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Peyote picking under threat

November 20, 2012

Not only is their sacred land threatened by Canadian mining corporations, but the indigenous Huichol or Wixarika of Jalisco and Nayarit’s Sierra Madre must now also contend with the Mexican government undermining their peyote-infused religious rituals.

One of four Wixarika deities, peyote is considered a means of communicating with the gods, and for thousands of years the Wixarika have embarked on pilgrimages to pick the hallucinogenic cactus flower in the mountainous “Wirikuta” area of Real de Catorce in San Luis Potosi.

But a presidential decree issued on October 26 partly prohibited this ancient tradition by outlawing the harvest of fruit from two protected areas in San Luis Potosi.

At a press conference last week, the Regional Council for the Defense of Wirikuta, demanded that the government guarantee their right to pick peyote. The council also called for the cancellation of 79 mining concessions affecting their sacred land.

Since 2009, the Wixarika have been campaigning against mining concessions granted by the Mexican government to Canadian firms. The mining has a devastating impact on the local environment, critics say, with swaths of land destroyed and large quantities of cyanide used in the process.

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