Wind industry takes over Zapotecan lands

Wind power projects on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southeastern Mexico harm land of Zapotecan farmers.

During the months of November and December 2009, journalists from the Netherlands traveled for a project called LA Ruta. The intent of the project is to report on the Millennium Development Goals from the perspective of the civil society and social movements.

In this important video, LA Ruta visited Juchitán, Oaxaca on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southeastern Mexico to report on the conflict between Zapotecan farmers and wind energy firms.

Download the video


  1. Who owns the wind?

    December 9, 2009
    by Pablo Eppelin in LA Ruta

    I’ve always thought that the Netherlands was the windiest of the world. That’s perhaps because I am a loyal follower of Erwin Kroll, who wrote frequently about the storms in the Netherlands. But I was wrong. In his book: “The weather is inevitable,” Erwin writes that in the Netherlands there are always clouds drifting in the wind. But in Juchitán, a small town in Oaxaca, Mexico, much more is floating in the wind.

    Juchitán is a small town in Oaxaca, Mexico, where the winds blow all year round. That wind comes from the Gulf of Tehuantepec in southeastern Mexico with so much force that it regularly blasts trucks like they were paper.

    In Juchitán the wind never stops blowing.

    The weather is tropical and warm in Juchitán. They say that if there was no wind, it would be unlivable because the temperatures would reach far above 40 degrees C (over 100 degrees F). There is little rain but the wind provides enough humidity for agriculture. The land is fertile and the cattle graze throughout the moist grass. The Zapotec farmers grow their own maize which is harvested three times a year

    The wind has also brought other things, such as multinational wind energy companies. Clean energy. Who can be against wind energy? Nobody, not even me

    But what is going on?

    Multinationals such as Eurus Energy, Iberdrola, Endesa and Iderranova came to the area beginning in 2000 with a plan to make wind energy by erecting giant wind farms. With impressive video, the developers went to the villages. There they left a balanced picture of development, agriculture, welfare, and a clean environment that the ambitious project would bring to the community. It was a nice story. We were promised new jobs and sustainability.

    But apart from temporary work to people outside the region, resulting from the installation of wind turbines and power stations, there were no new jobs for farmers. On the contrary, some gave up their farm business, leased their land and waited for the promises. Promises that were taken by the wind.

    There were contracts drawn up for the farmers so they could lease their land for transmission, wiring, generators and windmills to provide. The contracts were in Spanish, but the wind company “forgot” that the majority of the population could not read or write. Those that could, conversed in Zapotecs, a pre-Hispanic language. Many farmers signed, trusting in the promises of the government and the Spanish companies. The farmers gave away use of their land for next to nothing so the wind farm could be constructed. For the La Ventosa wind farm, which were inaugurated in early 2009, farmers received between 25 and 100 pesos per hectare. The company had promised 30,000 pesos a year.

    But soon after, the wind companies claimed there was not enough energy generated to pay the farmers. Nobody knows how many megawatts are being generated; The developer is not obligated to publish the figures. Nevertheless they were required to pay farmers 1.5% of the revenue. But what exactly is the yield? It is also a great mystery for whom the energy is produced. People talk about the sale of energy to Central America and the United States which is expected to pay one million in profit.

    The installation of the windmill has created environmental problems. Water does not drain properly due to the concrete bases holding the wind turbines in place, and various studies show that the migration of birds in the affected region has been disrupted.

    The farmers live in the daily hum of the towers. The land is no longer easily accessible to the community because different companies have laid barbed wire separating each of the projects. The small lots owned by the farmers are surrounded by cables and separated by roads built to accommodate the turbines.

    In addition to disrupting the business of farming, the wind farm has sown discord within the communities.

    From the beginning, some farmers approved the installation of wind farms, while others were opposed. Today, many are against but there is still disagreement. Communities that had lived in peace for centuries are now fighting with each other. The strategy of a wind farm is sowing discord. The Zapotec farmers are facing a situation far removed from their daily view: wind and business.

    Many farmers thought that with the wind turbines installed, their monthly electric bill would go down. But that is not true. The energy the farmers consume has nothing to do with the wind farm. The electricity generated is not intended for them and for them it will never come to a price reduction.

    The Zapotec peasants have become Don Quixotes in this fight. Should a wind turbine need repair, they’ve blocked access to the Spanish engineers to protest. So far, they’ve shut down ten wind turbines this way.

    The wind companies are often changing their name or the location of their offices. If the farmers protest, they close their office and do not respond to petitions. Instead, any problem is completely denied, while the turbines generate electricity, and dollars or euros day and night.

    During our visit we saw a blockade and we met a Spanish worker sent to work on repairs at the facility. With cameras on him, we asked his reaction to the conflict, to which he replied: “I have no conflict with them” as he closed the window of his jeep turned and left, clearly annoyed that nine of the 500 turbines could not be fix.

    The hum of the wind turbines have changed Juchitán. There are great roads built where the farmers have nothing. The country is wired, and there are always new plants. Today, clean energy pollutes the land of the Zapotec farmers. Calderón, the president of Mexico, is proud to serve as an example for the rest of the world, because he can boast the largest wind farm in Latin America. The wind has become big business.

    Translation of

  2. The wind is owned by father sky, and he is breathing life onto mother earth. How can we, their children commodify their love?

Comments are closed.