Monday, December 19, 2016

Mexican ranchers and indigenous people urge government to solve land conflict

Audelina Villagrana has run her ranch in Mexico’s Western Sierra Madre mountains on her own since the death of her husband 23 years ago, herding livestock, hiring local Huichol people and even raising a young Huichol boy like a son. Now she and other ranchers are locked in tense confrontation with their indigenous neighbors over land that has been in contention for centuries. A series of recent legal decisions has brought the dispute to a boiling point. “It’s a strange situation, when on the one hand I share my home with them, and on the other, they’re suing me for my land,” Villagrana told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from her terracotta-tiled farmhouse in the mesquite-studded hills. At issue are vast stretches of property that ranchers want for intensive agriculture and grazing, but the Huichols – also known by the traditional name of Wixarika – want it for subsistence farming and to practice their traditional ways of life. Each side wants the Mexican government to settle the dispute, but so far it has failed to do so. TRADITIONAL WAY OF LIFE The Huichol people hold land grants dating back to the 1700s from the Spanish crown, but the ranchers hold titles from the Mexican government, dated before the decade-long national revolution that began in 1910. Now, after a series of lawsuits were decided in favor of the Huichols, they are moving in to claim 10,500 hectares (nearly 26,000 acres) in the state of Nayarit, beginning with a 184-hectare (454-acre) hillside ranch...

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