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With KSFR Radio Host Xubi Wilson
Somos un Pueblo Unido is a statewide New Mexican organization for racial and worker justice.
A year and a half ago, Randy Gingrich presented a talk on the Tarahumara struggles for land and dignity against loggers, narcos, and mega-tourism development at Collected Works Bookstore. This fall, he is traveling with a multi-media presentation including the US premier of a short (15 minute documentary) on a Tarahumara community struggling for survival against rapacious tourism developers.
The Tarahumara are renowned for their ultra-marathon running abilities thanks to Christopher MacDougal’s best seller, Born to Run. However, their struggle to survive and continue their cultural traditions in the face of multiple threats is their never ending test of endurance.
Gingrich has worked to support Tarahumara and other indigenous cultures in the Sierra Madre for 22 years, based in Chihuahua, with some hard won successes and constant challenges. Our organization, Tierra Nativa, is dedicated to accompanying indigenous communities in the Sierra struggling to protect their lands and natural resources while adapting to change in ways that preserve their culture. Often we have struggled against mega-projects like a World Bank funded forestry program in the 1990’s (a successful campaign covered in LA Times, NY Times, CNN and others) and a mega-tourism development project that threatens to displace communities in the Copper Canyon area. We have had some success in court including key Supreme Court decisions that advance the rights of indigenous people, and recently have had some success in Mexican Senate hearings with multi-partisan support.
Also, we are advancing alternatives such as planning eco-cultural alternatives to industrial tourism development, which is one of our most important initiatives. The indigenous vision includes diversification into tourism services beyond just craft sales that leave them in extreme poverty, but to restore their agro-ecological landscape and cultural traditions. We are working with an emerging coalition, including the Center for Responsible travel and WWF to develop a culturally appropriate model of responsible tourism as one platform towards helping meet other needs of the Tarahumara, Tepehuan, Mountain Pima and Guarijia in the region.
Also, there are many other stories to weave in a talk, including very isolated communities and their successful and also heartbreaking stories of defending their lands and forests for decades against narco-caciques and loggers, the struggle of the Guarijia (that may soon have success in court) against dam construction that will flood the core of their culture (3 communities), and others.
Gingrich has worked as an activist and social entrepreneur in the Sierra Tarahumara since 1991, where I have been graced by the courage and resistance of many traditional indigenous communities and the generosity of benefactors and campesinos who would share their last pot of beans with a stranger, and also constantly challenged in every way imaginable. The acceleration of the Drug war here since 2008, whose social and cultural costs are never calculated in the prohibition formula, has been the hardest for all. Yet we shed light on forgotten areas. Recent involvement of key Senators and Supreme Court decisions advancing respect for indigenous rights gives great hope.