Above: Juventino Carrillo, a former authority of the Huichol community of San Sebastian Teponahuaxtlán, discusses the long history of the land disputes as his wife, Marta Torres, sews the family’s traditional clothing. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Nelson Denman
LA YESCA, Mexico, Dec 19 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Audelina Villagrana has run her ranch in Mexico’s Western Sierra Madre mountains on her own since the death of her husband 23 years ago, herding livestock, hiring local Huichol people and even raising a young Huichol boy like a son. Now she and other ranchers are locked in tense confrontation with their indigenous neighbors over land that has been in contention for centuries. A series of recent legal decisions has brought the dispute to a boiling point.
“It’s a strange situation, when on the one hand I share my home with them, and on the other, they’re suing me for my land,” Villagrana told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from her terracotta-tiled farmhouse in the mesquite-studded hills. Continue reading →
STEELE, N.D., Dec 8 – We only made it 70 miles from Oceti Sakowin Camp in Standing Rock when a whiteout and fierce winds forced us to seek refuge in this tiny town, where the Kidder County Ambulance District and a wonderful EMT nurse named Mona Thompson took us in like a mother. Mona, we soon learned, has led her volunteer emergency services in manning the front lines on the reservation side after the attacks on the Water Protectors from the paid law enforcement personnel of neighboring Morton County. This improvised emergency shelter is filled with people, many of them coming from or going to Standing Rock, and were up until all hours talking about this historic phenomenon and how it has impacted them and the nation. I will share more about Mona and her story soon.
As for myself I am moved more deeply than words can express. To see the quiet resolve on the part of our Native brothers and sisters, to see their compassion for us in the face of our distress – both physical, for the bitter cold, and emotional, for the bitter truths we are facing. Not for the first time but for the strongest time, face to face with those that our government has deceived and betrayed time after time over the past 250 years, and it keeps going on.
October 26 must have been a very special day at the level of the conjunction of the planets and the forces of Nature.
Knocking on the doors of the temple where human laws are made, we had the privilege of being witnesses and actors in setting out a very important proposal that our collective Forum on the Rights of Mother Earth gave birth to and delivered in the Casona Xicoténcatl, headquarters of the press conferences being carried out to present citizens’ demands to present to members of the legislature who are preparing the new Constitution of Mexico City.
A contingent of at least 1,000 indigenous Wixárika (Huichol) people in the Western Sierra Madre are gearing up to take back their lands after a legal decision in a decade-long land dispute with neighboring ranchers who have held the land for more than a century.
Ranchers who have been in possession of the 10,000 hectares in question for generations say the seizure is unlawful and that they will not hand over the land — setting the scene for a showdown that observers fear may end in violence.
“This is the bridge where the war started,” said Mustafa as we crossed over the sparkling Miljacka River that divides the Bosnian city of Sarajevo.
I had walked over this bridge before, just to admire the view, but had not realised its significance: on the afternoon of 6 April 1992, this is where snipers mowed down two young women as they joined a peace march. Multi-ethnic strife disintegrated into full-blown war as Serbs laid siege to Sarajevo and began killing Muslims and Croats as they tried to carve out a Serb Republic.
It was just one more marker in a picturesque city engraved with such dark memories. And on this day, it was the starting point of my journey with a man, who like most Bosnians, has spent the two decades since the war reconstructing his peace.
Mustafa, my guide, was only 17 when the Bosnian War began, but he still defended his Sarajevo neighbourhood when Serbian forces began shelling his apartment building. A Bosniak, or Bosnian Muslim, he fought alongside the Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs of Sarajevo against Serbian nationalists who wanted to take over all these lands to create a Greater Serbia.
With his blue eyes, close-cropped hair and Balkan good looks, he could be his own action hero. He studied to be a dentist after the war, but the cost of setting up his practice was prohibitive. Instead, he became a tour guide who makes his living sharing the stories of war and the places of peace that his exquisite country has to offer.
During the war, American Tim Clancy and Dutchman Thierry Joubert got to know each other in working together in the refugee centers. The two of them were equally inspired by the stunning landscapes of Bosnia’s Dinaric Alps. On a trip to the highland village of Lukomir in 1998, three years after the war had ended, Joubert began to think about starting a tourism organization in the mountains and highland villages; Clancy, it turned out, had been thinking along the same lines.
“To put it into perspective, nobody looked at Bosnia in those days as a tourism destination at all,” recalls Joubert. “Most of the World Bank-type funders were looking at it as a site for heavy industry. But we were saying Bosnia has more in terms of tourism than people realize.”
The other challenge, Joubert said, was to somehow help stem the flow of people leaving the rural areas for better opportunities, and to provide an alternative vision that would keep tat least some of them on the land and connected with their traditional culture. Most villagers made their living through subsistence farming and sheep herding. A steady stream of tourists would provide another way to supplement their income.
“The Bosnian population was like, ‘What? Why would we want to go there?’” Tourism or daytrips never existed before the war, he explained; most of the tourism was in the winter because of the Olympics, or there were mountaineering clubs that were limited in scope, and mass buses taking people to the Catholic pilgrimage site of Medjugorje.
Farmers and ranchers desperate to stop construction of an aqueduct across their lands in Jalisco must bide their time for resolution. The Supreme Court removed the case from its docket, deciding it needed more time to study the particulars of the complicated El Zapotillo dam case. The decision could impact similar water projects, but the specifics of this case deserve a closer look.
The Mexican Supreme Court has postponed a hearing on a case that could have repercussions not only for the aqueduct of the controversial El Zapotillo Dam project in Jalisco, but other contentious water projects, as well.
These include the Independence Aqueduct carrying water from the Yaqui territories in the north to supply the thirsty industrial city of Hermosillo, and Monterrey VI, a $50 billion-peso project carrying water from the Huasteca region to Monterrey.
The Court was scheduled to hear arguments on an appeal of the El Zapotillo case by the San Juan de los Lagos Ranchers Association, a group of 800 farmers in the Los Altos region of Jalisco. The plaintiffs argue that a planned 140-kilometer aqueduct that would carry water from the dam across their farm and ranch land to León, Guanajuato, will violate their rights.
The ranchers are asking that the project be suspended under the Precautionary Principle, as laid out in the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. Any ruling based on this provision would set precedent with regard to large-scale water projects vs. more environmentally friendly water management methodologies.