Some 500 people marched in Guadalajara, capital of the western Mexican state of Jalisco, on May 20 to demand that the federal and state governments honor their commitments to protect land that is sacred to the Wixárika (Huichol) indigenous group. The protesters’ main focus was the 22 concessions that the federal Economy Secretariat has given to First Majestic Silver Corp (FMS), a Canadian mining company, to extract gold and silver in some 6,000 hectares around Real de Catorce in the north central state of San Luis Potosí. They say this was done without the consent of affected indigenous groups.
The Wixárika now live in an area that includes parts of Durango, Jalisco, Nayarit and Zacatecas, but they say their ancestral homeland was in San Luis Potosí, and every year some Wixárika walk 500 km to the Wirikuta area in Real de Catorce to gather the peyote that they use in religious ceremonies. The San Luis Potosí government declared the Wirikuta a protected area in 1994, and on April 28, 2008, Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa and the governors of Durango, Jalisco, Nayarit, San Luis Potosí and Zacatecas signed the Pact of Hauxa Manaka’a, in which they agreed to respect the area’s ecological integrity.
The Wirikuta’s environment was damaged by silver mining in the 19th and 20th centuries, and the Wixárika protesters in Guadalajara expressed fears that even more damage would result from new methods of extraction that FMS is expected to use. Activist Antonio Hayanueme García Mijárez said the concessions were sold to FMS and its Mexican subsidiary, Minera Real de Bonanza, S.A. de C.V., for just $3 million, “less than was paid for Chicharito”—the Guadalajara born soccer star Javier Hernández, who plays with the English soccer club Manchester United.
The Vancouver action was part of Mining Justice Week, a series of events the week of May 16 to call Canadians’ attention to the role of Canadian mining companies in Latin America. In addition to the FMS concessions in the Wirikuta, indigenous activists focused on Vancouver-based Goldcorp Inc’s Marlin mine in Guatemala, operated by the wholly owned subsidiary Montana Exploradora de Guatemala, SA, and Goldcorp’s San Martín mine in Honduras. (Intercontinental Cry, May 26)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 29.