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Journey to La Sierra Norte

Notes from Our Village – Puebla/Mexico ‘22

It’s been a long time since I’ve been here, maybe two or three generations since the time of my great-grandparents. However, it feels familiar. Like that smell of the reddish clay sand rising after the rain, or the way the colors of the kiosk in the plaza reflect in my clothes.

This land that feels so intimate in my bones was the place of a special gathering. Acolihuia was the meeting place where more than two hundred residents of the Ejido de Tecoltemi met to exchange ideas regarding the defense of their territory.

Listening to the personal stories of the locals, like Don Lucio Romano, about how in his childhood, he used to go for water to one of the springs that were in the community in Cruz de Ocote. One can easily identify these brave women and men with a common root, a heritage from the Sierra Norte de Puebla, the same as my great-grandfather who was from this same region and who, for me and my family, is only a legend, an unfinished story because we are still not clear about why we left the Sierra Norte. Why did we migrate to the city? Why do I now find myself as a migrant again, now in the United States?

The Canadian company Almaden Minerals continues trying to exploit an open-pit mine, with federal concessions granted in the last administration without consulting the residents about the use of their land, their water, and the contamination that this project will bring to their aquifers. However, community organization has been present through massive marches, political processes, and creating spaces such as the Regional Meeting of Defenders of Forests and Territory in collaboration with If not us then who? Poder, and Red Mocaf, this iteration of ‘Our Village – Puebla/Mexico’ is a platform to raise their voices and tell their stories without filters.

With the support of ‘If not us then Who?’, the collective has been getting training in the recording and producing of two documentaries that speak about the corruption and special interests behind the concession of 14 thousand hectares of land to this transnational company famous for exploiting the land in the Global South. With the support of our partners, the Project on Organizing, Development, Education, and Research (PODER), the Mexican Network of Forest and Farmland Organizations (Red Mocaf), Silvícola Ocote Real and the Union of Ejidos of Chignahuapan, I am privileged to produce this special edition of ‘Our Village’, to celebrate the work of our mentees and raise international awareness about the challenges their community is facing.

On February 16, the Ejido de Tecoltemi celebrated a MAJOR victory against the mining concessions of the Canadian Almaden Minerals. It is the first time that the First Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) has granted protection to a community and has withdrawn the concession of land to the mining company.

However, when you speak with the people there is still a lot of work to do since the machinery brought for this project is still on-site, albeit slowly, almost like in secret, the arrangements for the preparation of the land continue moving forward, for which there is the fear that they will return to buy the will of the ejidatarios and local authorities again to continue with their mining project, in fact, the governor of the state of Puebla, Miguel Barbosa, has already announced that he will do so, this is why it becomes necessary to create spaces of connection and resilience like this to alert people, organize,  and share ideas.

As I get deeper and deeper into conversation, I start finding my grandfather in the battle-worn and tired eyes of Don Lucio, my father in the words and gestures of the locals, and I can finally identify our common root: THAT OF THE DIGNIFIED RAGE, born from the need to defend the territory, from the search of dignity for our people, in direct conflict with global extractivism, which exploits the resources of the most remote regions in the world such as this, and forces people to abandon their community and their land. The same extractivism that has given way to the climate catastrophe against which we are fighting, the one that calls on these residents to raise their voices, to demand justice, not only for themselves, but also for the future of future generations.

New iterations of Our Village will happen at the State University of Puebla (BUAP) on October 18 in Mexico City at the Metropolitan Autonomous University – Cuajimalpa Unit. Please make sure you tune in to our networks to learn more about this and how you can make a difference in the world that we inhabit. 

Photo by: Adrián L. Sanchez M., PODER