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Communities of Oaxaca celebrate “Guelaguetza” against Mining

The Guelaguetza is a cultural event that draws thousands of national and international tourists to Oaxaca, Mexico each July. This year, Indigenous Zapotec communities recuperated the popular, collective spirit of the event with the “Guelaguetza against Mining”, which celebrates 10 years of resistance to extractive projects in Oaxaca’s Central Valleys region. Read their statement (original in Spanish):

On July 22, 2019, Zapotec and farming communities of the Central Valleys of Oaxaca, represented by their agrarian and municipal authorities, gathered on the scenic shores of the Yuguvene Reservoir in the community of San Martin de los Cansecos. Under the shade of pine trees we shared native maize seeds, vegetables, bread, tortillas, toast, mezcal and flowers, common elements of our daily and collective life. We asked mother earth and Centéotl, the traditional goddess of corn, to continue giving us a long life through this vital crop, which has enabled our communities and territories to thrive for generations.

The Guelaguetza, as a celebration of Oaxaca’s diverse peoples, is a fundamental pillar that we must continue to strengthen. The Guelaguetza generates bonds of mutual support and encourages our collective commitment to the care and defense of our water, air, mountains and forests, which are under threat by extractive projects. As Indigenous communities, social movements and allied organizations, we reaffirm our commitment to defend Mother Earth by celebrating the Guelaguetza against Mining in commemoration of the State Day of Rebellion against Mining, established in 2016 in the community of San José de las Huertas.

The main threat to our communities is the federal government’s extractive and economic model, which violently imposes mining permits and projects. These projects strip our people not only of their natural riches but also of their cultural, spiritual and organizational riches which give them a sense of belonging to Mother Earth.

As the communities of Oaxaca’s Central Valleys region celebrate 10 years of resistance to mining, we reaffirm that we must defend our shared land not in an isolated manner but rather in an organized movement that implies a broad view of territory. As the Anti-Mining Front for a Future for All, we demand that the mining companies and the State respect the collective will of our communal assemblies, which have passed political, agrarian and municipal declarations prohibiting mining in our territories.

In Oaxaca, the industrial extraction of minerals is not only affecting the environment but also the social fabric of our communities. Mining projects have generated division between neighbors and family members and have led to threats, aggression and even the assassination of land defenders. Mining has modified our traditional Indigenous identity since the Spanish Conquest. Residents of the community of Santa Catarina Minas, which participates in the Front, still recall that prior to the imposition of colonial mining projects their town was called Santa Catalina Martir Xoxoquiapam.

In the same way, today, the Cuzcatlán Mining Company—subsidiary of the Canadian multinational Fortuna Silver Mines which operates without the consent of the people of San José del Progreso—also strips us of the “Guelaguetza” by organizing a seasonal celebration in the community, replete with fashion shows and a gastronomic fair. It is worth noting that the company is responsible for the contamination of the Coyote River and has monopolized 90,000 hectares of Indigenous and farming and, equivalent to ten times the size of the Oaxaca City.

The Guelaguetza also convenes us, as peoples in resistance to mining, to generate alternatives to this neoliberal capitalist model. In this spirit, the Guelaguetza against Mining included diverse cultural expressions, such as theater, music and traditional dances performed by youth and adults from the region and beyond. It is with poetry, song and movement that we gather today to strengthen the struggle and historical memory of our peoples in resistance.

We demand from federal and state authorities:

  • The cancellation of mining concessions issued within the territories of ejidos and communities of Tlacolula, Ocotlán and Ejutla.

  • We denounce the extractivist appropriation of our ancestral cultural practices that have been turned into folklore and stripped of their collective sense.

  • We demand respect for the right to self-determination of peoples and communities that have prohibited mining through their internal decision-making bodies.

  • We demand that Mexico’s Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources reject the request for Environmental Impact Studies for the Mining Project San José del Progreso II.

  • We demand the punishment of those responsible for the contamination of the Coyote River in Magdalena Ocotlán and the massive death of fish in the community of San José del Progreso, Ocotlán, Oaxaca.

  • We demand punishment for the material and intellectual authors of the murders of community defenders whose lives have been taken in the defense of the territory from mining projects in the Central Valleys of Oaxaca.

Signed by:

Communities: Frente NO a la Minería por un Futuro de Todas y de Todos, Communities of San Martín de los Cansecos, Monte del Toro, El Vergel y su Anexo Los Ocotes, Santa Catarina Minas, Magdalena Ocotlán, San Nicolás Yaxe, San Dionicio Ocotepec, Magdalena Teitipac; Coordinadora de Pueblos Unidos del Valle de Ocotlán – COPUVO, San Mateo Tepantepec, Peñoles, Etla, Santa María Alotepec, San José Cerro de las Huertas, La Guadalupe Trinidad Zaachila, San Isidro Huayapam.

Organizations: Colectivo Oaxaqueño en Defensa de los Territorios; Centro de Derechos Indígenas Flor y Canto A.C., Servicio para una Educación Alternativa A.C. – EDUCA, Servicios del Pueblo Mixe A.C.- SER, Tequio Jurídico A.C., Unión de Organizaciones de la Sierra Juárez A.C – UNOSJO, Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez A.C, Oxfam México, Servicio Internacional para la Paz – SIPAZ, Red de Defensoras y Defensores Comunitarios de los Pueblos de Oaxaca – REDECOM, Guardianes del Mar, Comité de Defensa Integral de Derechos Humanos “Gobixha” – CodigoDH, Mujeres y Medio Ambiente, Brigadas Unidas de Ocotlán de Morelos y Espacio Kruz.