Archive for January 13th, 2011

Author Provides Context on Indigenous Manifesto in Mexico

Author Provides Context on Indigenous Manifesto in Mexico

January 13th, 2011 – Posted by Abby Mogollón,

Recently, the National Indigenous Congress of Mexico (CNI) issued a brief but forcefully worded statement testifying to harassment of Wixarika (Huichol) people by the Mexican Army. Today on our blog, Paul Liffman provides comment and context on the statement. Liffman is a professor at the Center for Anthropological Studies at the Colegio de Michoacán and author of the forthcoming book Huichol Territory and the Mexican Nation (University of Arizona Press).

Comments on the Bancos de San Hipólito Manifesto
By Paul Liffman

A group of ritual deerhunters on their trek to Cerro Quemado (the threatened sacred mountain), climbing a recently constructed highway embankment. The construction buried another sacred place called Bear Ranchería. Photo by Paul Liffman

This brief manifesto from a coalition of Wixarika (Huichol) activists, members of the Zapatista-inspired Congreso Nacional Indígena (National Indigenous Congress) and their allies in non-governmental organizations signals the multiple dimensions of Indigenous land claims in Mexico today. First off, there is its mixture of class-based rhetoric and strategic essentialism: the document pits non-Indigenous caciques (political bosses, incorrectly translated as “chiefs” in the English version), the army, and the rich against the Huichols’ sacred territory and more broadly, Our Mother Earth, a translation of Tatei Yurienaka, the earth deity. Such translations reveal how Huichols are mainstreaming their religion in a discourse of autonomy that relies on the category of “territory” (territorio) to anchor their political strategy; sacred territorio partly replaces the conventional sense of land (tierra) subject to the bureaucratic and legal procedures of the Mexican state.

Still, the manifesto’s main focus is a dispute over timber felled by a violent winter storm and then became yet another bone of contention between mestizo peasants based in San Lucas de Jalpa, Durango, and the Huichol ranchería of Bancos de San Hipólito, formerly the northwestern part of the Huichol comunidad of San Andrés Cohamiata. Such conflicts are central to my forthcoming book in the First Peoples series, Huichol Territory and the Mexican Nation (University of Arizona Press, April 2011). That is, mestizos from San Lucas and Huichols from San Andrés have fought for at least 40 years over Bancos and the 10,720 hectares (about 26,500 acres or 40 square miles) that surround it.  This historical context is also the backdrop of the Wixarika installation in the Our Peoples Gallery of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington (see “Museums and Mexican Indigenous territoriality,” Museum Anthropology 30(2): 141-160, 2007). It’s no coincidence because that exhibit’s lead curator, Catarino Carrillo, is from Bancos and had been the gobernador of San Andrés. And once the standard legal avenues for reintegrating Bancos into San Andrés seemed to fail, he became a leader of the autonomous community movement that has put Bancos in the vanguard of the Congreso Nacional Indígena.

But beyond territory and local natural resources, the manifesto also points to the struggle for broader cultural rights and intermittent access to natural resources far beyond their rancherías.  That is, the final sentences turn to the harassment of ritual deerhunters from Bancos, the ceremonial center of Hayukarita (San José) in San Andrés, and a third group from the neighboring community of Santa Catarina. The complexity of this problem is evident in the fact that some of the deerhunters had been detained in the Odam (Southern Tepehuan) Indigenous community of Santa María Ocotán, which borders the Huichols on the north.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning the most publicized current struggle of the Wixarika people: the movement against silver mining in Real de Catorce, San Luis Potosí, a high desert region that includes the cardinal sacred mountain, Cerro Quemado. Periodic mining has reshaped that landscape since the eighteenth century and in fact is part of the Huichols’ own sacred history, but the new possibility of open pit extraction, the draining of desert aquifers, and cyanide discharges by First Majestic Silver Corp could compromise sites and practices in place since centuries before the Spanish invasion.

To learn more see the following sites:

Background Information on Mexico:  Stop Mining. Save Sacred Sites–Cultural Survival
Defensa de Wirikuta on Faceboo
Salvemos Wirikuta on Facebook
No a la Mineria con Cianuro y a Cielo abierto en Real de Catorce Facebook
Salvemos Wirikuta – Tamatzima Huaha Blog

Paul Liffman
Centro de Estudios Antropológicos
El Colegio de Michoacán

Paul Liffman is a professor at the Center for Anthropological Studies at the Colegio de Michoacán and a member of the National Research System of Mexico. He has worked as a consultant and translator for the Wixarika exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. His book
Huichol Territory and the Mexican Nation: Indigenous Ritual, Land Conflict, and Sovereignty Claims will be available from the University of Arizona Press in April.

Young workers go green to make green in paid environmental internship program

Young workers go green to make green in paid environmental internship program

Celebrate the World

By: Melanie Patten, The Canadian Press

Posted: 01/13/2011 11:46 AM

Wherever Britt Aberle ends up working in the future, chances are it won’t be for a company that values dollars over environmental sense or human need.

“I think the work that I do in life should contribute to the world in some way,” says the 24-year-old Calgarian, who holds a bachelor’s degree in social work.

“I don’t really see myself working anywhere corporate or that doesn’t have an environmental, social justice or community focus.”

Since December, Aberle has been interning at a bike shop in downtown Calgary as part of a national program that places post-secondary grads in jobs that are environmentally or community minded.

