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Tracy L. Barnett

Entries by Tracy L. Barnett

Filmmakers Sign Historic Agreement With Huichol Authorities in Mexico City

(1) Comments | Posted September 8, 2014 | 4:34 PM

MEXICO CITY - A powerful new full-length feature film about the Wixarika People's struggle to save their most sacred site from exploitation from Canadian mining companies has become the cutting edge of that movement as its director and protagonists prepare to make their way to Europe, the United States and...

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Común Tierra: A Journey Through Sustainable Communities of the Americas

(0) Comments | Posted July 28, 2014 | 9:59 AM


In November of 2010, as I was winding down my journey through the Americas, documenting sustainability initiatives in the 10 countries I visited for The Esperanza Project, my path crossed with that of Ryan Luckey and Leticia Rigatti, the couple who...

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Ten Years on the Front Lines of Indigenous Struggles: Interview With Intercontinental Cry Founder/Editor John "Ahni" Schertow

(0) Comments | Posted July 25, 2014 | 3:39 PM


Ten years ago, when John "Ahni" Schertow launched the award-winning magazine Intercontinental Cry, about 50 Indigenous Nations led their own front-line struggles to save some of the last intact habitats on Earth from the ravages of modern industrial development. Now more than 500...

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Interview With the Last Peyote Guardians: Marakame José Luis "Katira" Ramírez and Son

(0) Comments | Posted July 17, 2014 | 5:47 PM


José Luis "Katira" Ramirez invokes the sacred five directions of the Huichol people in a benediction before the showing in Guadalajara (Credit: José Andrés Solórzano)

Second of two interviews

See also: Interview With the Directors of Huicholes: The Last Peyote Guardians

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An Interview With Directors of Huicholes: The Last Peyote Guardians

(0) Comments | Posted July 17, 2014 | 11:41 AM

See also: Interview with the Last Peyote Guardians: Marakame José Luis "Katira" Ramírez and son

When Argentine filmmaker Hernán Vílchez made his way up into the remote Wixarika community of San Andrés Cohamiata Tateikie high in the Western Sierra Madre of Mexico, he knew he would be entering another world. What he didn't know was how deeply it would change his own life.

The movie tells the story of the Wixarika or Huichol people, one of the most intact precolonial people remaining in the Americas, and their battle to save the sacred site upon which their cosmovision depends from Canadian gold and silver mining operations. It's a story emblematic of a horrifically destructive industry at work all over the world, and at the same time unique to this time and place and culture, and it's a story that's very much alive.

Huicholes: The Last Peyote Guardians, a beautiful and profound new film just released on demand at, breaks new ground on many fronts. First there was the making of the film, which revolves around the pilgrimage of a single family, that of the marakame or shaman José Luis Ramírez, or Katira by his Wixarika name, to the sacred desert of Wirikuta and to the Cerro Quemado, the Birthplace of the Sun. Other films have been made exploring the colorful and deeply spiritual traditions of the Wixarika people, but none that has covered with this level of depth and professionalism the spiritual traditions of this people and the existential threat that culture now faces.

The film crew, accompanied by numerous members of the Ramírez family, has also pioneered a new approach to distribution in an era of self-publishing and artistic independence. Rather than premiering the film at a prestigious film festival and then concentrating their efforts on audiences and festivals in major cities, the crew premiered the film in a way that most resembles the ancient Wixarika pilgrimage, but in reverse. The first two showings were in the pilgrimage destination, the threatened sacred site itself, the remote mountain range and desert valley of Wirikuta. The next stop was a two-day caravan up into the even more remote Wixarika territories. Only then did they take their tour to overflow crowds in Mexico's two largest cities, Guadalajara and Mexico City.

Now, due to the urgency of the message, they are trying to raise the money to go on tour with the movie: first, beginning in August, in South America, followed by Europe in September and October, and the U.S. and Canada in November.

Film director Hernán Vílchez introduces the film at its world premiere in Real de Catorce, in Wirikuta, the contested ceremonial territory of the Huichol people. (Credit: José Andrés Solórzano)

I caught up with the film's director, Hernán Vílchez, and producer, Paola Stefani, and Katira and his son Clemente at the producer's home in Mexico City recently as they recovered from the eight-day marathon. Here is the interview.

