Monday, April 2, 2012
High Court Rules in Favor of Indigenous Rights
In a little-noticed decision with possible national
repercussions, Mexico's high court has come out in favor of an indigenous community in the state of Chihuahua. In a ruling
publicized [last] month, Mexican Supreme Court justices determined that the community of Huitosachi has a right to participate
in the decision-making of the Copper Canyon Trust Fund, an organization spearheading tourism development in Chihuahua's
Sierra Tarahumara region.
Huitosachi's leaders earlier went to court
to protect their lands from development in a zone adjoining the small indigenous community. Two federal judges initially ruled
against Huitosachi, before the Mexican Supreme Court agreed to hear the case in 2011.
The Supreme Court justices declared that the Mexican Constitution guarantees the participation of indigenous communities
in the type of projects that would affect Huitosachi. The high court's members also stated that relevant national law
is similar to the International Labor Organization's Convention No. 169, which protects the rights of indigenous communities
and tribal peoples. Mexico is among 22 nations that have ratified the international agreement. The United States is not one
Situated in the municipality [county] of Urique, Huitosachi
is part of a large area that state and federal officials, in conjunction with Mexican and international investors, are gradually
developing as one of Mexico's next big tourist attractions. The so-called Copper Canyon-Sea of Cortez Tourist Circuit
has proceeded in fits and starts, variously impacted by changing political administrations, outbreaks of narco-violence, declines
in foreign tourism, fluxes in investment, and periodic protests by indigenous Raramuri communities that claim exclusion or
injury from the project.
Nonetheless, important parts of a tourism development
strategy mapped out back in the 1990s are moving forward. For example, [last] week Chihuahua Governor Cesar Duarte inaugurated
a new highway aimed at inter-connecting mountain towns and increasing visitation to the Baseseachi Falls.
Likewise, the Chihuahua state tourism department is promoting the 2012 International Adventure
Tourism Festival, an event which is expected to include marathon races and bicycling in the Sierra Tarahumara as part of the
roster of activities.
Sources: Nortedigitial.mx, March 28, 2012. El Seminario de Nuevo Mexico, March 22 and 29, 2012. Elpueblo.com (Chihuahua),
March 15, 2012. Diariojuridico.com.mx, March 14, 2012.
Frontera NorteSur (FNS)
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico
Reprinted with authorization from Frontera NorteSur, a free, on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news source; translation FNS