On February 16, 2022, Mexico’s Supreme Court of the Nation (SCJN, for its Spanish initials) pronounced a historic sentence for the country’s indigenous peoples. For the first time, the SCJN ordered the Secretariat of Economy to cancel mining concessions in an indigenous community—in this case, the Tecoltemi nahua community—as their collective rights had been violated by not holding a previous consultation, and the court made it mandatory to conduct consultations with all the indigenous communities that would be affected by a mining project before granting any concessions in the future. Never before in the cases of rights of indigenous peoples that reached the SCJN had permits been canceled nor had a company ever been left without a concession.

This was achieved thanks to the Tecoltemi’s struggle of 10-plus years. In 2015, this nahua community and ejidatario [1] groups and communities from Puebla’s Sierra Norte region in the municipality of Ixtacamaxtitlán, with legal support from the Tiyat Tlali Council and Fundar, filed an amparo lawsuit against the mining concessions that were granted in their territory without their consent. The mining project, which affected over 20 communities, involved diverting water from natural springs in the mining zone, which would have impacts on the land, housing, and people’s ways of life.

[1] In Mexico, ejidatarios are those who have usufruct rights to communal or cooperative land used primarily for agricultural purposes, which is known as an ejido.

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To make the case visible, in addition to the legal and technical support offered by Fundar, we worked with the community and the Tiyal Tlali Council, Instituto Mexicano de Desarrollo Comunitario (IMDEC), and Centro de Estudios para el Desarrollo Rural (CESDER) on a communications campaign that positioned the defense for the community’s life and dignity, its customs, culture, and the defense of the land, remembering the historical resistance of indigenous communities. The campaign’s actions included working with a collective of urban artists named Los Chachachá to build ten wooden shields, each measuring 1.2 meters in diameter and painted with key elements of the community’s cosmology. The shields were used to cover the main entrance of the SCJN in Mexico City and as part of a ritual for life that was carried out by the Tecoltemi community.

The shields became a symbol of the struggle and were taken to the assemblies of towns and communities in different municipalities. These street activities helped reach more people and broadcast the case on digital media, reach traditional media outlets, and spread the petition on the platform Change.org; with the help of other organizations that publicly joined the case—such as Centro ProDH, PODER, and Amnesty International—we managed to collect 20,000 signatures requesting that the SCJN recognize the violations of the Tecoltemi community’s rights.

The sentence to cancel these mining concessions is evidence that the SCJN recognizes that the community’s rights to consultation and consent were violated and that this should not happen again in any other mining project in Mexico.

The struggle of the Tecoltemi community, along with the other groups and organizations that supported them, is and will continue to be for life.