Two Steps Closer to Protecting Temaca

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Closing Ceremony of Rivers for Life 3

Victor Flores

In October of 2010, hundreds of activists came together in the small town of Temacapulín for Rivers for Life 3: The Third International Meeting of Dam-Affected People and Their Allies.

Temacapulín (Temaca to its inhabitants) was the perfect place for this gathering – Temaca is threatened by a dam that would flood this centuries-old town, displace its residents and destroy its strong cultural history. But Temaca was the perfect location for another reason: the people have been fighting back from the beginning. With help from Guadalajara-based non-profits IMDEC and COA, the affected communities have been waging a valiant battle at the legal, social and community levels to stop this unnecessary project called El Zapotillo Dam.

During Rivers for Life 3, participants from around the world pledged to show the Mexican government that "The Eyes of the World Are On Temaca." So when the residents of Temaca called for an international day of action on November 10, people from around the world pitched in and held events to show their solidarity and demand cancellation of El Zapotillo Dam

In Mexico, the communities held a days-long encampment at the dam construction site and protested at government offices. A court ruling calling for a halt to construction of the relocation site was granted, but then quickly overturned due to political pressure.

On 7-8 January of 2011, during the holiday festival when all the hijos ausentes (literally absent children) were in town to celebrate with their families, residents organized a community consultation to have the first comprehensive assessment of the community's feelings about the dam. The outcome was clear:

  • 643 people voted against the dam, and 5 voted in favor.
  • 645 do not want to be displaced from the dam, while 3 do.
  • 636 people were not consulted about the dam before construction began, while only 8 were.
  • And finally, 622 residents want to keep fighting to stop El Zapotillo, and 23 do not.

In all, 99% of the population does not want El Zapotillo Dam to be built.

The community finally received some good news: on February 9, two amparos – which roughly translates to legal injunctions – were granted, calling for a suspension of dam construction. They were granted based on the fact that the dam violates guarantees to the law, legal security, consultation, private property, timely and informed receipt of information, and respect for the environment, all found in 4 articles of the Mexican Constitution.

Mosaic Wall in Temaca made during Rivers for Life 3For now, the residents and their allies are celebrating this triumph of democracy and the rule of law. The next steps will be ensuring the implementation of these rulings, and ultimately getting full cancellation of El Zapotillo Dam. As they say in Temaca: "Temaca vive, la lucha sigue – Temaca lives, the fight continues."

I'm humbled by these strong and determined citizens, and am looking forward to continuing to help them in their struggle to protect their irreplaceable town they call home.

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