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Nayarit Ranchers and Indigenous Huichols Urge Government to Solve Land Conflict

Tracy Barnett - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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December 21, 2016

HUICHOLES: THE LAST PEYOTE GUARDIANS is a story about the mystical Wixárika People, one of the last pre-Hispanic cultures in Latin America, and their ongoing struggle to preserve their sacred territory and home of the peyote cactus. (HuicholesFilm)

At issue are vast stretches of property that ranchers want for intensive agriculture and grazing, but the Huichols - also known by the traditional name of Wixarika - want it for subsistence farming and to practice their traditional ways of life.

Each side wants the Mexican government to settle the dispute, but so far it has failed to do so.

The Huichol people hold land grants dating back to the 1700s from the Spanish crown, but the ranchers hold titles from the Mexican government, dated before the decade-long national revolution that began in 1910.

Now, after a series of lawsuits were decided in favor of the Huichols, they are moving in to claim 10,500 hectares (nearly 26,000 acres) in the state of Nayarit, beginning with a 184-hectare (454-acre) hillside ranch.

Since September, hundreds of Huichols have organized themselves to take turns camping on the land and standing guard.

"This land is an inheritance that the ancestors left to us," said Luis Sánchez Carrillo, a Huichol elder who said he believes the land is necessary for upholding his people's traditions.

The Huichols object to the ranchers' intensive grazing and planting, and use of chemicals and deforestation practices. They prefer subsistence farming and reforestation efforts.

The Huichols also practice rituals to honor sacred sites such as the Cerro Cuate, a towering peak, where they leave offerings for ancestors and deities believed to reside there.

The conflict echoes the Standing Rock dispute in the U.S. state of North Dakota, where Native American activists and supporters have camped on federal property to demand a halt to an oil pipeline project, said Paul Liffman, a professor of anthropology at Rice University in Texas and a Huichol expert.

Indigenous groups have been making land claims more forcefully since a 1989 United Nations convention provided them with a legal framework, Liffman said.

"There's been a major revival of indigenous claims amidst the enhanced possibilities that were afforded by the ratification of Convention 169," he said. "Even ... the countries that did not sign onto that have felt the pressure."

Read the rest at Intercontinental Cry

  Check out Peyote People

  Check out The Huichol Center for Cultural Survival

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