Residents of Cuetzalan “definitively closed down” the construction of a CFE electrical substation and its power line, starting a protest camp to prevent the resumption of works that benefit business at the expense of the local population in Sierra Norte.
The cold weather and Mayor Oscar Paula Cruz’s refusal to allow the Town Hall square to be used didn’t stop the townsfolk walking to the site where the Federal Electricity Commission has started works that contravene the Land Management Program (POET) in the area.
Members of the Cuetzalan Integral Land Management Board (COTIC) had previously informed the Mayor of their opposition to the substation and high-voltage line that would cross 12 and a half miles of land to reach Papantla in Veracruz.
The works are not intended to supply electricity to the population, but will be used by companies holding licenses for large tracts of land, on which they intend to carry out open-pit mining and fracking.
COTIC stated that to install the cables of the “Cuetzalan Entronque Teziutlán-Tajín” line, the CFE would use land located in the vicinity of the communities of Alahuacapan, Xiloxochico, Chicueyajko, Acaxiloco and Nahuiogpan, close to homes and schools, putting those living in the region at risk, as they claimed that an increase in cancer cases has been documented in people living near to high-voltage pylons.
They warned that the high-voltage line will have a significant negative impact on woodland, and even on coffee plantations, affecting their growth along the length of the line, and added that honey production will also be affected, because “bees are stopping collecting pollen and producing honey because their sense of direction is impaired by the magnetic fields generated by the lines”.
The area is home to a Slow Food Presidium, the “Puebla Sierra Norte Native Bees Honey”, involving over 180 beekeepers in 22 communities around Cuetzalan, who depend on this business for their livelihood. The bees live in a forest that is a mosaic of biodiversity actively protected by the community. The indigenous Náhuat and Totonaca people have developed a system called koujatkiloyan, or “productive forest,” that sustainably takes advantage of this biodiversity. Within this system, the native bee Scaptotrigona mexicana plays a fundamental role as a pollinator.
Last July, the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) approved the installation of a Federal Electricity Commission high-voltage line known as the “Cuetzalan Teziutlán-Tajín Link,” which will pass through Ayotoxco for 5 miles and 7 miles through Cuetzalan to reach a substation that will be built in this municipal seat.
Forty percent of the 3,599 hectares (35.99) of land that will be affected by the high-voltage line is secondary mountainous cloud forest—only 1% of this ecosystem remains in the country.
Slow Food supports the efforts of the indigenous peoples of Sierra Norte de Puebla to protect their territory from land grabbing and to preserve its biodiversity, which represents an irreplaceable cultural and ecological heritage.
Originally published in Spanish in Regeneración, November 21, 2016 — and adapted for Slow Food. Images taken from the same source.