Zapatistas Will Defend the Cucapa and Kiliwa Peoples of Baja California

Zapatistas Will Defend the Cucapa and Kiliwa Peoples of Baja California

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October 22, 2006

The Kiliwa Had Declared a “Death Pact” After the Government and Gringo “Conservation” Groups Forbade Them from Fishing; Next Fishing Season Will See a Zapatista Camp on Their Lands

By Kristin Bricker
The Other Journalism with the Other Campaign in Baja California

MEXICALI, BAJA CALIFORNIA: Delegate Zero announced a bold new step in the Other Campaign October 20 in El Mayor, Baja California: a Zapatista camp in the Cucapa and Kiliwa indigenous communities, located just outside of Mexicali, to protect them during the upcoming fishing season and prevent a “death pact” from being fulfilled. He also shed further light on the next phase of the Other Campaign.

The Cucapa and Kiliwa indigenous communities are facing extinction. Of the Cucapas, less then 300 remain; of the Kiliwas, 54. While the government does not concern itself with preserving their culture, traditions, and very existence, it is very concerned about the fish they rely on for their very survival. The federal government, with the support of “conservation” organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund and Conservation International (who are notorious for protecting endangered species by kicking endangered peoples out of their land), turned the waters they’ve fished for generations into the Biosphere Reserve of the Upper Gulf of California on June 10, 1993, because it was “in the public interest,” according to the official website of the government’s National Commission of Protected Natural Areas. The website also notes that 77 percent of the people who live in and around the reserve rely on fishing for their livelihoods, so it is unclear which public interest the fishing ban in the protected area serves.

The problem isn’t that the Cucapas and the Kiliwas don’t want to preserve the endangered fish and dolphins. They point out that it is in their best interest to protect the species they rely upon for their livelihood, and they want very much to be custodians of the river and its fish, as they have been for generations. Hilda Hurtado Valenzuela, the secretary of the Cucapa fishing cooperative, maintains that the Cucapas and Kiliwas are not responsible for the over-fishing, though they bear the brunt of its consequences. She says that they never intentionally fished the endangered species, though if they happened to catch some they used them for their own consumption – they never sold them. Now, she says, they don’t even do that, because if they get caught taking a protected fish from the river they will go to jail, or worse.

To protect the endangered fish, armed federal soldiers constantly patrol the reserve and accost the fishermen who come to fish. Hilda Hurtado Valenzuela recounted to Subcomandante Marcos how soldiers detained her pregnant daughter, who was trying to fish, by pointing their guns at her belly. Furthermore, the community has approximately thirty outstanding warrants for illegal fishing, including one for seven kilograms of fish.

Cross-Border Solidarity
In protest against the forceful dispossession of their lands and the destruction of their culture, the Kiliwas took a death pact. The women have agreed to stop having children, and the Kiliwas will die with this generation. Marcos, however, intends to use the power of the Other Campaign to convince them that they are not alone, and that it is not worth it to die from a death pact when they can die fighting.

When community members finished explaining their struggle and their death pact to the Sixth Commission, Delegate Zero requested an intermission and private meeting with community authorities. When they returned to the public forum, Marcos publicly disclosed the results of the meeting. He proposed to the Cucapa and Kiliwa authorities, in the name of the Zapatista communities, that a Zapatista camp be created during the 2007 fishing season, beginning at the end of February and ending in mid-May. In announcing the call for a Zapatista camp, Delegate Zero said, “We have decided to send an urgent message to the Mexicans and Chicanos north of the Rio Grande to come here in order to maximize the number of people here, create a safe space, and protect the Cucapa and Kiliwa community during the fishing season.” He later elaborated that these activists will form a peace camp in the community and brigades that will accompany the fishermen and fisherwomen to the river. The Mexicali adherents to the Other Campaign will meet next week to begin to organize the action. Marcos promised, “The only thing that will keep us from coming here is a formal request from the Kiliwa and Cucapa authorities.”

This request isn’t likely to come. In reaction to Delegate Zero’s proposal for a Zapatista camp, Hilda Hurtado Valenzuela, a Cucapa authority herself, said, “We’re very happy to have someone come here and give us a hand because we’ve already petitioned the government, gone through mediation – all the legal routes.” Their requests and negotiations with the government have not produced any positive results.

The proposed Zapatista camp in El Mayor could very well change the route of the next phase of the Other Campaign, when two comandantes go to each zone to live there and organize. Marcos revealed that the proposal to adherents for the next phase will include the following: that they will organize the tour in December, release the First Declaration of the Other Campaign in January, and begin the next phase of the Other Campaign in February with the Kiliwa in the Mexican northwest – not in the southeast, as had originally been planned.


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