Tag Archives: environment

Huicholes World Premiere

Interview with directors of Huicholes: The Last Peyote Guardians

Feature photo: Film director Hernán Vílchez introduces the film at its world premiere in Real de Catorce, in Wirikuta, the contested ceremonial territory of the Huichol people. (Credit: José Andrés Solórzano)

By Tracy L. Barnett
For Intercontinental Cry

FIRST OF TWO INTERVIEWS
See also: Interview with the Last Peyote Guardians: Marakame José Luis “Katira” Ramírez and son

When Argentine filmmaker Hernán Vílchez made his way up into the remote Wixarika community of San Andrés Cohamiata Tateikie high in the Western Sierra Madre of Mexico, he knew he would be entering another world. What he didn’t know was how deeply it would change his own life.

The movie tells the story of the Wixarika or Huichol people, one of the most intact precolonial people remaining in the Americas, and their battle to save the sacred site upon which their cosmovision depends from Canadian gold and silver mining operations. It’s a story emblematic of a horrifically destructive industry at work all over the world, and at the same time unique to this time and place and culture, and it’s a story that’s very much alive.

Huicholes: The Last Peyote Guardians, a beautiful and profound new film just released on demand at www.huicholesfilm.com, breaks new ground on many fronts. First there was the making of the film, which revolves around the pilgrimage of a single family, that of the marakame or shaman José Luis Ramírez, or Katira by his Wixarika name, to the sacred desert of Wirikuta and to the Cerro Quemado, the Birthplace of the Sun. Other films have been made exploring the colorful and deeply spiritual traditions of the Wixarika people, but none that has covered with this level of depth and professionalism the spiritual traditions of this people and the existential threat that culture now faces.

The film crew, accompanied by numerous members of the Ramírez family, has also pioneered a new approach to distribution in an era of self-publishing and artistic independence. Rather than premiering the film at a prestigious film festival and then concentrating their efforts on audiences and festivals in major cities, the crew premiered the film in a way that most resembles the ancient Wixarika pilgrimage, but in reverse. The first two showings were in the pilgrimage destination, the threatened sacred site itself, the remote mountain range and desert valley of Wirikuta. The next stop was a two-day caravan up into the even more remote Wixarika territories. Only then did they take their tour to overflow crowds in Mexico’s two largest cities, Guadalajara and Mexico City.

Now, due to the urgency of the message, they are trying to raise the money to go on tour with the movie: first, beginning in August, in South America, followed by Europe in September and October, and the U.S. and Canada in November.

I caught up with the film’s director, Hernán Vílchez, and producer, Paola Stefani, and Katira and his son Clemente at the producer’s home in Mexico City recently as they recovered from the eight-day marathon. Here is the interview.

Huicholes Real de Catorce
The iconic colonial church and silvery hills of Real de Catorce served as a backdrop for the world premiere of “Huicholes: The Last Peyote Guardians.” (Credit: José Andrés Solórzano)

Hernán: We’ve just recovered from the Five Colors of Corn and Five Functions movie release tour, and the Ramírez family is here with us. The world premiere of Huicholes: The Last Peyote Guardians was very well received and really exceeded our expectations. We’re feeling very grateful to the Mexican people but especially those who attended and also supported us. It’s been three and a half years since I began this work, almost as a mandate from the Elder’s Council of San Andrés Cohamiata. They asked me to do a film to tell the story of their struggle to save their most sacred site, and this is the result.

Tracy: Speaking of the movie release tour, let’s talk about that first. What stood out the most for you as you traveled with this film, what surprised you, in terms of the way it was received? In particular, the different reactions of the very different audiences you were able to reach?

Paola: For us it was very important to take the film in the first place to Real de Catorce and to the populations of the desert, and likewise to the Huichol territories in the mountains. Our first interest is to take the film to the people who are affected by this conflict by the mine in Wirikuta, and so the first would be those who live in the desert, and of course to the Wixaritari.

As Hernán already said, the first response was to have in attendance more than 500 people, in Real de Catorce as in Estación Catorce and in the Huichol territories. In Guadalajara, we could never have imagined that 800 people would show up and that more than half would be left outside. So obviously Wirikuta is a subject that interests many people. In Mexico City, where there was a last-minute change of venue and then it rained, about 2,500 people turned out – and what was very moving also is that the majority were young people.

Huicholes Mexico City
Despite a rainstorm and a last-minute change of venue, more than 2,500 turned out for the film’s outdoor screening in Mexico City. (Credit: José Andrés Solórzano)

In the case of the Guadalajara function, there was an enormous diversity in the kinds of people who came. I think the public response – it was a very quick tour, no? In eight days we did five events and traveled more than 2,700 kilometers. So we didn’t have the opportunity to stay for a long time in each place after the function but immediately after finishing the film what we most received were words of profound thanks; in Estación Catorce we were talking to kids between 16 and 18 years old, and they were saying, ‘We’ve always seen the Wixaritari with their pilgrimages and we’ve never really understood what it was about; now we understand.'”

In Real de Catorce we had the chance to speak with ejidatarios (collective landowners, mostly small farmers) from the mountains as well as the valley, and they were grateful to be able to have access to serious information, and also something that kept coming up in the comments was the importance of making it very clear that the Wixárika people have no intention of depriving anyone of their land or their ability to make a living. One of the comments too was that it was really touching for many inhabitants of Wirikuta that the Wixárika people were there, looking in their eyes concerning the effects of the mining on their territory and how it would affect the water.

