Celebrate Mexico’s Day of the Dead and make visible the need to protect threatened earth defenders
The end of October is a time of traumatic memories for the Indigenous Rarámuri community of Coloradas de la Virgen in the Tarahumara mountains of northern Mexico. It was on October 24, 2018 that community leader and forest defender Julián Carrillo was shot dead. The assassination came just a week after Julian spoke out against the environmental impacts of a mining concession awarded by authorities to a Canadian mining company without the free, prior and informed consent of the Indigenous people whose lands would be impacted.
The killing of Julián Carrillo is no isolated case. A shocking number of defenders of land, Indigenous territory and the environment have been killed in Mexico. Many others have received death threats and must decide whether to abandon their efforts to protect rights and the environment, or live in constant fear of being gunned down.
This crisis is largely invisible, despite the election of President López Obrador, who promised to bring human rights change to Mexico. Violence and injustice continue, especially when communities speak out against resource extraction projects they say will damage their land and the environment.
Amnesty's altar for Julián Carrillo and other murdered earth defenders at last year's Day of the Dead community celebration at Wychwood Barns in Toronto.
1. Make visible the danger for earth defenders in a unique, eye-catching way
Day of the Dead is a popular Mexican festivity on November 2 when people remember and honour deceased loved ones with a traditional shrine or altar.
- On or around November 2, create an altar (sometimes also called an ofrenda in Spanish) that honours Julián Carrillo and other earth defenders who have been killed. As these easy-to-follow instructions explain, your altar can be “as simple or as elaborate as your creativity, time and materials allow”. Download this photo of Julián Carrillo to place on your altar, along with flowers (marigolds are traditionally used in Mexico), candles and other traditional elements.
- Consider a location for your altar where other people will see it. You can use this as a space to raise awareness and collect signatures on this print petition.
- You might also seek coverage in your local newspaper. Send the editor a photo and explain why you created the altar.
- Please also send us a photo of you with your altar so we can share it in our communications and show the depth of concern in Canada. We will send the photos to the community of Julián Carrillo so they know we are in solidarity. Email your photos with the subject "Altar for Julián Carrillo" to Campaigner Kathy Price >>email@example.com
- You may wish to include a photo of your altar with a letter to Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister (see below)
- Share a photo of your altar on social media, along with a message encouraging friends and family to show solidarity with threatened earth defenders in Mexico by signing our online petition. Below see a sample message on Twitter:
Rarámuri leader Julián Carrillo gave his life to protect the forests of the Sierra Tarahumara & the rights of his people. I honour him & call on #Mexico to #stopthekillings of environment defenders. Add your voice to@AmnestyNow's appeal>https://t.co/3FbLCrsbql #DayOfTheDead pic.twitter.com/8wwT1rho1J
— Kathy Price (@KPriceAmnesty) September 1, 2020
The President of Mexico says he listens to the voices of people.
Raise your voice via this e-action >> Mexico: Protect Environment Defenders at Grave Risk
3. Write a letter
Canada has a close relationship with Mexico and multiple opportunities to press for action to protect human rights.
Write a short, personal letter to Canada’s Foreign Minister:
- Begin your letter by introducing yourself.
- Communicate your concern over the assassination in October 2018 of Julian Carrillo and the many other killings of land, environment and Indigenous territory defenders in Mexico since then.
- Ask the Minister to leverage Canada’s relationship with Mexico to press for action to protect defenders at risk, including timely, impartial investigation of threats and attacks strengthened protection measures and guarantees that no resource extraction project will be authorized without meaningful consultation and the free, prior and informed consent of affected Indigenous peoples.
- Also ask the Minister to personally lend his support for an Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise with the power to investigate and sanction Canadian companies whose projects fuel human rights violations and which proceed without meaningful consultation or the free, prior and informed consent of affected Indigenous peoples.
Hon. François-Philippe Champagne
Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs
111 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
4. Learn more
- Read our report: Caught Between Bullets and Neglect
- Read the moving blog: Julián Carrillo defended the forest with his life
Thank you for your solidarity action!