The Indigenous Wixarika People have issued a statement demanding the cancellation of 22 mining concessions and a moratorium on any future exploration or extraction activities in the Real de Catorce, San Luis Potosi, Mexico.
The Vancouver-based company First Majestic Silver purchased the concessions from another Canadian company in 2009, giving First Majestic mineral rights within the Real de Catorce, a semi-arid desert that includes what critics describe as “one of the most important sites of indigenous prayer in Mexico, and possibly the world.”
The Wixarika, who are also known as the Huichol, would agree with that assessment. They explain that, “Since time immemorial, [we] have made the pilgrimage to the sacred land of the Wirikuta, re-creating the long journey that our ancestors made during the creation of the world to arrive at the place where the sun was born in the semi-desert area of the Real de Catorce.”
“Our prayer in Wirikuta is that all and every living being on this planet maintains life, and that our ancient Wixárika culture is maintained and does not disappear, in order that the key elements of knowledge and the candles of life that give meaning to our identity as Wixárika People are renewed.”
And now, the Wixarika continue, “our sacred land in the Real de Catorce desert is… the object of 22 concessions.”
The concessions shouldn’t have been granted, the Wixarika say, because Mexico ratified International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 169. “States that ratify Convention 169”, explains Cultural Survival, “agree to respect ‘the integrity of the values, practices and institutions’ of indigenous peoples, and to support the ‘full development of these peoples’ own institutions.'” Further, any “measures that ‘may’ affect indigenous peoples directly must be preceded by consultations with the ‘representative institutions’ of the peoples concerned, undertaken ‘in good faith… with the objective of achieving agreement or consent to then proposed measures.'” To date, no such process has taken place.
The sanctity of Wirikuta is the Wixarika’s Peoples biggest concern; however, they also point out that some 3500 people are living in the concession area, in 16 population centres and “numerous localities”. If the silver mine becomes operational, each and every one may be facing water shortages and moderate to severe health problems from the company’s use of cyanide. Exposure to cyanide may cause blurred vision, severe shortness of breath, headaches and general weakness as well as paralysis, cardiac arrest, seizures and death.
For these reasons, the Wixarika say they are prepared to “use all the resources necessary to stop this devastating mining project, making use of national and international legal resources that are in our favor as well as non-violent actions of civil protest that are necessary.”
In addition, they are calling for “effective strategies” from the Mexican government “that bring a better quality of life to the inhabitants of Wirikuta, that [should be] in harmony with the environment, and not destructive as is mining.”
To voice your concerns and support the moratorium, please sign the following petition, which has been set up by the Traditional and Agrarian Authorities of the Wixarika People. The Petition is available at: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/2/proclamation-in-defense-of-wirikuta/