Snapshots

Dying in Defense of Land in Mexico | Warrior Publications

Tucked between sand dunes and the Pacific Ocean, perched on a small hill, is Xayakalan, home to members of the indigenous community, Santa Maria Ostula. Here, the sound of waves hitting the shore mixes with the cries of children playing among the wooden huts. Against this beautiful backdrop, a group of Mexican Nahua people are fighting to keep control of their land. The cost has been high.

Since 2009, this small community of around 3, 000 people has seen 28 of its members killed. Another four are missing. Those who dare step up to defend their indigenous rights are picked off one by one.

The Nahua people live on over 24,000 hectors of land, which they use for fishing and growing crops. They speak passionately of how the earth provides for them. Maria, not her real name, describes how she feeds her family from crops she grows outside her house. “Food is easy to come by here,” she states. “And the ocean always gives us a good meal.”

Maria and her community, unlike other groups of indigenous people, have maintained unbroken control of their land since before the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century. The community, in the past, has been successful in keeping invaders at bay. This time, they fear they will not be so successful.

Plans by local government to develop the coastline for tourism have stirred up old rivalries in the area. A land dispute going back to the early1900s has once again reared its head. And this time, the stakes are high. Around 1,300 hectors of unspoilt land running from the coast up into the mountains is being targeted for development.

The Nahua people say that their community owns the rights to the land and have the legal papers to prove it. This claim is disputed by a group of local businessmen, who say the land was privatized in 1911 and that it belongs to them.

FULL ARTICLE: Dying in Defense of Land in Mexico | Warrior Publications.

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