Wirikuta Mountain/Cerro Quemado

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Location: The highlands of San Luis Potosi near the town of Real de Catorce, Mexico. The site is located within the Wirikuta Cultural and Ecological Reserve.

Who Considers it Sacred? The Wixarika people, often referred to as Huichol

Significance: Wirikuta, the place where the sun is born, is one of the most important shrines where the Wixarika maintain the fertility and balance of the world. Wirikuta is also the place where the Wixarika ancestors emerged. The Wixarika people make an annual 300-mile pilgrimage to the mountain, stopping at important shrines along the way to carry out rituals and collect their sacred plant, the hikuri, which allows their ancestors’ wisdom to be transmitted. Upon reaching Wirikuta the maraakate, or spiritual leaders, perform ceremonies that maintain harmony in the world.

Wirikuta is the foundation of Wixarika society and children learn about it early in life. They ritualistically visit the sacred mountain through drum ceremonies held at sacred altars every year until they are five years old. The mountain is the basis of knowledge passed by elders to young people who go on to carry traditions forward as they have been from generation to generation through the centuries.

The Threat: The Mexican government has granted 22 mining permits to Canadian-owned First Majestic Silver and over 70% of the permits are within the Wirikuta Cultural and Ecological Reserve. The proposed mining threatens the sacred wholeness of Wirikuta and threatens its ecosystems. The mountain is home to the greatest diversity of plants in the Chichuahuan Desert with a unique diversity of cacti and numerous endemic species of plants and animals.

Mining creates erosion and the process of mining creates waste called tailings which contain high amounts of heavy metals such as lead, arsenic and mercury.

Preservation Status: The Wixarika, supported by international environmental and cultural groups, have proposed making the area a protected Biosphere to prevent mining. The government will hand down a decision possibly as early as June, 2013.

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