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Huicholes unimpressed by government deal

June 1, 2012

The indigenous people of the Sierra Madre were left unsatisfied with the Mexican government’s pledge last week to return 761 hectares of land from a Canadian mining company.

The Huichol or Wixaritari people – around 20,000 live in isolated regions of Jalisco, Nayarit and Zacatecas – have led a protest movement since 2009, when the government granted mining concessions in 6,327 hectares of the Real de Catorce region to First Majestic Silver Corp.

Much of the land granted to First Majestic falls inside the Cerro Quemado, a sacred area locally known as “Wirikuta.” The Wixaritari hold annual pilgrimages to the site and believe it is where the sun was born.

As well as returning 761 hectares to the Wixaritari last week, the government also declared another 45,000 hectares were to become a National Mining Reserve.

Yet Wixaritari representatives complained last Thursday that First Majestic had already offered to return what little land was of no use to them, but still retain concessions to mine over 5,000 hectares of sacred Wirikuta land; and that the new reserve is in an area where there were no concessions anyway.

Moreover, the amount returned to the Wixaritari pales into insignificance when another 95,000 hectares of Wirikuta land remain in the hands of other mining companies to whom the federal government has granted concessions. For example, Canada’s Revolution Resources alone has the rights to mine 59,678 hectares.

The Wixaritari have received backing from a wide variety of Mexican artists, intellectuals and civic groups in their campaign against the government and the Canadian mining firms.

In solidarity with the Wixaritari, protesters staged a massive concert dubbed “Wirikuta Fest” in Mexico City’s Foro Sol on Saturday, May 26. Some 50,000 young people turned up to watch performances from Café Tacuba and Calle 13, as well as guest appearances from outspoken Rage Against the Machine front man Zack de la Rocha and poet-turned-peace-activist Javier Sicilia.

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