In Mexico City the film ended with a light sprinkling of rain (considered as a benediction among the Wixárika people and their supporters) and applause and shouts of Viva Wirikuta, very moving as well. I think if it hadn’t rained as it did, I think we could have ended up with 5,000 people. It’s not the film, it’s the subject; I think the people are really sensitized to the subject of Wirikuta.

Read the full interview at Intercontinental Cry.
The film can be viewed online for $3.99 at huicholesfilm.com.
Anyone who is interested in organizing a film screening or supporting the effort may contact the director at hernanton@gmail.com.

Tercer Fuego

A New Humanity on the Move: 31 Years of Community in Teopantli Kalpulli

Abuelas ceiba
Abuelas at Opening Ceremony (Elena Flores photo)

Last weekend Teopantli Kalpulli held the first in what promises to be an ongoing series of alternative living festivals aimed at inspiring a movement in human consciousness. This tiny community of just 22 families has had an influence far beyond its size since it was founded as an ashram outside of Guadalajara, Mexico, in 1983. Since that time, its mission has evolved and expanded, but it has always remained true to its goal: Elevating the human spirit in a quest for a greater connection with the Divine.

Thirty-one years is a long time for an intentional community to survive, and this one has had its struggles. But this past weekend, founders and newcomers alike seemed to agree: It’s been well worth the sacrifice.

Niños

The program was an ambitious one: nearly 60 different activities, including panel discussions, presentations, workshops, ceremonies and walks. They included a full track of yoga classes led by Eymos Rivera and Veronica del Alba, including innovative approaches such as acro-yoga and Mayan yoga; a full track of ecological workshops and presentations led by Beatriz Cardenas and Erandi Dias Cevallos; another track for children, featuring the lively and creative crew of Alejandro Vela, a Guadalajara-based mental health professional and artist; and still another track focused on spiritual development, the heart and soul of Teopantli Kalpulli’s work.
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Call of Quetzalcoatl: Materializing the Vision

Closing circle

TEMICTLA, Mexico – If there were ever any doubt that Quetzalcoatl lives, that doubt was dispelled in one moist, glistening, luminous week in the heart of Mexico.

Here in Temictla, a sacred valley, a tiny ecovillage and spiritual retreat center on the edge of Chalmita, a pilgrimage destination to millions of people of diverse traditions, a far-flung family reunited under the light of a waxing moon in November of 2013. It’s a family of many nations and many traditions, a family whose multitudinous members have dedicated themselves heart and soul to the survival of humanity and of life on Earth.

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The Butterfly Effect: Julia Butterfly Hill in Magis

JuliaTreeHug-web_000

By Tracy L. Barnett
Magis Magazine
October 2011

“Fierce winds ripped huge branches off the thousand-year-old redwood, sending them crashing to the ground two hundred feet below. The upper platform, where I lived, rested in branches about 180 feet in the air … As the tree branches whipped around, they shredded the tarp that served as my shelter. Sleet and hail sliced through the tattered pieces of what used to be my roof and walls. Every new gust flipped the platform up into the air, threatening to hurl me over the edge.”
— Julia “Butterfly” Hill, The Legacy of Luna

It’s hard to say what was the most dramatic moment in that 738 days that Julia “Butterfly” Hill spent atop that platform in a redwood tree named Luna. Perhaps it was the day of that bitter storm and many others that ensued. Perhaps it was the day that a massive helicopter buzzed her tree and nearly blew her to her death with the 300 mph winds created by its updrafts. Perhaps it was the day that a fellow tree sitter had the rope he was standing on cut out from under him by “Climber Dan,” a logger hired by the timber companies to antagonize and remove intransigent activists from the trees they were trying to save from the loggers’ blades.
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Giving Thanks, Making Peace

camino

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – Thanksgiving day – I awoke this morning far from home and family but filled with a profound sense of gratitude.

Grateful for the sun that was just beginning to brighten the sky outside my window; grateful for the dear friends who have given me a home in this city of cities. Grateful for the health and the support of my family, who continue to love me faithfully despite my wandering ways.

Most of all on this day, I’m grateful for the path I’ve been given this year, a path that has led me from inspiration to inspiration as I traveled from Mexico to Argentina, seeking to learn from those who are each changing our world in their own way.
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Colombians changing the world with color and style

Pachamama

My time in Colombia was so full of amazing people and organizations that it didn’t leave me time to write as much as I would have liked. This roundup gives a little information about each of them, with hopes to come back to each of them with more information later.

Perhaps more than any country in Latin America, Colombia has suffered the pains born of a savagely unequal distribution of wealth and the gross distortions of humanity that can evolve such a system. Colombia is a land of extremes: beginning, as the entire story of Latin America does, with the Spanish conquest – but more recently, with La Violencia, the decade-long wave of violence unleashed by attempts at land reform in the 1940s and ’50s. This brutal backlash laid the groundwork for guerilla, military and paramilitary violence that wracked the country for four decades, laying the groundwork in turn for the narcotrafficking that accelerated the violence, until recently, to the point of paroxysm.
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A Mother’s Day greeting from the Racoons

Mother’s Day is celebrated here in Guatemala on the 10th of May, regardless of what day of the week it falls on. So today was the big day – and I do mean big.

It began at 6:30 am with a mobile loudspeaker blasting an upbeat blessing from the streets, mañanitas-style. That was followed by fireworks, and all day I continued to receive kisses and hugs and very sincere blessings just for the fact that I have a beautiful daughter – which is already blessing enough.
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