Mesoamerican Culture, History, and Religion


Today I came across some interesting news articles documenting the ongoing struggle of the Huichole (Wixáritari) people to protect one of their holiest sites in the state of San Luis Potosí, Mexico.   The site in question is a beautiful mountain region named Wirikuta in the Huichol tongue, which Spanish-speakers call Cerro del Quemado.  In English, the name is roughly translated as “Burned Mountain,” a fitting name for the place where the sun ascended from the Earth’s surface to the skies in traditional belief.

Despite being considered an internationally-recognized protected site by UNESCO and the Mexican government, Wirikuta is currently under threat from foreign mining interests.  In 2009, the Canadian mining company, First Majestic Silver Corp., bought mineral rights to the area, and plans extensive extraction of silver, a process which will consume a significant portion of the area’s limited water supply, as well as expose the countryside to dangerous chemicals used in silver mining, such as cyanide, which have a deadly tendency to seep into the groundwater and render it undrinkable.  This threat to the mountain and the fragile aquifer rooted at it is all the more horrifying when one recalls that mountains were and still are considered to be hearts of earth and water, or “houses of mist” all across Mesoamerica, a belief uniting the imperial Mexica-Tenochca with their present-day Huichol cousins.  Viewed through this lens, it’s not at all surprising that a threat to Wirikuta is a threat to the aquifer and all life in its nourishing influence.

In addition to the physical destruction that mining unavoidably brings, there will be spiritual destruction.  Wirikuta is home to many sacred plants, such as peyote, animals, and divine beings, particularly deities associated with rain.  Destroying the mountain will destroy these creatures and desecrate the site, which will sever the Huichol from their spiritual root.  Drawing a Judeo-Christian-Islamic parallel, Dawn Paley likened digging up Wirikuta to “bulldozing Eden for a golf course” in her detailed coverage of this issue in This Magazine.   Furthermore, this mountain is not only a place to gather vital religious supplies, but it is also a natural temple, a place to conduct ceremony.  Cerro del Quemado, the sacred center of Wirikuta, is the destination of a traditional 800 kilometer yearly pilgrimage conducted by the Huichol people to renew bonds of community and deity.

This February, the journey had an additional goal of seeking guidance in protecting the holy ground from destruction, and by extension, themselves — the Huichol view themselves as inseparable from the sacred site so intimately intertwined with their culture and ancestry, and have stated they view First Majestic’s plans to dig as a “war of extermination” against them.  The Esperanza Project has a beautiful account of the ceremony held on February 6-7th, 2012, complete with numerous photographs and interviews with several Huichol community leaders and observers about the meeting and the ideas and hope flowing from it.  They were kind enough to allow journalists to record some footage of song and ceremony from this holy gathering, which you may watch below.

Courtesy link to Mysticalfrequency’s original YouTube posting

To view video statements by the Huichol against this impending desecration and in support of their traditional spirituality and lifeways, please click HERE.  The linked site,, also contains many interesting articles on this matter if you would like to read more, both in English and in Spanish.

Below, for those who wish to learn more, I’ve included a short video discussing this crisis and calling for action.  I can’t seem to get it to embed properly, so please click the link below to check it out.

Click to watch on Venado Mestizo’s Vimeo page

You may be wondering where you can go to read and watch more, and learn how you can get involved in putting pressure on First Majestic to abort their plans for this site.  I would like to highlight the Wirikuta Defense Front’s excellent site (click for English or Spanish).  They are an action group composed of people from the Huichol community, as well as local and international allies, and are seeking volunteers to help.

7 responses

  1. Reblogged this on Modern Underdog Blogspot and commented:
    This is enlightening blog, This issue needs to gain more attention! Maybe… A protest?
    I’m look forward to read more of your blogs!

    February 25, 2012 at 10:11 PM

  2. tracybarnett

    Thank you so much for this excellent roundup of resources on the defense of the sacred land of Wirikuta. There will be a lot of activity surrounding this issue in the months ahead, and ways that people can get involved – including the upcoming Wirikutafest. Stay tuned at the Wirikuta Defense Front site mentioned above and also at Salvemos Wirikuta’s page on Facebook. Pamparius! (Gracias in Wixarika)

    February 25, 2012 at 11:58 PM

  3. cehualli

    Hi Oreobronson,

    Thanks very much for the kind comment and the reblog! I agree completely — it looks like there have been and will be protests in Mexico, which is awesome. I’d love to see more all around the world, and especially in Canada — it would be beautiful to see a crowd on First Majestic’s doorstep, demanding they drop this horrid plan. Perhaps I will spotlight as much contact info as I can and do a follow up post, to make it easy for people to start writing them letters/email and call…

    And of course, on a personal note, welcome to the site, and I hope you continue to enjoy the read!

    February 27, 2012 at 4:32 PM

  4. cehualli

    Hi Tracy,

    I’m honored to meet a member of the Wirikuta Defense Front! Happy to help shine a light on this 🙂 Thanks very much for the kind words and the heads up about Wirikutafest and the Facebook page. If there are any actions upcoming that you’d like to get some extra exposure for, don’t hesitate to ping me via comment or email (cehualli *AT* hotmail *DOT* com) and I can always do a quick post to note what, where, and when for interested readers. Hope to see you around in the future, and I'll be keeping an eye on your site!

    February 27, 2012 at 5:25 PM

  5. tracybarnett

    Thanks so much, Cehualli! You have a great blog and I look forward to reading more of it.
    This isn’t an event but it’s a bit of great news – a federal court has put a stay on the government granting any mining permits until the Wixarika’s concerns have been addressed. Here’s a short piece published last night, with more to come soon…. I can be reached on Facebook, Tracy L Barnett…. stay in touch!

    February 27, 2012 at 5:37 PM

  6. cehualli

    Hi again Tracy,

    I just saw that post on your site, that’s fantastic! I may be at work right now, but I just might have to sneak a quick post highlighting that bit of news anyway…

    Hm, speaking of Facebook, perhaps I’ll add a new section to the links area where I can collect Facebook/Twitter/etc links for activists and educators related to indigenous concerns. Make it even easier for people to immediately get in touch with people involved in projects like this. So much to do!


    February 27, 2012 at 5:50 PM

    • tracybarnett


      February 27, 2012 at 8:20 PM

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