The River Says “No”

  • January 22, 2021

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Climate & Catastrophe

In 2015, the PUCARL Collective in Veracruz, Mexico, booked a historic victory and successfully halted the construction of a dam that was threatening the entire region.

January 20 marked the 6th Anniversary of the PUCARL Collective (United Communities of the Antigua Watershed for Free Rivers) protest encampment. On this day, the collective blocked the entrance to the Río Pescados (River of Fishes), halting the construction of a dam that was threatening the entire region.

The Brazilian goliath Novonor, previously Odebrecht S.A., had been working with the Mexican government to dam river and flood large swaths of the Antigua Watershed (Veracruz, Mexico). Odebrecht’s dams have brought disastrous humanitarian and environmental consequences across the continent. The 43 communities along the Rio Pescados are the first to defeat Odebrecht, thus protecting their waterways for the generations to come.

José Milán Tejeda and Gabriela Maciel are river sentinels from Jalcomulco, a town that lies along the banks of Río Pescados. Jalcomulco is encircled by mountains of abandoned mango orchards, which are rapidly being deforested and replaced by the new cash crop: lemon. Jalcomulco was the center of this battle over water and land rights. José and Gabriela are founding members of the PUCARL Collective, which, to this day, is defending the watershed from ecological threats.

While Odebrecht and the Mexican government have apparently walked away from the project, the PUCARL Collective is aware that this threat is just lying dormant. Thus, they are committed to continue their movement, despite their apparent victory. The collective has maintained their encampment, which has become center for the entire community. In addition, PUCARL is currently initiating programs to clean the river from agricultural contaminants and incentivize agroecological farming practices.

The PUCARL Collective is an inspiration throughout Turtle Island / the Americas and is open to aid organizations that are fighting to protect their land, water and territory.

The video was produced in collaboration with Manuel Antonio Lucía, from Mandala Producciones, and members of the PUCARL Collective.

This video is part of Guardians of the Watershed: A Series About Environmental Solutions. The series follows Earth Guardians from the Antigua Watershed in Veracruz, Mexico (Totonac/Nahua Territory). From the river sentinels to local beekeepers, the short films explore how water protectors and organic producers can join forces to create a regenerative future for the entire region.

At a time when the news is dominated by doom and gloom, it is necessary to focus on the people who are working together to combat the climate crises on a local level. Communities from across the Antigua Watershed have recognized that, whether they work the land or live in a waterless city, all their struggles are linked. It is only through their collaboration that they can protect and nurture their land and water.

The series is centered around three Earth Guardians, from different regions of the Antigua watershed. These individuals have all taken different approaches to fight the climate crises but are all very much aware that the success of their struggle depends on their cooperation.

In the previous episodes, we visited the beekeeper Don Andres, watching him care for the stingless bees that are the guardians of the tropics, and Mercedes, an organic producer who is utilizing agroecological practices to protect the waterways of the region.

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