The Good Life Community Bike Shop is a non-profit, community-owned space that sells bikes and recycles parts. Cyclists can also stop by and learn how to fix their own bikes.

“(The internship) just seemed like a really good opportunity for young folks who want to enter the field of environmental activism, social work and community building who don’t have a lot of experience,” says Aberle, who teaches bike mechanics and writes grant proposals for the shop.

The Youth Eco Internships started in September 2009 as an opportunity for young people aged 15 to 30 to work within the non-profit and community services sector. Last September, a second program was launched for post-secondary graduates up to 30 years old and expanded to include the private sector.

Both programs, which wrap up in March, are administered by the YMCA and funded through the federal government. The YWCA has also acted as a partner.

Organizers say they wanted to open up opportunities for young people who have an interest in the environment.

“There hasn’t been a lot in that kind of sector,” says Angela de Burger, a co-ordinator with the YMCA in Toronto.

More than 1,000 interns have taken part in the programs, which de Burger says cost about $20.5 million to deliver.

She says it’s not yet known whether a third internship program will be launched in the future.

When the internship applications began rolling in, de Burger says she heard from a number of young people who’d been staking out non-profit organizations for years, hoping to catch a job opening.

“But of course, in the non-profit sector, they don’t have a heap of paid positions,” she says, adding that some young people who found job postings didn’t qualify because they lacked the required education or experience.

The internships have given a number of youth a foot in the door.

At the Montreal Urban Ecology Centre, intern Judy Murphy has just wrapped up an intensive project: translating a 5,000-word report from French into English.

Established in 1996, the non-profit, independent centre is focused on creating sustainable urban development through a variety of projects, including promoting active transport.

Murphy was searching for job opportunities after receiving a certificate in translation from McGill University when an acquaintance mentioned the internship program.

The 24-year-old, who calls her experience at the centre a “one in a million opportunity,” jumped at the chance to work in her field while learning about something that affects her everyday life.

“(It) happens to be a topic that I’m really interested in, but I didn’t really know how much it meant to me,” says Murphy, who’s originally from Victoria, B.C.

Murphy says she believes young people are becoming increasingly concerned about the environment, but are often reluctant to study it after high school because they’re worried about job prospects.

“To have opportunities like this is essential to encourage that kind of thought,” she says. “We need to be thinking about what’s happening to our environment.”

Jackie Mann, who founded the Good Life Community Bike Shop in 2008, says interns at the shop have tried their hand at everything from refurbishing bikes to co-ordinating volunteers.

“It’s really helpful for the organization and it’s really great to support those kinds of career moves for people,” she says.

That’s something that Aberle, who volunteered at the shop before becoming an intern, will keep in mind when the internship ends and the job search begins.

Aberle says the administrative and communication skills gained at the shop will hopefully open up doors to other jobs, including working in community development or advocacy.

The internship has proven there are jobs out there for the environmentally and socially conscious young person, says Aberle.

“It’s a great opportunity to see . . . positive examples of organizations that are actually helping the world and the planet.”

Food Revolution’s Jamie Oliver Locked Out of Los Angeles Schools

Food Revolution‘s Jamie Oliver Locked Out of Los Angeles Schools

by Jessica Belsky January 13, 2011 06:49 AM (PT),

Since when has Tinseltown turned down a reality T.V. opportunity?  Since famed chef  Jamie Oliver decided to bring his Emmy Award-winning Food Revolution to Los Angeles school cafeterias, that’s when.

Season two of the show is set to begin filming and Oliver — foodie activist, author, and celebrity chef (some may remember him as The Naked Chef from way back when) — is hitting an immediate snag. After moving both show and family to Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has refused to take part in the season’s first show, which focuses on school lunches. In Oliver’s own words, he can’t get his foot into a single school.

Oliver’s show, Food Revolution, aims to shift American eaters from processed and fast food (two cornerstones of the American diet) to fresh foods and cooking at home. Oliver saw success in his first season helping residents in West Virginia. In Huntington, W.V., he opened The Huntington Kitchen downtown, and on Wednesday, he opened the Los Angeles version, Jamie’s Kitchen. The community kitchen plans to give cooking classes and will serve as headquarters for the filming of season two.

His efforts to teach Los Angeles how to cook is laudable, but the kitchen is located in Westwood, an affluent suburb and home to UCLA. It’s not in an area where it can meet the needs of many underserved L.A. school district kids. All the same, the school district says that its decision on the matter is final: Food Revolution can’t visit L.A. schools or work with L.A. students.

In a Grub Street article, Los Angeles students called the district selfish for not considering the opportunity to turn school lunches into something less greasy and frozen. They also recommended that the district should have spoken with students and parents prior to making its decision.

According to an Eater L.A. article, Jamie remains undeterred by the decision and still plans to work with Angelinos in their homes, with local grocery stores, and with fast food joints. Additionally, the kitchen in Westwood will function as a place to offer information and teach residents how to cook at home in an affordable and healthy way.

The West Virginia school district highlighted in season one of Food Revolution now makes most of its meals from scratch. So, LAUSD, what exactly are you afraid of? I’d like to see the district prove that it isn’t earning a failing grade when it comes to lunch. If you would, too, sign our petition urging the Los Angeles school district to open its cafeteria doors to Jamie Oliver and let everyone check in on what school kids have to eat in the second largest city in the nation.

LAUSD’s own Network for a Healthy California claims its mission is to increase healthy eating in school kids. Show us that you really mean that, L.A.