Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico. This Thursday, four Rarámuris, each representing their communities in the Sierra Tarahumara, will travel to Washington, D.C. in order to voice their demands before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IAHRC). The hearing with authorities from the human rights organism will take place at 3:00 p.m., Chihuahua time, or 6:00 p.m. D.C. time.
The proceedings will be broadcast live on the internet at the following website belonging to the Organization of American States: www.livestream.com/OASLive2
A recording of the live event can be seen later at: www.oas.org/es/centro_noticias
María Monarca Lázaro, Lorenzo Moreno Pajarito, Miguel Manuel Parra y María Luisa Bustillos are the Rarámuris who will speak in representation of the people of Huitosachi, Bacajípare, Mogótavo Choréachi, Coloradas de la Virgen and Mala Noche, respectively. The first three communities lie in the Municipality of Urique in the Copper Canyon tourism area, while the last three belong to the Municipality of Guadalupe y Calvo, all deep in the Sierra Tarahumara.
Before the IAHRC, the group will ennumerate the enormous obstacles they have faced during their emblematic struggles to obtain legal recognition for their territorial rights. They will also voice concerns that have implications for all of Mexico´s Native People.
Their legal complaint is supported by Alianza Sierra Madre, Consultoría Técnica Comunitaria and Tierra Nativa, all organizations belonging to a Network of Organizations for the Integral Defense of Human Rights of Native People in the Sierra Tarahumara. They also have the support of 41 Rarámuri Governors from seven municipalities throughout the Sierra Tarahumara.
The lack of recognition of their ancestral rights also implies that they have been deprived of usage rights and preferential access to the natural resources found on their own lands, as exemplified by the Copper Canyon Tourism project.
Not having legal recognition for their original territorial rights is the root cause for a series of conflicts they face with different governmental institutions, authorities and private land owners, conflicts that have lasted for years and have gone unsolved to this very day.
Thus, the representatives from Bacajípare, Coloradas de la Virgen, Choréachi, Huitosachi, Mogótavo and Mala Noche are embroiled in a series of legal battles in the hope that they will be recognized finally as the original inhabitants of the lands where their ancestors were born.
By law, Native People have the right to prior, informed and free consultation regarding any programs, projects or laws that will directly affect the development and well-being of their communities. However, in the case of the Copper Canyon tourism project, the Government created the Copper Canyon Trust and implemented the project on native lands without ever consulting their communities.
Work on the tourism project has been moving forward full tilt without one single consultation with the Native communities, despite a National Supreme Court ruling over a year ago that specifically stated that, in the case of the Copper Canyon Trust, the Government has the obligation to consult the communities.
Other demands that will be voiced before the IAHRC representatives are related to deficient or non-existent health services, the lack of access to water for human consumption and domestic use, the lack of culturally appropriate schools, pollution of springs and other health hazards caused by the waste disposal from the hotels and other tourist services, mostly in the area of the Copper Canyon tourism project.
The commissioned representatives will request that the IAHRC intervene in order to arrive at prompt solutions to conflicts that are currently before several tribunals, and to achieve respect for Native rights, especially those relating to prior consultation in cases where governmental decisions affect Native territories and families.
Organizations such as: the Commission for Solidarity and Defense of Human Rights (COSYDDHAC), the Womens´ Human Rights Center, Women for Mexico and the Catholic Diocese of the Tarahumara have all expressed support for the representatives and their demands.