Water Rights Activists Organize in Mexico

Mexico is about to enter the worst months of its dry seasons. Fifteen of 32States are under extreme stress because they use more water than there is.

Water rights activists use the term “Day Zero” for the date when a region will lack sufficient water to meet basic needs. Mexico is near this point in large part. MonterreyAnd Nuevo LeonMexico City has two months’ worth of water reserves and England, two months. For comparison’s sake, England has been described as being in the “jaws of death” because its Day Zero is 25Years away.

Activists with the Indigenous Caravan for Water and Life argue that it is multinational corporations, often with governmental support, that are responsible for causing climate change, environmental damage and water shortages — rather than the regular dry season.

“It’s not a drought, it’s looting” has been one of the main chants of the month-long caravan which kicked off in Puebla on March 22, and will run until April 24.

The caravan, one of the biggest demonstrations in recent years of Indigenous people’s defense of the environment, will cover nine states and visit Indigenous communities across Mexico each day for 34 days. These communities are standing up to their environmental rights. Most are confronting megaprojects, where manufacturing, mining, extractive and commercial companies — often from the U.S. or Europe – have built massive amounts of infrastructure, such as hydroelectric plants and gas pipelines, to plunder the communities of their water and energy resources.

In Puebla state alone, hundreds of corporations have licenses to build or maintain such infrastructure, which many local residents refer to as “death projects” because they threaten the existence of nearby communities. Nearby farmers are left without water because of the hydroelectric plants built to supply mines with electricity. Fracking zones and gas pipelines exist. Most infrastructure supporting them is privately owned. There is no community consultation and corporate interests are paramount. Areas with the highest concentration of such projects, such as Serdán and northern Puebla state, also have the highestThere are many levels of organized crime.

Mexico is home to the highestLatin America’s country with the highest carbon emissions from electricity is Cuautlancingo, Puebla. Cuautlancingo (Puebla), is where Volkswagen, and the industrial park Finsa are, is an example. 80 percentIndustrial electricity is the largest user of electricity. Among the major users of electricity are companies like Dr. Pepper, Ternium and Heineken, as well as Volkswagen and Ternium. water in Puebla state.

Indigenous people are participating in a month-long caravan, traveling around the country and marching and meeting in multiple towns and cities a day, in order to denounce environmental destruction by transnationals.
To protest the destruction of the environment by transnationals, Indigenous people are taking part in a month-long caravan. They travel around the country marching and meeting in multiple cities each day.
Representative of the National Indigenous Council, Marichuy.
Marichuy is a representative of the National Indigenous Council.
A meeting of local communities and the caravan in Ahuacatlán on March 26.
A meeting of local communities and the caravan in Ahuacatlán on March 26.

These mega projects disproportionately affect Indigenous people, said María de Jesús Patricio, widely known as Marichuy, who is a spokesperson for the National Indigenous Council (CNI) and the first female Indigenous presidential hopeful in the country.

From the way Indigenous people farm, to the deterioration of their lands, to the stealing and contamination of their water, the mega projects affect “what they eat, and therefore their health. They are modifying the environment, polluting the … rivers, and modifying farming cycles. And they cause internal divisions in the communities, by winning over some members with donations and telling them that the mega projects will bring employment,” Marichuy told Truthout During the caravan, from a bus.

Mega projects often involve large amounts of money. displacingDestruction of sacred sites, cultural, or religious sites, and the destruction or disintegration of entire Indigenous communities. Mexico has some 4,200185,000 people have been forced to leave their homes by dam construction projects, most of them poor or original peoples.

The violence against landdefenders is a reflection of the violence against land. Last year, 25 such activists were murdered, with 238 total violent attacks recorded — making it the most violent year since 2014, when the Mexican Center for Environmental Rights (CEMDA) began keeping a tally.

Unifying Isolated Struggles

The caravan around Mexico is showing people that “our problems are similar … communities are seeking ways to walk together and denounce all the different types of plundering,” Marichuy said.

The caravan held a press conference to launch the project and marched past Bonafont, which is a water bottling facility owned by Danone. The plant had been taken over by Nahua communities last year, but they were forced to leave by the military in February.

Security forces are now stationed at the bottling plant in full battle gear. They have a wall of 20-liter water bottles, and two steel fences to keep Indigenous people from returning. The group’s march past the plant was brief. Otomis, who had joined the caravan from Mexico City, shouted, “Water is not for sale. No more armed forces in our towns.”

The caravan continued on to San Miguel Xoxtla where the European steel company Ternium is converting to dust.

“The small farmers in the area denounced the pollution of air, land and water by the company. Its toxic wastes and ashes are spread across the land. It blows in your face and makes you sick. The company consumes millions of liters of water — we don’t know how much exactly because there’s no transparency,” Armando Gomez, an Otomi member of the caravan, told Truthout. He mentioned that they also visited other cities and had to deal with similar problems. He also described how his shoes and clothing were full of dust due to the fact that the area, once fertile, is now so dry.

