In Mexico, the fatal fight of the shaman Margarito Diaz for the sacred water of the Wixarika

Marakame is dead. On September 8, 2018, the local festival music abruptly stopped in the village of Aguamilpa, in Nayarit, a state in western Mexico. A nasal voice announces through the megaphone the assassination of Margarito Diaz, a personality appreciated by the 200 inhabitants. He was 59 years old. He was the only marakamé in the village, a spiritual leader in the indigenous Wixarika community. Appointed since childhood to this role of shaman by the elders, he was famous for his fights for the environment and for the protection of water.

Photo of Margarito Diaz during his pilgrimages as a marakamé.  Leader of the community, he defended sacred places and water resources in the region of Wirikuta and Tatéi Haramara in San Blas (Mexico).
Modesta Chavez de la Rosa, widow of Margarito Diaz, at her home in Aguamilpa (Mexico), February 16, 2023.

This Saturday in summer, to escape the suffocating heat of his sheet metal house, Margarito Diaz and his wife, Modesta Chavez de la Rosa, decide to install their bed outside, under a screen made for the occasion. Between them, their 2-year-old granddaughter is already asleep. At about 10.30pm, a man approaches in the dark. He utters these mysterious words: “Where does the music come from? », then draws his gun and fires a bullet. The marakamé, hit on the head, dies instantly. The killer flees. The announcement comes an hour later.

A suspect, named Llimer Breide N., was arrested by Mexican police on July 29, 2022. Modesta Chavez de la Rosa is formal: she recognizes her voice. The investigation is still ongoing. And there is, at this stage, no leads as to who ordered the killing. But Margarito Diaz thus adds to the terrible list of 1,733 environmental defenders murdered in ten years, according to the latest report by the NGO Global Witnesspublished on September 29, 2022. A list in which Latin America is the region of the world with the highest number of victims, as conflicts over sharing water and the grabbing of natural resources increase.

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“We knew he was not only making friends by defending our indigenous water and culture, but we never imagined it could cost him his life”explains Arsenio Diaz, the eldest of the shaman’s six children, in his thirties.

Arsenio Diaz Chavez in the cemetery where his father, Margarito Diaz, was buried in Aguamilpa (Mexico), February 16, 2023.

Four years later, the widow of Margarito Diaz, 53, continues to live in a climate of constant threats, reported to the office of the Nayarit State Human Rights Commission. The last one, 26 October 2022: four men disembark from a launched, these motorboats, and warn her: “We will give you 50,000 pesos [2 600 euros], in exchange for a video claiming that Llimer Breide N. is innocent. » Another raises his shirt, highlighting his revolver. But there is no doubt that Modesta Chavez de la Rosa gives in to blackmail.

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