Indigenous Rights and the Environment in Mexico’s Colorado Delta

978-0-8223-5445-1_prToday's New York Times science section covers the efforts of Mexico to relieve the parched Colorado River delta, deprived of water by dams upstream in the U.S. Sixty years ago, the river flowed freely into the Gulf of California, creating a rich estuary where shrimp, fish, and dolphins were abundant. But during the second half of the twentieth century, the U.S. damned the river and diverted it to supply water for agriculture and a growing population and the delta is now mostly a dry, cracked wasteland. An amendment to a treaty between the two countries should lead to more water sharing over the next five year. Perhaps hardest hit by the lack of water in the region has been the local Cucapá indigenous people, who had long survived by fishing in the Delta. In her new book Where the River Ends: Contested Indigeneity in the Mexican Colorado Delta, Shaylih Muehlmann talks about how the Mexican government has also diverted water away from the lands of the Cucapá, preventing them from earning a livelihood. When the Cucapá fish anyway, they are pressured by federal inspectors to stop, and are blamed for the ecological damage in the region. Muehlmann writes, "The Cucapá people have experienced the brunt of the environmental damage done to the delta, while simultaneously being targeted as objects of intervention because of their alleged blame in the crisis. As is always the case in narratives that blame the victim, this focus exonerates the more powerful political actors and institutions that have prevented the Colorado River from reaching the Sea of Cortez. This ethnographic case, therefore, illustrates how environmental conflicts are never just about 'the environment.'" (172) Where the River Ends is a moving look at how the Cucapá people have experienced and responded to the diversion of the Colorado River and the Mexican state's attempts to regulate the environmental crisis that followed. It's available for 50% off during our Spring Sale.

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