Ternium’s excessive use of water is leaving locals without, and the runoff from its manufacturing processes is polluting a canal and one of the three main wells in Xoxtla that supplies water to people’s homes. The canal also passes through locals’ corn, bean and zucchini farms, contaminating their crops. Residents have voiced concern at the rise in cancer deaths and cases ever since Ternium, then Hylsa, began to operate. The nearby Prieto River was flooded for the first-ever time last year during the rainy seasons. dryThanks to Ternium’s water usage.

After a march to protest outside Puebla’s state parliament and visits at other communities in the state like San Isidro Huilotepec (where locals are trying halt a gas pipeline), the caravan headed to Ahuacatlan on the Sierra Norte mountains on the 27th.

There, Totonaco and Nahua people, along with other Mexicans, celebrated what they called “partial victories.” They have managed to stop a mega project which involved building a hydroelectric dam for a Walmart, Suburbia, and other shops that would have left them without water for their crops. Open-pit gold mining has been shut down in the region for years. minesAlmaden Minerals of Canada, and another company that is part of the Espejeras project. The mines have decimated thousands of hectares forest and contaminated domestic drinking water with cyanide, which is used to separate gold from other minerals. FiftyHydroelectric dams that redirect water to gold mines can also cause water shortages in towns.

Activists read out the following at the event: statement, affirming, “In February and March, after seven years (of resistance), the courts canceled five mining concessions in Ixtacamaxtitlán, Cuetzalan, Tlatlauquitepec and Yaonáhuac.”

The caravan was found in Chilapa, Guerrero a few days later. denouncedLos Ardillos, an organized criminal group, was responsible for transporting 50 vans and 20 bikes in the path of Indigenous activists. Media and human rights organizations were on high alert and the caravan was kept under surveillance throughout the night. The caravan was accompanied by community police until it reached Mexico City, where it could continue its journey.

Activities as part of the caravan’s visit to Ahuacatlán on March 26.
Activities as part of the caravan’s visit to Ahuacatlán on March 26.
The Indigenous-occupied, former INPI building
The Indigenous-occupied, former INPI building.
Security forces guard the entrance to the plant that had been run by Indigenous people, as they march past on March 22.
On March 22, security forces walked past the plant once it was run by Indigenous peoples to guard its entrance.

There, the caravan held a public meeting in the House of the People and Indigenous Communities — a five-story building formally used by the National Institute of Indigenous Peoples (INPI), a federal agency. On October 12, 2020, Otomí people in Mexico City took over the building, and have been running it ever since. They claimed that the INPI is a travesty of Indigenous people and that the institute is inimical to their interests. indifferentThey are able to meet their needs. Over 100 Otomis spent years trying to fulfill the bureaucratic requirements of INPI and other government agencies, in order to claim abandoned buildings for their lives. They lived on the streets in the meantime. The INPI removed three years of permits and requests from the Otomis, forcing them to start over when the pandemic started. They sayThe INPI uses their symbols, art, and Otomi dolls while refusing to defend their rights.

Mexico City is home to mining, food, entertainment, as well as other businesses. 850These people use a lot more water than households and contribute to water shortages. The caravan visited Xochimilco (in the south) on April 7, where Indigenous people used a chinampa system to farm. It is a system that consists of built-up islands and canals. Mexico City has received this water since the beginning of the century. This has left local farmers and residents without water.

“The canals are drying up; natural water has been replaced with low-quality treated water; the fish we used to eat are gone. We haven’t benefited in any way from supplying the city with water, and we’ve never been consulted. As original peoples, we have to defend our land, our resources, and our self-determination,” Silvia Cabello Molina, a local autonomous council representative, told Truthout.

Xochimilco was an abundant region of lakes and flower and vegetable growing.
Xochimilco was a region rich in lakes, flower and vegetable cultivation.
Silvia Cabello Molina, a local autonomous council representative, speaking at a meeting in Xochimilco, as part of the caravan.
Silvia Cabello Molina is a representative of the local autonomous council. She spoke at a meeting held in Xochimilco as part of the caravan.

From Coca-Cola’s illegal water extraction in Apizaco, to privatized water in Puerto de Veracruz, the map of struggles that the caravan has visited and will visit is a detailed one.

The caravan “is a message that (original) peoples are bringing to other peoples and communities, suburbs, organizations. As they go, they bring the message that it is important to struggle, to organize in order to defend water, and life … and that together, it’s possible to stop all this,” Marichuy said. “If communities can’t strengthen their self-determination and autonomy, they leave a space for the mega projects to continue their destruction.”

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