Two recent documentary films chronicle the struggle of the Huichol or Wixárika People to protect their culture and spiritual connection with the ancestors, through the journey to Wirikuta, where peyote grows, now threatened by mining and development interests.
The Last Peyote Guardians
Huicholes: The Last Peyote Guardians is a story about the Wixárika People and their struggle to preserve Wirikuta, their most sacred territory and the land where the peyote grows, the traditional medicine that keeps alive the knowledge of this iconic people of Mexico.
We enter the Wixárika world accompanying the Ramírez, a typical family of the Sierra Madre, in the traditional pilgrimage to Wirikuta held every year to honor their spiritual tradition. But this time something is different. The “Heart of the World”, where everything is sacred, is in serious danger.
In 2010 the Mexican government granted concessions to several Canadian mining companies to explore and exploit the area, a natural reserve of 140,000 hectares of desert and hills in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosí, rich in gold, silver and other valuable minerals, and that according to the Huichol worldview, maintains the energy balance of the region and the whole planet.
The main company already established in the area promises to create hundreds of jobs for the needy people of a region that already has a history in mining activities, without causing pollution or affecting the indigenous sacred areas.
However, for the Wixárika People and their supporters (well known activists, artists and scientists), mining implies a mortal threat to the delicate biodiversity of this unique ecosystem, included on the list of Sacred Natural and Cultural Sites by the UNESCO, and therefore, to the survival of this ancient culture.
It’s an uneven and controversial fight, which stimulates the complex global debate between ancestral cultural values , the exploitation of nature and the inevitable development of peoples.
The Yurata Community’s Struggle Against Mining and the Journey to Wirikuta
The Yw’rata, or Yurata, is a Huichol community in the state of Nayarit, Mexico. The name Yurata means: that which is growing little by little. It has that name because we have been on this land we purchased barely four years and we are growing little by little.
The Yurata community has 65 inhabitants who are all family of the Mara’akame or healer, Eustolio Rivera Lemus, and his wife, Rosalia Lemus Rios.
We are indigenous Wixáritari or Huicholes, we live by our ways and customs, but we are in a very difficult situation for the development of our tradition and customs because there are many needs in the community.
Water, school and clinic are our most important priorities at the moment.
The Yurata community strives to survive being different and being what we are, an indigenous Huichol community, and to maintain our way of seeing the world. We work for our autonomy and like many other communities that are fighting to rescue their roots and traditions, we also fight to maintain and fortify the self-determination and sustainability of the Yurata.
We must provide for our basic needs and generate autonomy for our community and our customs. It is through our art that we see a way to share our vision of the world and generate economic resources for projects for the community. For that reason we established our cooperative of Huichol art.
Following is a film and statement from the people of Yurata and their struggle to protect their traditional pilgrimage to Wirikuta, on the spirit road to the ancestors.
Wixarika: From Yurata to Wirikuta, a Culture in Resistance (Spanish). Documental basado en las reflexiones y recuerdos de Don Custo, marakame wixarika de la pequeña comunidad de La Yurata, en Nayarit, de su mujer Machali y sus hijos, de su peregrinar a los sitios sagrados de Wirikuta y Aramara, heredando los valores y tradiciones huichol a sus hijos, a su familia, compartiendo sus enseñanzas.
STATEMENT FROM THE YURATA COMMUNITY – Yurata.org
That following the struggle initiated by the Wixáritari peoples, and organizations of civil society, we strive to share our knowledge with the general society.
FIRST. In consideration of the sacred sites that we have inherited from our ancestors, we followed the path walked by the four cardinal points; in this respectful and peaceful way we are defending what we think is our essence of life.
SECOND. That from this ceremony performed by the people present more spiritual ties that strengthen our way to the respect for cultural diversity is created.
THIRD. We reaffirm that the ancient knowledge inherited from our parents and elders is a legacy for humanity and the world.
FOURTH. Sacred sites for the Wixárika people serve as a fundament part of our spiritual formation, and therefore when projects are proposed that would harm our world view, that day would sadden our hearts and kill our existence.
FIFTH. We declare that this journey is transcendental and historic by the close cultural relationship that unites us because the spiritual path is guided by the same color of the deer corn and Jicuri [peyote cactus].
SIXTH. We shall continue to defend our sacred Wirikuta from mining concessions that seek to destroy our natural resources which are a form of our connection to ancestral life.
SEVENTH. We offer and request a treaty of mutual respect from our fellow citizens in the protected area of Wirikuta, as our spiritual struggle is not against their family and economic well-being because our cause is to protect the heritage of our ecosystem of Mother Earth.
EIGHTH. We request from our competent authorities greater sensitivity to the promotion of awareness of the projects through a consensual and informed consultation in the villages.
NINTH. Our appreciation and gratitude to all those individuals, organizations, civil society networks, universities, artists, intellectuals, independent media, international NGOs have shared solidarity with this cause, making us feel we are not alone in this struggle, we start together and arrive together close this cycle with a good ending.
TENTH. Finally we want the public to understand the Wixárika are united, standing together in this spiritual struggle, we will not let our heritage die and consequently our living connection with our ancestors and Mother Earth.
Teyunaytu Tak’umana Tetiyura.
Greening the Sacred Desert – Project Nuevo Mundo