Huichol Route through the sacred sites to Huiricuta (Tatehuari Huajuye)
Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party.
Mexico (Latin America and the Caribbean)
Date of Submission: 06/12/2004
Submitted by: World Heritage Office (INAH) Mexico's National Commission for UNESCO (CONALMEX) Puebla 95, Col. R
Coordinates: 104° 10' West and 22°09' North 100° 46' West and 23° 56' North
The Huicholes, heirs of Mesoamerican societies, make up one of the native groups that have survived with great vitality in America thanks to the rough topography of their territories, to its decentralized political organization and to their ability to adapt to the historical surroundings reflected by their active participation in the history of the West of Mexico.
Nevertheless, the main strength of their cultural reproduction is the collective resolve to keep their ancestral traditions. An essential part of their cosmogony and identity is the pilgrimage through dozens of natural sacred sites, spread along a corridor of more than 800 kilometers that runs from the coast of the State of Nayarit to Huiricuta. These pilgrimage routes are what remain of the pre-Hispanic trade routes that joined the Pacific coast with the Gulf of Mexico.
Among them the route to Huiricuta, to the west, stands out because of the role it has played in the cultural survival of the Huicholes, the frequency with which it is used and the number of users it has. Along the route, deities and the spirits of their ancestors (for example the cacallari) inhabit, certain species of wild fauna (wolves and reindeer) or natural phenomena like the wind or clouds (the tateima) are found.
The Huicholes also identify some of these elements as “older brothers” or “teachers” (the tamatsi), who anoint the pilgrims providing them with wisdom and spiritual guidance, or with penalties and punishments. Deities and spirits dwell precisely in the sacred places, where according to the Huicholes they “utter their voices”.
In certain areas there are concentrations of sacred sites that make up scenes like Huiricuta and the Huichol territory itself. Natural sacred sites are found on islets, moist soil, rivers, lagoons, springs, forests, mountains or rock formations. These show engravings, and have spiritual, bio-geographic, social or historical meanings. Pilgrimage routes run along a variety of ecosystems whose cultural attributes are linked to agricultural periods, crop gathering or hunting as part of a ritual cycle.
The constellation of sanctuaries and traditional routes constitute the Huichol scenery as the cultural resonance of a community that, together with the ritual cycle, manifests itself as a continuous, dynamic and complex system.
The fundamental purpose of their pilgrimage is to follow their ancestor’s steps to ask for rain and well-being. Along the route, the shamans recreate and transmit the tribal legacy to the young by means of chants, story-telling and complicated rituals.
This legacy, in addition to shamanic, religious, or medical knowledge, includes the diversified use of ecosystems or the conservation of the genetic variety of the species they cultivate. This is why and considering that the Huichol language has no written form, pilgrimages perform a very particular function identified as an “itinerant Mesoamerican university”, main axis of a knowledge system based on nature, that gives the Huixáritari (Huicholes) their identity.
This pilgrimage is the only way in which the Mesoamerican legacy of this ancestral culture can be kept. During the last five centuries, the pilgrimage has had the double purpose of establishing contact and trade with the mestizo and European cultures that have radically transformed the natural and cultural resources of the Huichol territory. Consequently, the ritual indigenous time that looks for a deep identification of the human being with the natural processes has been able to survive within a utilitarian environment of rapid changes and depredation.
The route runs through two regions that are important to the world because of their contribution to biodiversity: the Sierra Madre Occidental and the Chihuahua Desert. The complex topography and the spectacular altitude ranges of the south of the Sierra Madre Occidental, allow the existence of a wide range of habitats that include tropical forests of deciduous and subdeciduous trees, spiny forests, thickets and grasslands, gallery forests, and pine forests –oak trees.
The Chihuahua Desert is one of the three semi-desert areas biologically richer in the world. The habitats included in the southeast of this region such as xerophillus vegetation, thickets, grasslands and pine forests, lodge a notable wealth as far as diversity and endemicity.
Unesco (United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization) along with the State of San Luis Potosi´s Natural Protection act has recognized the area of this pilgrimage land of 450 by 173 kilometers as being a cultural route, with important flora and fauna and animal species which live exclusively in the area. It became protected land under Unesco on October 27th, 2000 and on June 9, 2001 was declared a National Sacred Site.
Although this land is under legal protection, a Canadian Mining Company called “First Majestic Silver Corp” has claimed to have purchased a concession of old mines, on November 13th, 2009 with 80% of their interest laying in protected land. Part of their land claim includes half of the Huichol Holy Mountain it`s self as well the town of Real de Catorce and La Luz as well as 11 other small villages. These towns are historic mining towns of Mexico that were abandoned in the early 1900`s and have now become recognized as historical monumental sites of the country. The ancient buildings, roads, churches as well as mine sites have been preserved and cared for by the local population for over 100 years and has provided the only industries in the area, tourism and film sets. Over the years Real de Catorce has become famous around the globe and has recently be given the title of “Magic Town of Mexico” for it`s preservation of historical infrastructures and it`s attraction to spiritual seekers as well artists, catholic pilgrims, geologists and tourists in general.
First Majestic Silver Corp. Lays claim to this land by purchasing “Normabec”, another Canadian Company who purchased the land prior to the protection laws being put in place. They have managed to get a permit for exploratory mining, and state they are planning to launch a program of aggressive exploration and excavation in the 2nd half of 2010”. The company uses a method of open pit mining and lixiviation through the flotation in cyanide. This chemical is highly polluting and deadly requiring only 0.2 of a gram to kill a person (this is what the Nazi`s used in the 2 World War genocide in the deadly showers in concentration camps). Mines such as that which First Majestic Silver Corp plan to open require tones of Cyanide each day to operate. The waste is either released into rivers or lakes or put into pits where it is allowed to dissolve through the soil.
In the case of this “Real de Catorce Project” (as it is called by First Majestic) the intention is to use the local water supply, which is the only source for the region, for it`s lixiviation process.
This will require the same quantity of water each hour which a family will use in 20 years. Additionally the waste toxins will be sent either down the river vein to the lower communities or through the soil taking directly to the Huichol Holy Mountain and seriously compromising the protected plant and animal species. It will dislodge contaminants into the soil and water systems, alter ecosystems, will interrupt, refill, dry, and divert hydraulic streams; will substantially alter the landscape and geologic cuts, and will provoke serious consequences for the local inhabitants.
While the Huichol people, inhabitants of Real de Catorce and surrounding communities as well as concerned people around the world are working to have the Mexican Government enforce the already existing laws which protect this land, it is also important as citizens of the world that we take a stand against this kind of blatant dis-respect not only for United Nations Protection Laws but also for that of Native Sacred Lands and Human Rights around the world. There are very few places left in this world with the rich and continuing history of Aboriginal traditions and we must do all within our power to protect and keep these areas for this and future generations. Thousands of years of history and tradition are on the brink of being stripped from the Huichol people in the name of a small foreign company who has never lived on or with this land, who wish to exploit and abuse it for the financial gain of a few.
Real de Catorce can be seen online at:
http://www.realdecatorce.net/ (also on google earth).
The President of First Majestic Silver Corporation is Keith Neumeyer and the Cheif Operating Officer is Ramon Davilla.
First Majestic Silver
925 West Georgia St.
Canada V6C 3L2
Toll Free: 1.866.529.2807
More information about the Real de Catorce project can be found at: http://www.firstmajestic.com/s/RealDeCatorce.asp
Further information about the impacts of cyanide: