Yaqui Indigenous Communities In Sonora Protest Over Water Rights

Published: Thursday, July 23, 2020 - 5:24pm
Updated: Monday, July 27, 2020 - 2:31pm
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Coverage of tribal natural resources is supported in part by Catena Foundation

Members of Yaqui Indigenous communities in southern Sonora, Mexico, are blocking Mexico's federal Highway 15 and the railway in a renewed battle over land and water rights. The blockade gained attention this week after stopping the movement of goods headed for the United States.

The Yaqui protesters set up blockades to oppose a proposed water project in the capital Hermosillo they worry will further dip into the Yaqui water supply. Officials have contested that claim. But protests are really a continuation of long-standing conflict between Mexico and the Yaqui people, said Guadalupe Flores Maldonado, a tribal member and advisor in the community Loma de Bácum.

"It's the same story that never ends of protecting our Yaqui communities," he said. "The defense continues for this territory, the ways and customs of our race, our people."

Flores Maldonado said he doesn’t believe current demonstrations will lead to needed change. But they did get the attention of Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who said during his morning press conference Thursday he would meet with Yaqui leaders during an upcoming visit to Sonora.

López Obrador called the treatment of the Yaqui "a shameful part of Mexico's history," and said bringing justice to their communities would include responding their current demands.

The protests have also drawn attention for disrupting imports and exports with the United States. On Thursday, the Mexican railway association put out a statement saying blockaded rails have already halted some 150,000 tonnes of cargo from reaching the U.S.-Mexico border. And Ford said operations at it's factory in Hermosillo have been affected by the blockades as well.

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