants in the soil, subsoil, any type of ditch, and aquifers; the interruption, re-filling, drying or diverting of hydraulic streams; as any substantial modification to the landscape.
It is clear that a corporation whose method of exploitation is open pit mining, lixiviation through the method of flotation and application of cyanide is highly polluting, will alter the ecosystems, will dislodge contaminants into the soil and water tables; will interrupt, refill, dry, and divert hydraulic streams; will substantially alter the landscape and geologic cuts, and will provoke serious consequences for the local inhabitants.
It is for this reason that environmental regulatory institutions must be strict in not allowing the operation of this mine. Even the mining law (which is a generous law for giving away Mexican mineral resources) explicitly states in Article 10 that concessions can only be given to people of Mexican nationality; the 4th clause of Article 27, and Articles 37 and 38 subject mining corporations to meet the official Mexican norms and all current matters concerning the protection of the environment. This makes evident that neither First Majestic Silver nor any other mining company is apt to carry out mineral exploitation in the region. In this sense, according to Article 40 of the mining law, this concession must immediately be nullified.
Meanwhile, the principal indigenous culture of Mexico continues to renovate life with love, so that it does not end, as has always been done.
By Tunuary and Cristian Chávez,
Asociación Jalisciense de Apoyo a Grupos Indígenas
Originally published in La Jornada de Jalisco July 23, 2010
English translation by the Wixárika Research Center