Hernán: We've just recovered from the Five Colors of Corn and Five Functions movie release tour, and the Ramírez family is here with us. The world premiere of Huicholes: The Last Peyote Guardians was very well received and really exceeded our expectations. We're feeling very grateful to the Mexican people but especially those who attended and also supported us. It's been three and a half years since I began this work, almost as a mandate from the Elder's Council of San Andrés Cohamiata. They asked me to do a film to tell the story of their struggle to save their most sacred site, and this is the result.

Tracy: Speaking of the movie release tour, let's talk about that first. What stood out the most for you as you traveled with this film, what surprised you, in terms of the way it was received? In particular, the different reactions of the very different audiences you were able to reach?

Paola: For us it was very important to take the film in the first place to Real de Catorce and to the populations of the desert, and likewise to the Huichol territories in the mountains. Our first interest is to take the film to the people who are affected by this conflict by the mine in Wirikuta, and so the first would be those who live in the desert, and of course to the Wixaritari.

As Hernán already said, the first response was to have in attendance more than 500 people, in Real de Catorce as in Estación Catorce and in the Huichol territories. In Guadalajara, we could never have imagined that 800 people would show up and that more than half would be left outside. So obviously Wirikuta is a subject that interests many people. In Mexico City, where there was a last-minute change of venue and then it rained, about 2,500 people turned out - and what was very moving also is that the majority were young people.

In the case of the Guadalajara function, there was an enormous diversity in the kinds of people who came. I think the public response - it was a very quick tour, no? In eight days we did five events and traveled more than 2,700 kilometers. So we didn't have the opportunity to stay for a long time in each place after the function but immediately after finishing the film what we most received were words of profound thanks; in Estación Catorce we were talking to kids between 16 and 18 years old, and they were saying, 'We've always seen the Wixaritari with their pilgrimages and we've never really understood what it was about; now we understand.'"

In Real de Catorce we had the chance to speak with ejidatarios (collective landowners, mostly small farmers) from the mountains as well as the valley, and they were grateful to be able to have access to serious information, and also something that kept coming up in the comments was the importance of making it very clear that the Wixárika people have no intention of depriving anyone of their land or their ability to make a living. One of the comments too was that it was really touching for many inhabitants of Wirikuta that the Wixárika people were there, looking in their eyes concerning the effects of the mining on their territory and how it would affect the water.

In Mexico City the film ended with a light sprinkling of rain (considered as a benediction among the Wixárika people and their supporters) and applause and shouts of Viva Wirikuta, very moving as well. I think if it hadn't rained as it did, I think we could have ended up with 5,000 people. It's not the film, it's the subject; I think the people are really sensitized to the subject of Wirikuta.

Read the full interview at Intercontinental Cry.
The film can be viewed online for $3.99 at
Anyone who is interested in organizing a film screening or supporting the effort may contact the director at...

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Behind the Scenes: What Wirikuta Fest Fans Bought With Their Tickets

(0) Comments | Posted April 7, 2014 | 8:26 PM

"Wirikuta is not for sale!" Wixarika leaders and activists take the stage at Wirikuta Fest to the chants of 60,000 fans.

Story and photos by Tracy L. Barnett
Intercontinental Cry

It was a long...

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Canada meets Wirikuta: Visit from Council of Canadians' Maude Barlow

(0) Comments | Posted November 19, 2012 | 11:40 AM


Canadian author and activist Maude Barlow atop the Cerro Quemado with Wixarika leader Santos de la Cruz. (Tracy L. Barnett photos)

REAL DE CATORCE, Mexico - From the moment Maude Barlow passed under the crumbling stone arch and saw the first nopalera laden with...

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Star Power Merges With Spirituality at Wirikuta Fest

(1) Comments | Posted May 30, 2012 | 4:18 PM

MEXICO CITY -- The old Mexico met the new one Saturday at the massive Foro Sol and together, in a vivid explosion of rhythm and light and living energy, they danced the night away.

Wirikuta Fest, a lineup of...

