Writers protest mining in the land of Huichol People

Letter to the President of Mexico

December 1, 2011


Mexico may be the world’s largest silver producing country, but not all that shines is silver. Countries also shine in their myths and rites, their traditions and culture, and the Huichol (or Wixáritari, in their own language) have shone in Mexico and the world by preserving their unique spiritual identity over time. The annual pilgrimage made by the Wixáritari across the sacred desert landscape of Wirikuta to Cerro Quemado, the mountain where they believe the sun was born, is internationally famous.

In November 2009 the Canadian mining company First Majestic Silver bought 22 mining concessions in the Real de Catorce area, in the state of San Luis Potosi. These concessions will allow First Majestic Silver to carry out what the company describes as “an aggressive drilling and exploration program” on 6,327 hectares of land.

The problem is that this part of San Luis Potosi lies in the middle of the Wirikuta Natural Reserve. For centuries Huichol men, women and children have made their way here from communities in the western Sierra Madre mountains in the states of Jalisco, Nayarit, Durango and Zacatecas to carry out their religious ceremonies, accompanied and guided by the mara’akate, their shaman-priests.

Handing over the sacred territory of the Huichols to First Majestic Silver to be mined for its own financial gain not only betrays the colonial mentality of the politicians and bureaucrats responsible for selling silver, Mexico’s most emblematic mineral resource, to foreign companies but, far worse, will entail the desecration of the ancestral lands of the Wixáritari.

First Majestic Silver operates exclusively in Mexico, at its La Parrilla, San Martin and La Encantada mines, and expects to produce seven and a half million ounces of silver in Mexico during 2011.

Minera Golodrina, a Mexican subsidiary of the Canadian-based multinational Lake Shore Gold Corp, plans to dig an open-pit gold mine in the sacrosanct core zone of the Wirikuta Reserve, extracting gold using the highly toxic cyanide process. Both mining operations would endanger the scarce local water supply.

When many people speak of a Mexico that is greater and more enduring than the current climate of violence, they are thinking of its history and culture, and mention of Wirikuta brings to mind an ethnic group which is profoundly Mexican and respected the world over for its authenticity and creativity, whereas mention of First Majestic Silver and Lake Shore Gold Corp brings to mind rapacity and colonialism.

We ask President Felipe Calderón --- who witnessed the signing of the Huaxa Manaka Pact three years ago by the governors of five states who vowed to preserve the sacred territory of the Wixárika people --- to cancel the mining concessions granted to both Canadian companies. We hope that President Calderón will not go down in history as the man who authorized the destruction of Wirikuta and its holy ceremonial sites.


MEXICO :Homero Aridjis, Elena Poniatowska, Francisco Toledo, Gabriel Orozco, Jean Meyer, Nicolás Echevarría, Juan Villoro, Rubén Gallo, Manuel Felguérez, Gilberto Aceves Navarro, Lydia Cacho, Jorge Zepeda Patterson, Coral Bracho, Bárbara Jacobs, Vicente Rojo, Gabriel Weisz, Ana Pellicer, Roger von Gunten, Chloe Aridjis, Eva Aridjis, Laureana Toledo, Miguel Calderón, Rogelio Cuéllar, Javier Aranda, Guillermo Fadanelli, Tedi López Mills, Elsa Cross, Beatriz Rojas, Pablo Meyer, Marina Meyer, Matías Meyer, Jerónimo López/ Dr. Lakra, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Damián Ortega, Rosa Velasco, Gabriel Kuri, Ximena Cuevas, Eduardo Hurtado, Yoshua Okón, José Luis Paredes Pacho, Monica Manzutto, José Kuri, Isadora Hastings García, Natalia Toledo, Federico Campbell

FRANCE: Yves Bonnefoy, J. M. G. Le Clézio, Jean-Clarence Lambert, Gérard Titus-Carmel, Georgiana Colville, Pascale Montandon

SWEDEN: Tomas Tranströmer, Kjell Espmark, Per Wästberg, Lasse Söderberg

TURKEY: Orhan Pamuk

UNITED STATES: Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Paul Auster, Peter Matthiessen, Rita Dove, Junot Díaz (& Dominican Republic), Siri Hustvedt, Nicole Krauss, Jonathan Safran Foer, Robert Darnton, Michael Scammell, Edward Hirsch, Pete Hamill, Tom Hayden, Jerome Rothenberg, Terry Tempest Williams, Francisco Goldman, Bill McKibben, Deirdre Bair, Francine Prose, Molly Moore, Eliot Weinberger, Robert Hass, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Ross Gelbspan, Robert Glenn Ketchum, Dr. Lincoln Brower, Betty Aridjis, Michael Palmer, Clayton Eshleman, Askold Melnyczuk, Amory Lovins, Charles Bernstein, Alan Weisman, Amy Evans McClure, Michael McClure, Anthony DePalma, Grace Schulman, Scott Slovic, Serge Dedina, Dick Russell, Eric Lax, Edmund Keeley, Mimi Gross, A. E. Stallings, James Metcalf (&Mexico), Ilan Stavans (&USA), Janet Brody Esser, Elizabeth Ferber

CANADA: Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, John Ralston Saul, Linda Spalding, Graeme Gibson, Terence Gower, George McWhirter (&Northern Ireland)

UNITED KINGDOM: Simon Schama, Jonathon Porritt, Ali Smith, Simon Winchester, Alan Riding, Anne Stevenson, Darian Leader, Lisa Appignanesi, Cornelia Parker, Rosie Boycott, Michael Schmidt, Mary Horlock, James Lasdun, Ruth Fainlight, Anthony Rudolf, Devorah Baum, Josh Appignanesi

BELGIUM: Pierre Alechinsky, Ivan Alechine, Wim Delvoye

NIGERIA: Chinua Achebe

CHILE: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Ariel Dorfman, José María Memet

RUMANIA: Norman Manea (&USA)

SPAIN: Carlos Garcia Gual, Frederic Amat

CUBA: Zoé Valdés (&France)

INDIA: Kiran Desai, Meena Alexander

SOUTH AFRICA: Breyten Breytenbach

COLOMBIA: Fernando Rendón, Cecilia Balcazar, Angela García

NORWAY: Eugene Schoulgin

THE NETHERLANDS: Laurens van Krevelen

CYPRUS: Lily Michaelides, Niki Marangou, Christos Hadjipapas

ITALY: Giuseppe Bellini, Sebastiano Grasso, Patrizia Spinato, Franca Tiberto

NICARAGUA: Sergio Ramírez, Francisco de Asís Fernández

PANAMA: Gloria Guardia (&Nicaragua)

JAPAN: Satoko Tamura

MAURITIUS: Ananda Devi

BRAZIL: Ledo Ivo

URUGUAY: Carlos Fazio (&Mexico)

GREECE: Vassilis Vassilikos, Anastassis Vistonitis, Ersi Sotiropoulos, Dino Siotis, Yorgos Rouvalis

AUSTRIA: Peter Stephan Jungk (&USA)

GERMANY: Helga von Kügelgen, Klaus Kropfinger, Fred Viebahn, Tobías Burghardt, Jona Burghardt

BANGLADESH: Hasna Jasimuddin Moudud

ARGENTINA: Octavio Prenz

SLOVENIA: Tomas Salamun, Gregor Podlogar