August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

London Film Screening of 'Tolvanera' -- Gold Mining in Sonora Brings Death in the Struggle for Life

London Film Screening of 'Tolvanera' -- Gold Mining in Sonora Brings Death in the Struggle for Life 

by Brenda Norrell
Censored News

In Sonora, just south of the Arizona border, there is a struggle against an open pit gold mine that few have heard of. Thanks to the Zapatistas Tour for Life through Europe, and new friends in London, England, the film Tolvanera will be screened. The film tells of this struggle, and the screening brings global attention to those murdered and disappeared who have opposed it.

Caborca is 144 miles south of the Arizona border

Credit: Pie de Página The ejido (community) of El Bajío is located in the municipality of Caborca, Sonora, in the coastal region of northeastern Mexico.The ejido (community) of El Bajío is located in the municipality of Caborca, Sonora, in the coastal region of northeastern Mexico.

Plainsmen's Post provides background for the struggle and the film, in the article, "Tolvanera, When Finding Gold on Your Land is Your Death Sentence.

On the black screen voices are tense, frightened. “No, please,” begs a woman. They respond harshly: “Face down.” The journalist is recording with her phone without the armed group noticing. “Guys, we are reporters. They told us that there was an abandoned mine here and we went in to see ”. With their faces covered by ski masks with skulls and wielding long weapons, the men threaten them so that they do not return there. And the journalists leave. It was March 2018.

This is how many stories are silenced in Mexico, but in Tolvanera it is just the beginning of the documentary, selected this year at the Morelia Festival. The incident remained marked in the memory of one of those reporters, Ángel Melgoza (Zamora, Michoacán, 1992), who decided not to drop the subject and take it to the big screen. Over the years he continues to pull the thread to try to explain the complicated skein of corruption, illegality, violence and impunity that surrounds the struggle of the El Bajío ejido against the mining company Grupo Fresnillo, owned by billionaire Alberto Baillères.

The article continues:

In February 2018, an armed commando entered the ejido and assassinated Raúl Ibarra de la Paz and Nohemí Elizabeth López. “Wherever there is a natural resource, organized crime appears”, is heard in the documentary. Then the story takes a further turn towards the implausible. Rafael Pavlovich, uncle of the then governor Claudia Pavlovich, claims to be the owner of a part of those lands with titles granted to him by an agrarian judge and begins to exploit the Soledad-Dipolos mine at the end of 2018. The ejidatarios are accused of dispossession and some of them, like Erasmo Santiago, spend up to a year and a half in jail. In the absence of evidence, they are finally released.

The violence does not stop and in April 2021 the former ejido president José de Jesús Robledo and his wife, María de Jesús Gómez, are murdered. Along with their bodies is a message with the names of thirteen of the ejidatarios of El Bajío. The situation became so delicate that the last time they went to record, Melgoza’s team had to be escorted by the police. “With economic, political and criminal powers against it, until today the history of El Bajío reflects the impossibility of justice in Mexico”, reflects the director at the end of the documentary. “But also today, with a court decision or with an action by the president, history can and must begin to change.”

By Javiera Martinez and Holly Jones

Watch trailer on YouTube

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