Tensions are rising in the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains of Huajimic, Nayarit, where indigenous Huichol people are locked in a bitter dispute with cattle ranchers over who owns 10,000 hectares of alleged ancestral lands.
There are fears that the disagreement could reach a boiling point tomorrow when a court order returning part of the lands to the Huichol community is due to be executed.
For several years, the indigenous people, also known as Wixáritari, have been trying to remove the ranchers from the land, arguing that they have a title that proves their ownership. The title, they say, dates back to 1718 when Mexico was still known as the Viceroyalty of New Spain.
But despite their claim, a report in a local newspaper says that nobody has seen it.
On the other hand, there are documents that show that ranchers legally acquired the land, the report said.
In spite of that, the Huichol community won a court order that would see 66 hectares of the land returned to them tomorrow but the Nayarit state government — in a move backed by the ranchers — is seeking its cancellation.
Members of the Huichol community have fought hard to obtain the edict since they were evicted from the lands on September 22 last year and consequently won’t give it up without a fight.
A meeting was scheduled for this morning, sources from the indigenous community told the newspaper Milenio, in which staff from the Interior Secretariat were to meet with members of the indigenous community and a judge from the agricultural tribunal that issued the order.
They believe that the intention of the meeting was to pressure the Huichol community to abandon or at least postpone the execution of the court order.
Whatever agreement is reached, it looks likely that tomorrow will be an eventful day with evidence that both sides are preparing for the possibility of violence.
More than 1,000 members of the indigenous community plan to go to a ranch tomorrow to retake the 66-hectare parcel, even if the order is cancelled. While they say they will be unarmed, they claim the ranch owner has notified them that he will be awaiting their arrival with guns.
It also looks likely that it will not be just one ranch owner they will have to contend with.
Last Sunday, all 56 of the ranchers who own parts of the large parcel of land in question reportedly agreed to defend the 66 hectares due to be handed over tomorrow with “everything” they’ve got.
But the Huichol community is equally determined, which doesn’t bode well for a peaceful resolution.
“We will go to take possession [of the land] even if the members of the tribunal don’t; we’re not playing around,” a Huichol leader said.
Source: Milenio (sp)