By Hermann Bellighausen
This little hidden gem of nature, just 15 kilometers from the city of San Cristóbal de las Casas and surprisingly intact, is about to receive the benefits of progress… from others. Despite the weak denials of the state government, the inhabitants of the region, indigenous in their entirety, are convinced that the San Cristóbal-Palenque highway is planned to pass through here, an old Caxlán dream, a recurring nightmare for dozens of communities and ejidos here and in the rest of the possible route. Beyond the sugarcoated official promises, they know well what it would mean for their lives and those of their descendants. Contrary to what the saying goes, they don't need to lose it to know what they have.
On September 17, more than two thousand indigenous people from more than 70 or so communities gathered here to express their opposition to the highway passing through the ancestral territories of the Tsotsil and Tseltals, and to formally begin their collective resistance. They gathered under the hospitality of La Candelaria, a rural community in the municipality of San Cristóbal de las Casas, on the margins of the lagoon and in the vicinity of San Juan Chamula, one of the municipalities that share the benefits of the peculiar body of water. In Suyul, a sacred place for multiple generations, the Mayan peoples of Los Altos and the Northern Zone paid tribute to Mother Earth and declared that they will prevent the passage of the announced superway, which would irrevocably destroy such a delicate enclave of nature.
Punctually translated into Spanish, our lingua franca, representatives of dozens of communities from the municipalities of Zinacantán, Tenejapa, San Juan Chamula, Huixtán, Oxchuc, San Juan Cancuc, Chilón, Salto de Agua and San Cristóbal spoke in their languages for hours. In each case, suspiciously, the complaint that their municipal president "has already signed an agreement" for the route of the highway to cross these territories.
After the intense ceremony and the exposition of their resistance, residents, traditional, communal and community authorities issued the Declaration of the Suyul Lagoon, "true word of the original peoples of the Highlands of Chiapas": "We know that the municipal and state governments and federal are telling lies to the people. They are offering transnational mega-projects that bring death, making the rich richer and the poor poorer. What is the development for the town? We believe that they are only looking at their own interests. We do not want development that brings us poverty, destroys our culture and does not respect the rights of our Mother Earth ”. Gathered in the Movement in Defense of Life and Territory, regardless of their churches or political groups, the indigenous people warned: “We will defend the environment, the fabric and the veins of Mother Earth: rivers, lakes, springs, mountains, trees, caves, hills. We will defend the lives of animals ”.
They called on the religious leaders, both the bishop of San Cristóbal de las Casas and the pastors of all the churches (there are quite a few) with followers in these territories, to support the demands of the people against the highway. The attendees announced that they will prevent divisions for partisan reasons or religious profession. To those who support the affected peoples "and have joined the defense of our lands and territory, we ask that they be on maximum alert of what may happen."
The meeting took place on a monumental island of forests and ferns surrounded by a lagoon of deep beauty, a dense colony of reeds, aquatic birds and amphibians fed by the crystalline water that is born here. Imagine for a moment the reader an Oxxo, a parking lot, a toll booth, hundreds of double trailer trailers day and night. The sacred site, the authorities offer, could be used by the residents for tourism purposes and "to sell their products." As if the brutality of the work wasn't going to wipe out this remarkable ecosystem.
Not all have reacted. For example, Las Ollas, a very close Chamula community, which would be affected, did not come as such because its majority of the ruling party, following the indications of its chiefs, already bowed, chitón being silent. It is also the headquarters of well-known criminal groups, conspicuous allies of the outposts of progress, in Chiapas as in Atenco, the Yaqui Valley or wherever those wasted resources in possession of the Indian are urged to power. The plans are ambitious. Envoys from Coca-Cola have already arrived to explore the place with keen interest.
So much good water!
But the lagoon is also the way of the towns. The distance belongs to them and to no one else, and that is the only way it is for everyone, and not the other way around as the government tricks. "It is not for us, but for the children who come from the future," says a Tseltal from San Jerónimo Bachajón. There, with its 4,600 ejidatarios and a considerable territorial extension, for now there are no cracks: nobody wants the highway. Peasants from San Martín Cruztón also speak, where the government denied them official programs for opposing the road; from Viniktón, in Tenejapa. Those from La Candelaria point out: “There are threats. They see that the companions are united. But we are not going to divide ”.
The rich of Jovel, so far from the heart but with the fangs so close, visualize here residential neighborhoods, restaurants, gas stations. The coleto leader, Mariano Díaz Ochoa, businessman of construction and destruction (dozens of hills disappeared in San Cristóbal under his machinery prove it), former mayor, current undersecretary of Government, is just one of the many seriously interested investors. His will be the advanced search and destroy; nationals and transactional companies would come back to distribute the jewels. Suyul is only the first. Further inside these mountains only store riches to surprise us. The alert is serious.
The statement says: “Mother Earth is our ancient gift that from generation to generation our grandparents and grandmothers have cared for and defended. They protected her. Now we have to take care of it and defend it, if necessary with our own lives. The environment, the tissue and the veins of mother earth, rivers, lakes, springs, mountains, trees, caves, hills.
We will defend the life of animals, sacred places, the ecosystem of mother nature and the life of human beings. The mother is not for sale and has no price ”.
The defenders of their territories, now it turns out that they are so coveted by foreign and highly commercial interests, warn: “We will not allow them to continue violating our rights. We demand that they respect us in accordance with ILO Convention 169 and the United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, "which" defends the collective and individual rights of peoples, especially to their lands, assets, vital resources, territories and resources ”.
Aware of the threats caused by the greed of the rich, they denounce that when the people organize to defend their rights "the government represses, buys leaders, threatens, assassinates and disappears people." Consequently, "from this moment we hold the municipal, state and federal governments responsible for what may happen to us to defend our life, to take care of it and to conserve the source of our food and our life"
Ojarasca 210 Supplement - La Jornada