Huichol Christians ordered to leave Mexican town

Indian families face second forced exile in two years
( [email protected] ) Mar 15, 2004 05:42 AM EST

Mexico City - Eighteen families of the indigenous Huichol tribe in Tenzompa, Jalisco, Mexico, have been threatened with expulsion from their homes for the “crime” of believing in the Christian gospel. An official decision to expel them has been signed and will go into effect at the end of this school year. More than 80 adults and children, in all make up the 18 families.

According to Adolfo Garcia, who has been helping to defend their cause, the expulsion decree was signed by indigenous leaders from Santa Catarina in the municipality of Mezquitic, despite the fact that Tenzompa is in Huejuquilla municipality. For that reason, says Garcia, the expulsion is not legal.

Last month, the newspaper El Sol de Zacatecas carried an article about the Huichol evangelicals entitled “They make them flee from their lands because of religious intolerance.” The writer commented on the “drama which they have confronted during the past 17 months.”

In fact, the drama has lasted for years, since 1987, when the evangelical Gospel message first reached the Huichol mountain area in Tuxpan de Bolaños, Jalisco, and other communities such as Cuamustita and Ratontita.

In 1988, a small group of Huichol Indians of the Santa Catarina zone who had converted to Christ began to construct a church building in Pedernal and Nueva Colonia. They suffered persecution, enduring jail, kidnapping and torture. Their ordeal was described in a July 1999 report appearing in the Zacatecas newspaper Angulos.

On August 24, 2002, the Christian families were expelled from their ancestral community, losing lands, houses, cattle and belongings. They took refuge in Tenzompa, four hours apart from their homes in the mountains.

They reportedly lived as best they could, hoping for the government to intervene in their plight. Meanwhile, they continued to testify of their faith. A strong movement of God produced many new believers, according to Adolfo and Rosy Garcia.

In December 2003, the exiles gathered enough boldness to ask for the right to land on which to sow their crops and build their homes in the new location. However, the request was rejected. Afterwards, town residents decided to expel them from Tenzompa to prevent them from claiming any more rights there.

Unless the government intervenes, the 18 families expelled from their ancestral homes in Santa Catarina will be looking for yet another place to subsist.