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Huichol Indians trek to sacred site to oppose mine

this photo taken on Monday Feb. 6, 2012, Huichol Indians walk to the sacred Cerro del Quemado, or the Burned Mountain, on the Wirikuta reserve near Real de Catorce, Mexico. The Huichol Indians made the seven day walk as part of an annual pilgrimage to the site they consider the center of the universe and where the sun was born. This year they are asking their deities to guide them as they try to stop a $100 million mining project that is part of a mining concession granted to Canada-based First Majestic Silver Corp. The reserve is one of UNESCO's World Network of Natural Sacred Sites and the Huichols beleive the project would devastate their cultural and religious heritage. this photo taken on Monday Feb. 6, 2012, Huichol Indians walk to the sacred Cerro del Quemado, or the Burned Mountain, on the Wirikuta reserve near Real de Catorce, Mexico. The Huichol Indians made the seven day walk as part of an annual pilgrimage to the site they consider the center of the universe and where the sun was born. This year they are asking their deities to guide them as they try to stop a $100 million mining project that is part of a mining concession granted to Canada-based First Majestic Silver Corp. The reserve is one of UNESCO's World Network of Natural Sacred Sites and the Huichols beleive the project would devastate their cultural and religious heritage. (AP Photo/Christian Palma)
February 23, 2012
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REAL DE CATORCE, Mexico—Huichol Indians believe the sun was born in a spot high in the arid Sierra de Catorce mountain range of northern Mexico.

For them, that spot -- the Cerro del Quemado, or the Burned Mountain -- is the center of the universe, a sacred ground.

It's also part of a mining concession Mexico's government granted to Canada-based First Majestic Silver Corp., and Huichols are fighting to block the project.

More than 600 Huichols wearing colorful clothes with cross-stitch patterns and hats decorated with feathers and beadwork recently made a pilgrimage to the Cerro del Quemado to ask their gods to guide them in keeping the $100 million mining project from starting this year.

Men, women and children walked for seven days through the rugged, dry mountains, carrying blankets, food and water and herding a cow and a calf they sacrificed as an offering to their gods.

They came from their homes in the states of Nayarit, Jalisco, Durango and Zacatecas to the Wirikuta reserve, as the land around their sacred mountain is known.

The night they reached the Cerro del Quemado, they held a ceremony at the peak but didn't allow journalists to witness it. They could be heard chanting to a violin.

The next day, rocks lay in circles around the remnants of a bonfire in the center. There were also candles, mirrors, bead bracelets and earrings, photographs, ribbons and the calf bleeding to death.

Signs read: "Wirikuta is not for sale. It's to be loved and defended."

The reserve is one of UNESCO's World Network of Natural Sacred Sites. Huichols still come to conduct ceremonies and to hunt peyote, a hallucinogenic cactus they call "the blue deer."

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