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Tiltepec, Oaxaca


1 June 1999


During this interesting testimony Cecilio discusses hunting, the forests and the protection of the community’s natural resources, something he feels strongly about. He describes how many of the wild animals that used to be seen around the community no longer exist, and blames this mainly on outsiders from a neighbouring settlement coming in to hunt with rifles. This is something that concerns him because “they are going to finish it off, because our grandchildren won’t know all the types of animals that exist in our territory.” He feels that the only way to resolve the situation is to talk to the “government institutions where they have banned hunting and deforestation” and “to split off a certain part of our territory for those from La Luz because it’s their fault that we now don’t have animals or forest.”

Throughout the interview Cecilio compares the respect with which their forefathers treated the land to the way in which it is now being used. When describing the current use of dynamite in the rivers he claims: “our forefathers knew very well how to do things with animals and fish…In those days there wasn’t any dynamite, they didn’t pollute the river… people took good care of their rivers and forests …Now they go into the mountains and rivers in any way they like, and they say that it belongs to us all. That’s why they go in and destroy in any way they like, whether it’s animals, fish or trees.”

He links this disrespect for the land and natural resources to decreasing harvests. He claims that while their forefathers didn’t sow much, “they still got good harvests because there was more respect for the land. They asked mother earth to give them a good harvest. Well, nowadays we sow a lot but we don’t get harvests like we should any more, because we don’t have respect for mother earth like before.” He also comments that when he was a boy “there was a mist in the mountains almost all year but now it doesn’t rain any more. That’s why it’s clear that water is scarce in the mountains.”

He blames deforestation for the declining rainfall: “We’re cutting down the trees close to the high mountains and that’s why water is scarce.” When asked if he would ever sell the forest he reiterates his belief in its priceless nature: “I don’t believe that the money can make it rain for us, like our forest does… we, the same men, make the rain go away. The plants wilt and then the leaves wilt, then the diseases come to make us ill and we ask why! It’s because we cut down trees, that’s why we’re lacking water.”

detailed breakdown

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Section 1  Describes how people arrived from Atepec when he was a boy and started hunting: “when these people from Atepec entered our territory, the decrease in wild animals that existed on Tiltepec land was seen straight away.”
Section 2-3  Lists animals which were there before. Blames decline in wildlife on the outsiders and their rifles but also says “now our forest is being finished because of our people”. Says in order to return the forest to its former condition “all the ciudadanos (citizens) and the comisariados (community officials) have to agree, they have to see what is happening to us. . .” Describes how dynamite is now being used to catch fish in the river. In the past people shared out the river and “they didn’t pollute the river, and also they only went to catch fish.” Says people from Atepec introduced the use of dynamite but also “the people here were happy and went with them to fish”.
Section 3-4  Mentions government institutions that have banned hunting and deforestation. Cecilio feels they need to talk to them to separate some territory off from the people from La Luz in order to protect their forest. Expresses concern for grandchildren: they “won’t know all the types of animals that exist in our territory”. Another list of animals that used to exist locally. Says if they do nothing, they’ll be completely lost: “If we remain with our hands in our pockets (doing nothing), our children that come after us won’t even get to know what a wild turkey (Penelope purpurascens), a chachalaca (literally chatterbox; a long-tailed, ground-dwelling bird, Ortalis vetula), a squirrel or a deer looks like.”
Section 4-5  In the past the forest was protected: “now we’re cutting down the old forests to be able to sow [crops], and in that way we are destroying our forest… and the earth is losing its power...It’d be better if we looked for a place that can be cultivated again to be able to leave the forest higher up” Talks about the great age of the trees – says that selling the forest would make money, and admits some might wish to do this, but ultimately this would be wrong.
Section 5-6  Environmental changes: “when I was still a boy, there was water everywhere. It rained… it rained constantly…Everything is dry now...just last year the water dried up because some people cut down trees very close to the mountain.” And temperatures have got colder. Cultivation: says that the forefathers grew chilli, corn, beans, sugarcane: “they didn’t sow much, but they still got good harvests because there was more respect for the land.” Now yields are less because people just exploit land, do not revere it. He grows crops to sustain himself, not to sell; there is no market. They started growing coffee in the 1980s, when the road arrived.