The territory of Wirikuta, considered Natural and Cultural Reserve of Wirikuta with more than 350,000 acres, since 2004 is in the tentative list to become World Cultural and Natural Heritage Site of UNESCO.
This protection, established by the “Convention on the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage of UNESCO”, is what we ask for Wirikuta.
Why? Wirikuta is first and foremost a physical space, besides being a ritual and spiritual space. The continuity of its mountains, its semi-desert highland, its trails and landscapes, the soils where peyote grows, every stone, every spring, every tree, every plant and every being that inhabits it, all of this is the matter of its sacredness. Wirikuta is not an abstraction, not a custom, not a language nor a set of ritual practices, nor religion, not a myth or knowledge, although it is also all that. Wirikuta is, first of all, a material territory.
The protection as “World Cultural and Natural Heritage” is the only way to protect Wirikuta as a material territory, in addition, of course, to protecting the cultural practices of the Huichol people, regarding this as a matrix of life where everything is sacred and is an indivisible territory. Specified in Article 1 of that Convention to be considered “cultural heritage”, among other things: “sites: works of man or the combined works of man and nature as well as areas including archaeological sites which have an outstanding and universal value from the historical, aesthetic, ethnological or anthropological point of view.” And in its Article 2, establishes to be considered as natural heritage, among other things: “Geological and Physiographical formations and precisely delineated areas which constitute the habitat of species of animals and plants threatened, which have an outstanding and universal value from the aesthetic or scientific point of view”.
Due to its characteristics, Wirikuta may enter under this Convention as a World Heritage both Cultural and Natural, committing the signatory States to protect the material territory in question (Article 6: “States Parties are obliged, therefore and in accordance with the provisions of this Convention, to give their help in the identification, protection, conservation and revaluation of the cultural and natural heritage referred to in the Article 11, paragraphs 2 and 4, if requested by the State in whose territory it is situated.” And “3. Each of the States Parties to the present Convention obliges not to take any deliberate measure which might damage, directly or indirectly, the cultural and natural heritage referred to in Articles 1 and 2 located in the territory of other States Parties in this Convention.”)
However, there is another kind of protection that is being considered in the case of Wirikuta. It is the protection established by the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO.
The problem is that this Convention does not ensure the protection of Wirikuta from being destructed by mining, tomato industrial production and other mega holdings. As its name implies, this Convention only protects the “intangible” practices, but not the territory. In this field is the Mexican Food for example, or the Mariachi. The definition of “Intangible Heritage” within this Convention is established in this way: Article 2: The “intangible cultural heritage”, as defined in paragraph 1 above, manifests itself especially in the following fields: a) oral traditions and expressions including language as a vehicle of intangible cultural heritage; b) performing arts; c) social practices, rituals and festive events; d) knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe.
For all these considerations, it is evident that for the sake of protecting Wirikuta as a sacred territory, understood as a physical and material space of cultural and natural significance, we must aspire to obtain the recognition by UNESCO as “World Cultural and Natural Heritage of Humanity”. The recognition as “Intangible Heritage”, is not harmful in itself, is a beautiful recognition, but it should be understood that it does not protect the sacred territory of Wirikuta from the destruction caused by different mining and agro-industrial holdings on a very material level.