For more than a decade, totonaca indigenous communities in the Sierra Norte de Puebla have fought for the survival of their traditions and the defense of their territory. In January of this year, they won an important legal battle against the building of a hydroelectric dam with the local municipality revoking the permits for Puebla 1 to be built, due to illegal activities in the administrative processes.
In February last year, PBI Mexico accompanied Félix Zurita, Spanish documentary maker, to the Sierra Norte de Puebla to film the situation in which the land, territory and environmental defenders from the communities of San Mateo Tlacotepec, Altica and San Felipe Tepatlán are living through.
These images form part of a documentary, “The Blood of the Earth”, produced by Fundación Luiérnaga for PBI which tells the story of three resistance movements against hydroelectric dams in Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras. In each resistance movement, land, territory and environmental defenders have been attacked, threatened and criminalised for their active resistance against the imposition of economic projects in their territories, a trend that PBI sees is increasing across the region.
In September last year, a short version of the video, “Children of Water”, was shown in different spaces in Mexico, particularly in events organised by local NGOs, IMDEC and Fundar who legally represent the communities, with the presence of the Culture Secretary and Indigenous Peoples´ Secretary of the Government of Puebla. Jan Jarab, representative of the UN high commission for human rights in Mexico recorded a video expressing his support for the communities.
This case begun in 2009 when the authorities gave the permits for the construction of hydroelectric project Puebla 1 which was to be built on the Ajajalpan river. The company building the dam is Comexhidro and the electricity will be produced for Walmart Mexico, Operadora Vips and Suburbia. Studies undertaken by autonomous entities mention the serious environmental impacts the building of the dam could have including the impacts of water quality, the destruction and reduction of the habitat of many species and river ecosystems, the isolation of fish populations and the generation of greenhouse gases and proliferation of insects that transmit illnesses.
In January of this year, the municipality of Ahuacatlán decided to cancel the permits that proposed to change the use of the land in order to build the project due to serious illegal acts that took place such as the falsification of signatures and official seals.