Zacualpan, a Nahual community within the municipality of Comala, Colima, Mexico, was known because its landscapes inspired Juan Rulfo to write his novel “Pedro Páramo”. At the present it is also known because of the mining conflict that takes place in its territory between GABFER S.A de C.V., a private Mexican company linked to Canadian corporations and people of Zacualpan.
In 2013 during a community assembly, GABNER S.A de C.V informed there was a mining concession in its favor as well as its interest in exploiting the mine. In that occasion as in other four assemblies, the community denied the company’s request to start operating the mine. Despite their refusal, the environmental valuation study and the mining exploration phase started.
To face company’s pressure, the 1,724 inhabitants of Zacualpan, mostly indigenous Nahua, decided to organice on December 1, 2013 the “Consejo Indígena por la Defensa del Territorio de Zacualpan”. This organisation is opposed to the mining project that would develop in the communal territory they own since 1945, only 1 km away from the town. They consider that mining will destroy their livelihoods and pollute the water source that supplies both the population of Comala and approximately 300,000 inhabitants from Villa Alvarez and Colima cities.
On February 23, 2014, a new community assembly declared Zacualpan as “A mining-free territory” and filed legal actions against the Tribunal Unitario Agrario, a federal court. The judgment of the court established Zacualpan was the first mining-free indigenous territory, as it is designated in the case file 81/2014. The court also recognised the “comisariado” was the community’s main representation instance and was in charge of managing the communal water spring.
While people affected by mining grouped in REMA (Red Mexicana de Afectados por la Minería) and the Comisión Estatal de Derechos Humanos (State Commission on Human Rights) support Zacualpan’s mining-free declaration, other mining companies joined the scene: Peña Colorada Consorcio Minero Benito Juárez, Ternium – Las Encinas and Mittalstel.
Just a day after the community declared itself as a mining-free territory, the Mexican army deployed in the area prior the arrival of two public servants who had to deliver the national award for reforestation obtained by the community. Besides intimidation measures, public institutions do not respect the community’s legitimate leaders. Instead, they support the creation of parallel instances or offer money and productive projects.
In September 2014, the Congress of Colima asked the Governor to deepen security measures in order to recover peace and to monitor the intrusion of external civil society actors such as Bios Iguana AC, Mining Watch Canada and REMA because of their support to the mining resistance. A smear campaign against leaders took place as well as persecution measures. Threats against the Bios Iguana AC staff motivated some of its members leave the state of Colima in 2015 in order to protect their lives. Gilberto López y Rivas, a journalist of “La Jornada”, argues that these actions are known as “conflict engineering” developed by Canadian mining companies.
Because of the violence against the mining resistance and the appearance of drug traffic, Colima has become since 2017 in one of the most violent Mexican states. This contrast with what happened some years ago when Colima had one of the lowest rates of insecurity.
Zacualpan leaders belief the disrespect for the community decisions and threatening demonstrations are part of a discriminatory policy intended to achieve the dispossession of their territory. That is why mobilisation continues and the community persists in their social demands. They ask for the dismissal of public servants above the law. They prepare “cacerolazos” (pot banging) and protests outside the company’s headquarters and the Consejo Indígena por la Defensa del Territorio de Zacualpan stands up for:
“Para nuestro pueblo indígena, la tierra no es meramente un objeto de posesión y producción. La relación integral de la vida espiritual de nuestro pueblo con nuestras tierras, tiene muchas implicaciones profundas. Además, nuestra tierra y nuestra agua no son mercadería que pueda apropiarse, sino un bien común del que debemos gozar nosotros y nuestros hijos libremente” (https://desinformemonos.org/rechazo-a-la-mineria-en-la-tierra-de-pedro-paramo/).