Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!



For two days, Capulalpam de la Sierra Ju?rez in Oaxaca turned into a modern Babel of land disputes.

The town was the site of the Third National Forum Building Resistance to Protect our Land, May 20 and 21, and the indigenous participants spoke a variety of different languages: Mixe, Zapotec, Mextec, Chatino, Cuicatec and Huichol (Wixarika) as well as the languages of the foreign guests.

The organizers said the goal of the event was, “a critical analysis of the current model of development, and the compilation of a list of demands so as to allow the communities to form a united front in the defense of their lands.” Villages, communities and organizations from all parts of Oaxaca and all over the country came together with the common goal of protecting their land against politicians and projects that threaten their natural resources.

Their diversity was not only reflected in the mix of languages during the forum. The community organizations in attendance had different ideologies: Zapatista sympathizers, The Other Campaign, Christians in supports of popular resistance, Communist party militants, NGO activists, members of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO), anarchists and scientists. At another time, these differences might have prevented communication during any kind of debate. But in this case, neither language nor political affiliation got in the way of their exchanging ideas and reaching a consensus. The basic tenet was to listen.

Rurik Hern?ndez, a member of the San Javier Front Against Mining, explained the situation in his community, “A mineral company came to Mt. San Pedro, in San Luis Potos?, and started to create division in the community, offering people houses and money. The company owners were very aware that if a city is built on mineral deposits, it has to move. They take the minerals and leave us with death.”

The Santiago Lachiguiri authorities, who were struggling to recoup the rights to their at-risk land from the so-called “political greens” of the federal government, took the microphone to announce, “We’re not going to let anyone take away our rights or our community laws.”

Representing the Coordinating Comittee for the Defense of Tlacolula’s Natural Resources, a women denounced SEMARNAT and conagua for handing out permits to a real estate company to tap the wells and supply water to more than 5,000 houses. According to the woman, the Tlaculula Valley population has been left without any water because of this act of political irresponsibility.

Nadia Ch?vez, a young woman from Bolivia, called the government before Evo Morales’ traitorous and firmly supported the fight in Oaxaca.

There was a noticeable presence of young people at the gathering, many of them environmental science students from the University of Sierra Ju?rez. They were worried about the future of their town. “We can’t allow global standards of development,” said university student Andr?s. “Our communities have a collective approach where the well-being of everyone is what matters.”

The Marakame’s Dream and Mexican Mining

They say that a Marakame ? the name for the Wix?rika priests ? had a very vivid and prescient dream. The Marakame dreamed that his intestines were being pulled out. The people of the San Luis Potos? area associated the dream with the exploitation of the mines that were taking place in the region.

“The earth suffers because they’re pulling out her intestines, just like in the shaman’s dream.”

These are some of the tales that the participants told around the stove where they were preparing food for the more than 300 participants.

It was no coincidence that this event took place in Capulalpam, as media coverage recently revealed that the federal government had granted the Canadian mining company Continuum Resources concessions to silver and gold deposits in a 50,000 hectare area in this Zapotec region. The company then transferred those rights to the Sundance Company.

Capulalpam is an example of what is happening all over Mexico. Hernandez, from the San Javier Front Against Mining commented: “They’re selling off the country, not as a maquiladora site anymore but as a mining center, and they’re acting as if Oaxaca is an important national resource for mining.” And he added, “The petrochemical industry isn’t the priority any more in this country, it’s the mining industry, so the secretaries of economy and energy are crying to the four winds, ‘come, come and invest, we have minerals in Mexico.'”

The conference attendees had harsh words for the state government of Gabino Cue, who took power Dec. 1, 2010 after 80 years of Institutional Revolutionary Party control. “It’s the same nonsense, just in a different guise,” charged Jaime Jim?nez from the coastal region of the Paso de la Reina cooperative and adviser to the Counsel of Communities United in Defense of Rio Verde (COPUDEVER). “Gabino Cu? knows what our problems are, he committed to help us; we supported the opposition Alliance and now there’s no action, now they don’t remember anything, now the government is mute.”

The Secretary for Indigenous Affairs Adelfo Regino Montes arrived on the second day of the event. Regino is very sensitive to indigenous problems, which he became familiar with after having been part of the state’s movement for indigenous rights. He sat in as one of the regular participants. There were comments among the forum participants: “In the past, government officials were received with honors and seated at a special table; perhaps times have changed, and relationships between the government and indigenous people have changed too.”

Protecting Capulalpam’s Sacred Land

The high point of the forum was when Capulalpam city officials formally designated their sacred site, the “Y” ? also known locally as The Sabines ? as a “Community Historical Site for Recharging Aquifers.” The decree means that these lands will be protected at least at the local level and could be seen as a first step toward protecting territorial autonomy. The authorities stated in the decree: “This is the place where our history as an indigenous Zapotec people lives and where we have lived together for generations along with the water, the mountains and nature.”

This decree was followed by a religious procession that began at the temple of San Mateo and went in the direction of The Sabines. The residents in the Santa Catarina Lachatao neighborhood initiated the religious ritual. Men and women, dressed in traditional outfits, carrying a banner to the Virgin Mary along with three crucifixes, flowers, candles and music led the march up a long incline toward the holy site. Salvador Aquino explained that this is the traditional ritual to pray for rain.

The ceremony was conducted beside a spring, under the shade of a huge tree. After the ritual, where a group of women prayed and offered food to mother earth, the president of Capulalpam, N?stor Baltasar Hern?ndez, formally opened a session of the city council and had the ordinance read: “We announce to all the communities of Sierra Ju?rez, to society in general and to the state and federal governments in particular, that Capulalpam’s inheritance will not be subjected to any kind of exploitation.” Then the plaque was unveiled and the event concluded with a group celebration with mescal and tortillas

Capulalpam has turned into a center of resistence. A village was settled here about 800 years ago; today the same indigenous people lay claim to what is theirs and has never ceased to be so. The indigenous people have created this place on this land and they are not about to give it up.

Miguel ?ngel V?squez works with Oaxaca-based Alternative Education Services and is a collaborator with the Americas Program.

Translated by Frances Fernandes

A D Hemming is a pseudonym this writer uses on a regular basis.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 26, 2016
John W. Whitehead
A Deep State of Mind: America’s Shadow Government and Its Silent Coup
Eric Draitser
Dear Liberals: Trump is Right
Anthony Tarrant
On the Unbearable Lightness of Whiteness
Mark Weisbrot
The Most Dangerous Place in the World: US Pours in Money, as Blood Flows in Honduras
Chris Welzenbach
The Establishment and the Chattering Hack: a Response to Nicholas Lemann
Luke O'Brien
The Churchill Thing: Some Big Words About Trump and Some Other Chap
Sabia Rigby
In the “Jungle:” Report from the Refugee Camp in Calais, France
Linn Washington Jr.
Pot Decriminalization Yields $9-million in Savings for Philadelphia
Pepe Escobar
“America has lost” in the Philippines
Pauline Murphy
Political Feminism: the Legacy of Victoria Woodhull
Lizzie Maldonado
The Burdens of World War III
David Swanson
Slavery Was Abolished
Thomas Mountain
Preventing Cultural Genocide with the Mother Tongue Policy in Eritrea
Colin Todhunter
Agrochemicals And The Cesspool Of Corruption: Dr. Mason Writes To The US EPA
October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation Wasted $32.2 Million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future