img-20160924-wa0007

Wixaritari Take a Stand: Indigenous community takes back its land from Mexican ranchers

Wixárika woman overlooks the community of San Sebastian Teponohuaxtlán "Wuaut+a" in the Mexican state of Jalisco. (Facebook/San Sebastian Teponohuaxtlán)
Wixárika woman overlooks the community of San Sebastian Teponohuaxtlán “Wuaut+a” in the Mexican state of Jalisco. (Facebook/San Sebastian Teponohuaxtlán)

Tracy L. Barnett
Intercontinental Cry

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.

Read the full story at Intercontinental Cry

Lukomir

War and peace merge in Bosnian landscape

By Tracy L. Barnett
for BBC Travel

“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.

Latin Bridge, Sarajevo (Tracy L Barnett photo)
Latin Bridge, Sarajevo (Tracy L Barnett photo)

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 Sorguc (Tracy L Barnett photo)
Mustafa Sorguc (Tracy L Barnett photo)

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.

Read the rest of the story at BBC.com.
ALB-to-RKS-Mini-Slider

Green tourism builds alternatives in post-war Bosnia

By Tracy L. Barnett
For BBC Travel

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.

Thierry Joubert
Thierry Joubert

“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.

In 2000 they launched their first tour with a daytrip to Lukomir. (See related story in BBC Travel)

“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.

Continue reading

4455224093_5f09e958ab_b

Court kicks the El Zapotillo Dam decision down the road

By Tracy L. Barnett
For El Daily Post
Photo courtesy International Rivers

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.

Read the rest of the story here

IMG_4408 (2)

San Antonio Missions preserve Native American history in Texas’ first World Heritage Site

IMG_4430

Story and photos by Tracy L. Barnett
For The Washington Post

Two weathered gravestones sit in a small, dusty rectangle in front of the grand Spanish church at the heart of the nation’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site, the San Antonio Missions. I’ve been to Mission San Jose many times — to attend the lively Mariachi Mass, to photograph its antique majesty, to reflect on the history of this place and its role in the settlement of the American Southwest. But this is the first time I’ve thought of it as a cemetery.

I’m seeing it through the eyes of two direct descendants of the missions’ original inhabitants, members of the Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation, whose ancestors inhabited this part of what is now Texas for thousands of years. Some 300 years ago, they helped to build these missions, and their descendants maintain a vital connection to them.

Last year the five missions, spread out over about 12 miles along the San Antonio River, received the coveted designation of World Heritage Site. Four of them are still active Catholic parishes, attended by some of the original Native American descendants; the fifth, Mission San Antonio de Valero, went on to become a military garrison — the legendary Alamo, now converted into a memorial to the battle fought there.

Ramón Vásquez, a straight-talking Texan with a dark ponytail, and the soft-spoken Jesús “Jesse” Reyes Jr., an anthropologist in a cowboy hat and bolo tie, are my guides today. Ramón, executive director of a nonprofit organization called the American Indians in Texas, has teamed up with Jesse to create Yanawana Mission Tours — named for the pre-Hispanic name for the San Antonio River — which offers an eye-opening perspective not just on the missions, but also on American history itself.

Read the rest of the story here

TT-Featured-Image

Remembering Yuka+ye: Wixarika teacher and activist left a storied legacy

By Tracy L. Barnett
For El Daily Post

If Wixarika, or Huichol, culture and language have a future, if the world view of this magical people persists, if their sacred lands remain a spiritual sanctuary, the tireless struggle of Jesús Lara Chivarra will not have been in vain. The death of this indigenous fighter leaves a void in the hearts of many.

Wixarika (Huichol) culture lost a champion when Yuka+ye died

Jesús Lara Chivarra and Cilau Valadez face the entrance to First Majestic Silver Corp. headquarters in Vancouver, demanding entrance to the annual stockholders meeting. All photos: Tracy L. Barnett

While most people were celebrating the holidays, others  from Canada to Mexico mourned the loss of a leading Wixarika scholar and teacher, a cultural ambassador and an indigenous activist whose work on behalf of indigenous unity spanned North America.

Yuka+ye Jesús Lara Chivarra’s path took him from the Huichol Sierra to the halls of power. He hobnobbed with rock stars and artists, he faced down police and corporate executives, he taught college students, film producers, attorneys, journalists – but he was always most at home in his village.

Continue reading

Ahuisculco-water

Victory is theirs! Ahuisculco villagers save their water supply

Tracy L. Barnett
for El Daily Post

It was one of those heartwarming victories that can renew your faith in the possibility of achieving justice peacefully. Mountain villagers in Ahuisculco, Jalisco, who had camped out for months in front of bulldozers were finally able to broker a land swap with the sugar company that was threatening their water supply. Here’s how they did it.

 

Church bells clanged, fireworks exploded and a brass band blared as the Virgin of Ahuisculco made her way down the streets of her town Wednesday, part of a procession of hundreds of villagers celebrating the victory of their fight to save their water supply.

After nearly three months camped out in front of  bulldozers that threatened their drinking water supply, the villagers celebrated the news of the project’s cancellation with a Mass and one final fiesta in the encampment as they prepared to disassemble it and resume their lives.
Continue reading

Esperanza Means Hope