By: Lydia Cacho – January 12, 2012
Translated by Sol Levin

What would the Vatican say if the French government decided to grant concessions for the exploitation of precious minerals in the sacred path each year thousands of pilgrims walk to Lourdes, where the spring water is considered holy by the Catholic Church? Or if Portugal was to do the same at the sacred caves of Fatima, nestled in mountains with mining potential? Hundreds of pilgrimage routes of all religions in the world, like the Catholic, Jewish and Muslim heritages, are considered untouchable because of agreements between the leaders of these churches and the governments, and because of a strong protective passion that devotees dedicate to their sacred lands (in addition to the economic interests involved in religious tourism promotion, visits, and memorabilia for sale.)

What I consider it essential is to ask: How dare the federal government of Mexico hand out a sacred area for destruction? In this land, throughout history, millions of Wixarika or Huichol people and foreigners have accomplished a pilgrimage; they have taken care of it and have lived from it. Calderon’s administration granted a mining concession to a Canadian company. Why is there such a poor reaction from Mexicans across the country? Where is the UNESCO in this protest? And it should be here, because at the beginning of this administration, Felipe Calderón himself offered several  times, along with members of UNESCO, a promise to protect the area as cultural national heritage and to respect it as a sacred path for the Huichol as the routes of the sacred springs are for others.

And yes, outrage must be reiterated until all Mexico is aware and acts: the government released 22 mining concessions to the Canadian First Majestic Silver Corp. in the area of ??Real de Catorce, through the Mexican company Real Bonanza SA de CV. Of the 15 thousand 633.31 acres comprised in the concession grant, 70% are within the Wirikuta Reserve. Where are the Senators and the Representatives? They have kept comfortably silent…

Imagine the nearly 17 thousand 300 acres of the Road of Santiago in Spain, or the grounds near the Western Wall in Jerusalem, were concessioned to work an open mining pit, which would not only obstruct the passage of thousands of pilgrims each year, but also cause pollution of the aquifer throughout the region where the open strip mines operate, wasting cyanide, heavy metals and xantanates. Imagine that expert limnologists warn the government, that if the mines are opened,  gradually watersheds would get dry,  leaving without drinking water the entire populated region, and contaminate the pastures where cattle is raised in the mountainous region of the surroundings. That is what is happening in Mexico, and we must stop it.

Where is the government’s publicity saying as well “The government of this President also granted a lease for the area of Bernalejo in the community of Margaritas, to be destroyed by the Canadian mining company West Timmins Mining”? Starting the day it begins the exploitation of the mines, you will not be able to hunt deer for food and the path of religious pilgrimage will be closed to the thousands of people that for centuries have attended their ceremonial centers, just as those who go to Mecca, Lourdes, to Fatima do, or to Jerusalem and a hundred other similar religious centers around the globe, which are surrounded by communities that live their traditions and customs exercising their sacred rites.

And all in spite the National Water Commission warned President Calderón and his cabinet of the imminent danger, due to the type of open pit mining that will be used to extract gold, that will leave the entire region without water in a short time, as it uses 100 million liters of water a day, besides damaging a region named as a reserve and buffer zone for traditional use by the Calderón government itself.

Governments around the world, including the Mexican, have made similar arrangements with the Catholic Church –and recently with powerful leaders of Christian denominations– for the concession of protected areas or land and have even made large donations for the construction of cathedrals, churches and to protect areas where “blessed waters”, sacred cloaks and miraculous virgins have appeared, according to the Church.

Desecrating them would have raised comments, from the Vatican to the millions of devotees, and even from non believers who cherish diversity and respect for religious cults of all denominations, and everybody would have asked for the responsible to face consequences. In Mexico this is not happening strongly enough, because we still do not understand that an important part of the Mexican people as the Huichol or Wixarica have as much right as anyone else to demand freedom of worship and respect for their sacred sites. I ask President Felipe Calderon: Why did the government leased out the destruction, drought and desecration of an area as important as this one for the history of Mexico, covering three states of the Republic? Would you have done the same with sacred sites for Christian or Catholic groups? I know the answer, but just the same I have to raise it. Why the racism, disdain and destruction of a fertile area, holy, loved and respected by all Mexicans?

And while we’re at it, I wonder what the presidential candidates propose to face an ecological religious and historical abuse as this one.

If you feel outraged and want to help this cause, do it in: wirikuta/directory.html