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Stars Come Out for Wirikuta

(3) Comments | Posted February 9, 2012 | 12:15 PM

Wixarika pilgrims in their traditional dress began arriving in this town yesterday in preparation for a historic "spiritual consultation" with their deities.

This story is the second in a series about the historic pilgrimage of the Wixarika people to their sacred site...

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Message From the Gods: Unite to Defend the Birthplace of the Sun

(0) Comments | Posted February 9, 2012 | 10:25 AM

Note: This is the third in a series of articles, "Battle for the Birthplace of the Sun," reporting from the Sierra of Catorce on the historic pilgrimage of the Huicholes to their threatened sacred site of Wirikuta....

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Real de Catorce Awaits Historic Huichol Pilgrimage

(2) Comments | Posted February 6, 2012 | 3:29 PM


Note: This is the first in a series of articles, "Battle for the Birthplace of the Sun," reporting from the Sierra of Catorce on the historic pilgrimage of the Huichols to their threatened sacred site of Wirikuta. Stay tuned for developments as they unfold...

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Eagle and Condor Meet in Visionary Gathering of Souls

(0) Comments | Posted December 2, 2010 | 11:18 AM

Long before the sun appears over the towering white cliffs all around us, this temporary village comes to life. The guardians of the ceremonial fire are stoking the flames for the temezcal; the kitchen crew is chopping and peeling and stirring; smoke is rising from the women's tipi. Suddenly the...

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Paraguay Takes Hard Line on GMOs

(8) Comments | Posted September 1, 2010 | 1:17 PM

ASUNCION, Paraguay - The federal agricultural agency's dramatic destruction of more than 100 acres of transgenic corn a couple of weeks ago has provoked a fiery new round here in the debate about genetically...

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Social Forum Celebrates, Consolidates Change in Latin America

(2) Comments | Posted August 17, 2010 | 2:26 PM


ASUNCION, Paraguay - It was an historic moment for Latin America, and perhaps for the world: A former guerilla, a former priest and a former coca grower, now presidents of their respective countries, stood together and addressed the...

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Goldcorp's Marlin Mine: "Development for Death"

(0) Comments | Posted July 1, 2010 | 1:28 PM

Author's note: Last week, following the visit of U.N. Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Rights James Anaya, the Guatemalan government agreed to abide by his requests and those of the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights, the Catholic Church, the International Labor Organization and others and has ordered the temporary suspension of...

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Indigenous Guatemalans Tell United Nations: No to Mining, Yes to Life

(1) Comments | Posted June 18, 2010 | 11:26 AM


HUEHUETENANGO, Guatemala -- They arrived in pickup trucks, in school buses and on foot, resplendent in the vibrant purples and reds, blues and yellows of their native highlands. They came by the thousands to witness a...

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Guatemala: First the Ashes, Then Agatha, Then Gifts From Heaven

(2) Comments | Posted June 8, 2010 | 5:49 PM

PANAJACHEL, Guatemala -- For three days I've been traveling the villages of Lake Atitlan, watching the slow shift from disaster to windfall.


On Saturday, we stood together in Marvilla's kitchen at Posada Dos Volcanes in San Lucas...

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Guatemalan Ex-guerilla Trades Gun for Microphone

(0) Comments | Posted May 21, 2010 | 3:21 PM

XELA, Guatemala -- It's been 14 years since the brutal civil war that gripped this country for over three decades finally came to an end, and the former combatants that once manned guerilla posts in the mountains have all gone back to civilian life. For many of them, though, the...

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Chevron Wins First Round Against Crude Filmmaker

(5) Comments | Posted May 10, 2010 | 11:57 AM

A ruling by a federal court judge in a case involving Chevron's environmental disaster in the Amazon could lead to documentary filmmakers and investigative journalists dumping their unused footage and notes in order to avoid having them seized, said the filmmaker's attorney.

Documentary filmmaker Joe Berlinger must hand over to...

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A Mother's Day Thanks to Latin American World Changers

(0) Comments | Posted May 9, 2010 | 11:28 AM

QUETZALTENANGO, Guatemala - I awoke this sparkling Mother's Day to the sight of the Santa Maria volcano from my rooftop, rising green and conical over the mountains that surround this charming city in the highlands. Quetzaltenango, known to...

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