Heritage As a Global Counter-Development Strategy to Fight Transnational Mining Projects in Wirikuta, Mexico

Monday, July 14, 2014: 10:45 AM
Room: 313+314
Oral Presentation
Oscar-Felipe REYNA-JIMENEZ , Sociology of Development and Change, Wageningen University, WAGENINGEN, Netherlands
Alberto ARCE , Sociology of Development and Change, Wageningen University, WAGENINGEN, Netherlands
Wirikuta is a vast desert located in Northern Mexico. It is the place in which Wixaritari (Huichol) ethnic group have been depositing votive offerings for centuries in order to reproduce their worldview, named one of the purest amongst American natives since colonization. Wirikuta also hosts relevant desert flora and fauna. The region is protected as a Sacred Natural Site and Protected Natural Area by state laws; however its conservation is currently being threatened by the plans of two Foreign Direct Investment projects concerning gold and silver mining. Different kinds of resistance movements have appeared. Some of them have focused in creating global counter-development strategies to preserve Wirikuta from harsh environmental impacts related to large scale mining. A notorious resource used in struggle is to get Wirikuta inserted in the list of World Natural and Cultural Heritage Sites before Unesco. Local actors believe this action can stop the extractive projects. Due to global pressures Mexican government has initiated and supported a counter-proposal, which would lead Wirikuta to be enlisted under the Intangible Heritage scheme, putting aside the relevance of matter (nature) in conflict. This would give way to mining companies to drag the metals with any method, obviating particularities of territory and culture. By analyzing this case we aim to elaborate on: the role of institutional heritage in conflictive contexts, Unesco’s role and limitations of heritage schemes, state trends in solving –or not- local conflicts and social innovations that actors perform in policy-culture realms in order to preserve the environments they live in.