Jimmy Roque Martinez
HAVANA TIMES – I have just returned from Mexico and I must confess that the intensity, beauty and pain of that sister nation has marked me.
One of the several things I did there was attend a workshop organized by the Latin American and Caribbean Anti-Military Network, which gathered activists from Chile, Brazil, Paraguay, Venezuela, Colombia, Bolivia and Mexico – all committed and wonderful people.
I had the opportunity to visit communities in the Gran Bosque Otomi-Mexica. It was a rather peculiar experience, as the first community welcomed us with food that was unknown to me. I tried atole and amaranth for the first time there.
We had to walk across the mountains several hours to reach the other community, where we were also received with plenty of local food. They had to wait for us for three hours owing to miscalculation on our end.
I was surprised by the profound knowledge about local plants that members of the community have. They were constantly showing us a different species used to prepare a remedy or dish. I brought some of these plants back with me. One is used for making infusions and another to treat colds.
What made the deepest impression in me was learning of the struggles led by these communities. I am specifically referring to communities in Huitzizilapan and Xochicuautla, where they are fighting plans to build a highway between Toluca and Naucalpan.
The highway would cut across the Otomi-Mexica forest, breaking up one of Mexico’s natural corridors and lungs, profaning holy sites and disrupting the customs and traditions of communities that have long inhabited the region.
The building of the highway would not only affect the culture of these communities, it would also disrupt the area’s ecological balance, bringing pollution with the development of infrastructure for maintenance and cars.
Invariably, they would then start to build real estate for Mexico’s rich, who would no doubt want to enjoy the beautiful forest, and the risk of contaminating the sources of water in the region would increase. The water in the region is very pure (I had some at the source).
The highway began to be built in 2007, without any previous consultation with the community, and, from the start, part of the community has been deliberately manipulated. The State has even handed out satellite antennas to bribe the locals.
With surprising honesty, one of the women in the community told us she was wary of our visit. Seeing foreigners show interest for her problems is not something common for her. Nevertheless, she conversed with us and, a short time later, we had earned her trust.
Currently, 22 locals who peacefully opposed the building of the highway are in prison. All the while, building continues, as do efforts by locals.
President Peña Nieto has given a greenlight to large corporations, such as Grupo Higa (in charge of the project) and Coca Cola, a company that has established itself throughout the country and taken hold of many sources of natural water.
The Mexican State presents these projects – not only the highway, but also the mines and nearly all exploitation of natural resources – as “social works”, but behind them we find only the interests of big capital.
Mining is another problem faced by different communities in Mexico. These practices have even led to the disappearance of the San Pedro hills in Potosi.
I hope the locals’ resistance and international support – which is dearly needed right now – will prevent the destruction of the ecological balance of the Otomi-Mexica region, and I hope these communities, whom I thank for the kindness they showed me, will be able to live in peace.