Wixárikas Recuperate Lands and Advance in Defense of their Territories


By: Dante A. Saucedo, Regina López, Romeo LopCam y Xilonen Pérez of Subversiones

This past Friday, October 20th, community members of the Wixárika town of San Sebastián Teponahuaxtlán and its adjoining community, Tuxpan de Bolaños, Jalisco, recuperated more than 63 hectares of their territory, near the community of Huajimic, Nayarit.  The community members descended on foot upon the town of Ocota de la Sierra, to the property known as Piedra Bola, that had been invaded since the middle of the past century by cattlemen from the region.  

While we descended the slope, a community member told us a fragment of his vision of the history:

“My father told me that they were moving us to the mountains with the war, but all that is seen down there is ours.  We have our presidential resolution.  There are more than 10,000 hectares that are in dispute”

In effect, the Wixárika community of San Sebastián Teponahuaxtlán have reclaimed 10,000 hectares occupied by Nayarit local bosses.  Of those 10,000 hectares, only 182 have been returned last year and 63 more on this occasion.  Both by favorable resolutions of the Agrarian Tribunal of District 56 with headquarters in Tepic, Nayarit.  Although the authorities have tried to pass both resolutions as a sign of the good faith of the states, it is necessary to emphasize that it was only after years of communal struggle and organization that the results began to be seen.  

The decisions, on the other hand, are nothing else than the restitution of the historic right of the Wixárika people over their territory.  The recognition and titling of their communal property dates back to a presidential resolution of July 15th, 1953, and the collective ownership of more than 240,447 hectares that were recognized by a colonial title dated 1718.

Days before the recuperation, it was feared that a greater conflict could be unleashed, as on the past September 22nd, cattle ranchers blocked the access roads to the territory.  For this reason, the magistrate Aldo Saúl Muñoz López, in charge of enacting the decision, argued that he could not get there and suspended the land transfer, which angered the Wixárika community.  But this time, the history was different.

Unofficially, the rumor spread that the owner of the property was compensated with a little more than one million pesos by the government of Jalisco, for which he agreed to give up the land.  Rather than suggesting another showing of good faith, this act would indicate that the three levels of government intended to neutralize the conflict by passing over the organization of the town of San Sebastián Teponahuaxtlán.

An option that is already being applied, is to remain blind and deaf before the aggression that the ranchers and organized crime–that operate at ease in the region–exercise against the Wixárikas.  This past May, brothers Miguel and Agustin Vázquez Torres were assassinated in Tuxpan de Bolaños. The first was president of the commission of communal territory of San Sebastián Teponahuaxtlán and they were both members of the Wixárika Regional Council for the defense of Wirikuta.  In various spaces it has been publicly signalled that members of the Jalisco Cartel Nueva Generación, as the authors of those attacks.

Although the Huajimic road looked clear on the previous day, the first community members to arrive at the property heard a series of shots from an assault rifle with the purpose of intimidating the people that were arriving.  However, minus this event, everything developed according to plan.  The grand part of the time was spent waiting for the magisterial Aldo Saúl Muñoz López and his entourage, who were not found in the road to the territory and were seen coming and going, from afar, in their trucks.

Once they arrived, around 300 Wixárika community members formed a circle around their communal authorities: the president of the comisariado Santos Hernández Bautista, the secretary Tuli Wenima Marisela Serio Carrillo and the treasurer Leopoldo Ramos de la Cruz; those who received the property on behalf of the community.  For his part, the lawyer, Carlos González, commented that:

“It has been the organization of the community, the pressure that the Indigenous community of  San Sebastián Teponahuaxtlán and its neighboring town of Tuxpan de Bolaños, have been able to exercise in a legal and respectful manner, which has led to this partial fulfillment of justice”

He also made note that on January 16th, ten hearings are scheduled, that 30 lawsuits are in process and there are still 20 others pending.  For this, he demanded that the Federal Government and the government of Nayarit and Jalisco, to give a prompt solution to the demand of restitution of the Wixárikas lands.  Furthermore, he made a call to continue united and not let down the guard.

Those present were asked if they would forgive the magistrate for not having arrived to carry out the decision on the past September 22nd, to which a chorus of voices responded yes, explaining to the official that the community members had to react when the authorities are neglected.

After this brief ceremony, a provisional record of the transfer was drafted by hand, which during the week will be transcribed to a computer and signed by both the court authorities of the tribunal as well as the community.  While this happens, a family will move to the space, accompanied by a community guard of 30 people whose function is to protect them from possible harassment and agressions.

Much more than a simple legal exercise, what happened on October 22nd is another step in the difficult uphill path of the Wixárika people to integrally reconstitute their territory and, with it, their way of life.  For Marisela–the first woman to hold a communal position–the grandmothers and grandfathers that initiated and maintained the struggle still accompany them:

“Since I was a girl I enjoyed, I’ve been interested by, and I’ve always listened to how these lands are, how my grandparents have struggled, my uncles, my father.  They are already gone, they are no longer here, but they also struggled.  And now, I feel very proud that I too am in this”

To recuperate and populate this space implies, therefore, the reversal of a territorial and cultural displacement exercised during centuries, to habitat, again, the land that belongs to them.

Translated from the original here: