Update (18 January, 2012):
Univisión has continued to cover the alleged suicides by the Tarahumara indigenous people. In a post in their Tumblr page they report that they have “come across information that casts a cloud of doubt over these claims.” They point out, however, that, “All of the sources Univision News spoke to confirmed that there is a food emergency in Raramuri territory, with government agencies delivering emergency food rations, that can last for up to a month, but that are not expected to outlast the current drought in Northern Mexico.”
Unconfirmed reports of the suicide of 50 Tarahumara indigenous people from the northern state of Chihuahua to avoid starvation have mobilized Mexican netizens. The Tarahumara, also known as Raramuri, are facing various issues like the loss of their language, the exploitation of their land, unsustainable sources of income and severe malnutrition.
In a video published on YouTube, Ramón Gardea, a member of the Organized Front for Indigenous Farm Workers, declared that 50 Tarahumara Indians had committed suicide after failing to get food [es] for themselves and for their children.
Although there is insufficient evidence to prove the suicides, the alarming state of malnutrition and poverty among the Tarahumara indigenous is a reality.
Netizens from all over the country immediately expressed their concern. On Twitter, using the hashtag #SierraTarahumara, a national movement sprung up as users expressed their indignation and organized to collect provisions in neighborhoods, churches and universities.
Humberto Cantu (@dermacantu) compares the money that will be spent [es] for the Pope's visit with the lack of help for the Tarahumaras:
Van a gastar MILLONES en la visita del #papa, pero no hay para apoyar a nuestros hermanos de la #sierratarahumara …un poco de sensibilidad
Mexican writer León Krauze (@Leon_Krauze) makes a direct comparison with what is happening [es] in the country today:
La terrible situación en la #SierraTarahumara ilustra perfectamente la tragedia mexicana de nuestro tiempo. Qué doloroso…
ProtecciÓn civil del GDF ya haciendo acopio para la Sierra Tarahumara ,debemos apoyar todos a las comunidades de la sierra
Civil Protection of the GDF (Government of Mexico City) is gathering groceries for the Sierra Tarahumara, we must support all communities in the Sierra
The blog Animal Politico reports that the government of Chihuahua denied the 50 suicides [es] mentioned in the YouTube video:
A unas horas de que se diera a conocer un video donde se denuncian supuestos suicidios por hambre de raramuris en la Sierra Tarahumara y de que usuarios de las redes sociales organizaran colectas de alimentos, el gobierno de Chihuahua negó que haya suicidios masivos en la zona.
Furthermore, on Tumblr, Univisión published a story on the alleged suicides and added a note correcting and updating some information:
In the original version of this article we wrongly attributed the statement that 50 indigenous people had committed suicide to Jesus Quiñones, an official in the Mexican Village of Carichi, who had been quoted in Mexican newspapers as saying this. We called Quiñones, and he denied that there had been any suicides in his municipality, although he stated that indigenous people in the area are suffering from serious nutritional problems, and were delivered emergency food supplies by the state and local government last week.
Quiñones added that the statements about the indigenous suicides were made by Ramon Gardea, an officer for the Organized Front for Indigenous Farm Workers. A man who is referred to as Ramon Gardea indeed appears on a YouTube video making these claims, and the video is attributed to Chihuahua’s channel 28. Quiñones said he has never met Gardea and said that he did not understand where the story about the suicides came from. This is a developing story.