In this EcoJustice Radio episode, we discuss the struggle to protect the sacred lands and culture of the Wixárika people, also known popularly as the Huichol, an indigenous group inhabiting the remote reaches of the Sierra Madre Occidental of Mexico. Our guests are Andrea Perez, Indigenous Environmental Justice Advocate, and Susana Valadez Director of the Huichol Center for Cultural Survival and Traditional Arts. Jessica Aldridge did the interview.
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An Ancient Culture and their Plant Medicine at Risk – EcoJustice Radio
Close to 21,000 Wixárika over the age of five live in a territory including the states of Jalisco, Durango and Nayarit. Their traditional beliefs and way of life have persisted through history despite the often destructive influences of Spanish, Catholic, Mexican Mestizo, and modern Western-industrial cultures.
Central to the ancient religion of the Wixárika is the yearly pilgrimage crossing the San Luis Potosí desert in the region of Real de Catorce to a sacred place called Wirikuta, the homeland of their ancestors. They would collect and ingest hikuri (the peyote cactus) as a tool to dialogue with the ancient spirits.
Traditionally, on their more or less 17-day walk to the sacred place they fasted, only eating fruits found along the way. Hence Wirikuta isn’t merely an area sacred place like a cave or rock-outcropping, Wirikuta is a sacred landscape. And the problem today is the landscape has been invaded, private properties have encroached on traditional paths, and 78 mining concessions have been given over to a Canadian conglomerate called First Majestic Silver Corporation in the area that includes Wirikuta. While this project does bring some jobs and economic development to the area, it drains and pollutes water resources and puts into question access to the homeland of their ancestors.
Andrea Perez is a 23 year old, Indigenous Environmental Scientist and Geospatial Analyst. Her desire for people to build personal relationships with Earth is moved by her approach to the Climate Crisis as an Indigenous Environmental Justice Advocate. Her ancestral lands are currently under threat by foreign countries trying to exploit the rich land for profit.
Facebook: Congreso Regional de Wirikuta
Nobel Peace Prize nominee and founder of the Huichol Center for Cultural Survival and Traditional Arts
Biography: UCLA anthropology grad student from the 1970s who married into the Huichol (Wixarika) culture and has since then spearheaded a humanitarian organization in the mountains of Mexcio. A Nobel Peace Prize nominee that has dedicated her life the well-being of the tribe and the protection of their people, sacred plants and cultural legacy
Web: www.thehuicholcenter.org, www.shopthehuicholcenter.org
Hosted by Jessica Aldridge from SoCal 350 and Adventures in Waste.
Engineer: Blake Lampkin
Executive Producer: Jack Eidt
Show Created by Mark and JP Morris
Music: Javier Kadry
Image art courtesy The Huichol Center for Cultural Survival and Traditional Arts
Updated 23 February 2021