Battle for 'birthplace of the sun' in Mexico
A struggle for a UNESCO-recognised site unfolds between Canadian mining companies and the Wixarika people in Mexico.
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - To the native Wixarika of Mexico, better known as the Huicholes, the mountains of Catorce and the desert at their feet are the centre of the world, a temple of prayer on the level of the Vatican. To a pair of Canadian mining companies, it's a mother lode of gold and silver in a market hungry for both.
A battle for the UNESCO-recognised Wirikuta Natural and Cultural Ecological Reserve in the northern state of San Luis Potosí has been unfolding over the past year, since word got out that First Majestic Silver Corp. of Canada had been granted 22 mining concessions for more than 6,000 hectares, nearly 70 per cent of it within the reserve.
The context seems like a movie script, but it's deadly serious to the Wixarika, whose core cultural practice for more than a thousand years has consisted of regular pilgrimages to Wirikuta, the birthplace of the sun: a magical desert where the balance of life on Earth is maintained through a sacred cactus that carries the wisdom of a blue deer.
"It's as if they wanted to put a gas station in the middle of the Basilica," said Santos de la Cruz, referring to the most sacred shrine of Mexican Catholics, the Basilica of Guadalupe. De la Cruz is a traditional authority in his community of Bancos San Hipólito and also an attorney engaged in the legal battle to defend his people's lands and traditions.
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