8.COM 7.A.8

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Mexico has nominated Pilgrimage to Wirikuta (No. 00862) for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:

The pilgrimage to Wirikuta is an annual ceremonial ritual undertaken between October and March by pilgrims from the Wixárika Huichol community in western Mexico. The pilgrims follow a route east from the Pacific coast through the San Luis Potosí desert, visiting sites representing the four cardinal directions and leaving ritual offerings. The journey symbolizes and recreates the Wixárika origin myth – a belief that people emerged from the sea and travelled to Wirikuta, where the sun first appeared. The pilgrimage acts as a social mechanism that reproduces an ancestral worldview and an agricultural production system based on corn and the seasonal cycles according to which the pilgrims draw the rains with them on their return. This signals the start of the agricultural season. The pilgrimage – which involves the consumption of peyote from cactuses grown in the desert, ceremonial dances and ritual designs – is an important part of the initiation process for novices training to become traditional healers. In recent decades, the pilgrimage has come under threat from mining projects. The Huichol fear that exploitation of mineral resources and the highly toxic wastes from the mining process could damage sacred sites and natural resources and, with them, their ceremonial practices as a whole.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Urgent Safeguarding List:

U.1:   The annual Pilgrimage to Wirikuta connects the Huichol community to its founding myths, thereby providing them a sense of belonging and continuity; the associated worldview and ritual procedures are transmitted from generation to generation through practice and initiation and serve to orient the community’s agricultural work;

U.2:   Although the Huichol community undertakes the pilgrimage to Wirikuta each year, the development of agricultural and mining projects as well as their effects on aquifers pose a threat to the viability of the ceremonial practices, particularly because of the risk they pose to the sacred sites themselves;

U.5:   The Pilgrimage to Wirikuta was included in 2008 in the Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage, elaborated and maintained by the National Council for Culture and Arts;

  1. Further decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination does not satisfy the following criteria for inscription on the Urgent Safeguarding List:

U.3:   The proposed safeguarding measures do not directly address the risks identified – in particular the mining concessions contrary to existing regulations – nor do they reflect the aspirations of all concerned communities or demonstrate their widest possible participation in their formulation; such measures give little attention to the transmission of the ceremonial practices associated with the Pilgrimage to Wirikuta; their calendar and budget are not clear and the funding sources are not identified;

U.4:   While many members of Huichol communities participated in regional workshops that preceded the elaboration of the nomination, information is lacking on how they were actively and effectively involved in the nomination process; the free, prior and informed consent of only one organization is provided; correspondence regarding the nomination indicates that the community is divided with regard to it;

  1. Decides not to inscribe Pilgrimage to Wirikuta on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding;
  2. Notes with concern that mining and other development projects threaten the sacred sites that are essential for the continuity of the Pilgrimage to Wirikuta;
  3. Further notes that inscription of the Pilgrimage on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding cannot substitute for more comprehensive enforcement of existing measures aiming at protecting the sites themselves;
  4. Encourages the State Party to mobilize all government levels as well as relevant non-governmental organizations and the Huichol community to develop a safeguarding plan that specifically responds to the threats to the viability of the Pilgrimage to Wirikuta, while proposing a precise timetable, an estimation of the costs and a clear identification of their source;
  5. Reminds the State Party that communities are to participate as widely as possible in the process of elaboration of nominations which should reflect the diversity of their expectations and demands.

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