By Tracy L. Barnett
The Esperanza Project
December 30, 2010
REAL DE CATORCE, San Luis Potosí, México – Rodolfo Cosio prays he’s not the last generation of a dying tradition.
As a jicarero, he is one of the keepers of the ancient pilgrimage of the Wixaritari or Huichol people of western Mexico. Each year he travels to the sacred sites of his ancestors in the five directions, offering up prayers and ceremonies that his people believe are essential to balancing the energies of an increasingly endangered planet.
Each year he explains to his children the importance of living a simple life, of maintaining the traditions, of fasting and pushing oneself far beyond the limits of comfort to keep the ceremonial fires burning as his ancestors have done for more than 1,000 years. He prays this won’t be the last year his people will receive the teachings of their sacred plant, hikuri, or peyote.
Just a few months ago, Cosio and other members of his community received the news that Wirikuta, the most important of their five pilgrimage sites in the state of San Luis Potosí, near the UNESCO-recognized site of Real de Catorce, has been concessioned to a Canadian mining company for a silver mine – despite the fact that the mining concessions lie within a federally protected cultural and natural preserve. The news was met at first with shock and disbelief.
“What they are talking about means the annihilation of our culture,” Cosio said. “It’s like a spiritual death for us.”
At the heart of Wirikuta is Leunar, or Cerro Quemado, the site where the sun rose for the first time, according to Huichol tradition. The region is home to several sacred springs, where their ancestors are buried and important ceremonies must be conducted each year. Here is the desert where they collect the sacred hikuri that they use for their prayers and ceremonies. And here will be the site of Mexico’s next resource battle, as the Wixaritari are not likely to let their ancient ceremonial site be mined without a struggle.
The Wixarika communities published a call for support from the international community in September. Since that time, they appointed AJAGI, the Jalisco Association in Support of Indigenous People, to lead their legal defense, and AJAGI has joined with several organizations throughout Mexico to create a coalition called the Frente en Defensa de Wirikuta, or the Wirikuta Defense Front. AJAGI has supported the Wixarika communities for two decades in reclaiming their lands from illegal invasions and in a wide range of development projects.
Those organizations are now working together on the legal challenge and are organizing to raise awareness about this threat and to build an international campaign to support the Huicholes in their efforts to protect their sacred sites.
“In the face of these enormous challenges that humanity is confronting right now with environmental destruction, climate change and industrial contamination, we cannot let economic ambition carry us to the extreme of destroying sacred places of such great spiritual, cultural and environmental value, even disregarding laws and the most elemental of human rights,” said Carlos Chávez, founder of AJAGI. “We must support this cause, which is the cause of all humanity, because to do otherwise would bring us one step closer to the cancelation of our future.”
In this excellent video interview, recorded at the recent Call of the Eagle – Vision Council gathering by Leticia Rigatti and Ryan Luckey of the Común Tierra project, Huichol marakame (medicine man) Julio Parra shares his thoughts about the proposed mine in Wirikuta. For a version with English subtitles and blog entry, and to learn more about Común Tierra, check out their website here.