Mine Over Mother
Don Roberto, the last inhabitant of Salaverna, Zacatecas, is being charged for contesting the expropriation of his home – by none other than Carlos Slim.
“How is it that you are leaving, Salvador,
From the company,
If there's still so much greenery?
If progress is our trade,
And there are still many Indios out there,
Who don't know what it's like to live in a city
(Like the people)?
Can't you see that you are a bridge,
Between the savage and the modern?
Salvador, the engineer
Salvador, Savior of humanity.”
– Café Tacvba, Trópico de Cáncer
Mine Over Mother
As we speak, Roberto de la Rosa might be entering the court house.
Don Roberto, the last inhabitant of Salaverna, Zacatecas, is being charged for contesting the expropriation of his home – by none other than Carlos Slim. The same Slim ranked, from 2010–2013, as the richest person in the world by Forbes magazine.
“The clothes I am currently wearing are hand-me-downs. We have nothing, I have nothing” Don Roberto confessed1.
Slim, the tycoon behind the conglomerate Carso, despite owning a twelve bedroom residence – the Duke Semans Mansion2 – on New York City’s 5th Avenue, and a second mansion on 10 West 56th Street, needed Don Roberto’s house. Thus, perpetuated the displacement.
In a hearing taking place today, Monday, February 28th, the State will decide the verdict.
After facing charges from three workers of the subsidiary company Ocampo, in April 2020, Dulce Olvera reported:
“Don Beto had an altercation with employees of the mining company who were fencing the community and electrifying the perimeter. On December 3, Judge Blanca Aguilar ordered him as a precautionary measure not to go near them, making it impossible for him to access his house.”
In response, Don Roberto told Olvera: "one of the engineers is 1.90 meters tall. They say they are psychologically traumatized” from their interaction. He added,
“Do you think I am not psychologically damaged, from seeing my people, the way the situation have turned them into? We are threatened with imprisonment for defending our peoples, our lands from open-pit mining."
The alternative, according to his legal defense, is to offer compensation to the employees he allegedly threatened, but the farmer does not have the money to pay for their psychological treatment.
"Let the State pay for them, I am insolvent, I have no money. [Grupo Frisco] has the largest capital in Latin America, and we have nothing," he laughed3.
Slim’s Christmas Present
“An explosion changed the fate of Salaverna” stated in interview4 three years ago Don Roberto. “It happened on December 6, 2012, around 7:15 in the morning. A detonation with explosives inside the Frisco Tayahua mining company caused a crater in one of the hills. This is a town where 60% of the population lives in poverty, despite being surrounded by mining projects which, according to the official discourse, would have generated enough economic income to improve the living conditions of the locals.”
Roberto assures that the explosion was deliberately provoked so that the people would abandon their homes, and the company could start an open-pit mining project, allowing the extraction of large quantities of gold, silver, copper and zinc.
Mazapil is a municipality in the state of Zacatecas, harboring the Peñasquito Polymetallic Mine. It is the fifth largest silver mine in the world and the second largest in Mexico.
On Christmas Eve of 2016, without a court order, the state and ministerial police, then governed by Alejandro Tello, evicted the inhabitants of Salaverna.
“Workers with two bulldozer-type machines destroyed the church, school and a house still with furniture inside5”, delineated the Zacatecas’ Human Rights Commission.
The population of Salaverna registered 303 inhabitants in 2010, the year the conflict with the company began. Most were farmers or cattle ranchers, while the rest worked in the mine. But after the eviction, only approximately 50 inhabitants of five families remained, among them Don Roberto and his son Roberto Cuauhtémoc.
“The rest were forced to leave the community and, for $731.31 USD6, they finally accepted” –or rather, had no alternative– “to be relocated” –expropriated– in a subdivision next to the municipal capital called "Nuevo Salaverna".
The cleverly baptized New Salaverna, according to the sources, lacked a school or church. The neighborhood was offered on loan by the Tayahua mining company (Grupo Frisco), "a fact that constitutes an evident forced displacement", determined the Human Rights Commission of Zacatecas.
With the aim of generating conditions conducive to eviction and at the same time continuing to exploit the reserves with subterranean techniques, Slim's company implemented a long drilling method with three detonations per day, which caused serious damage on the surface ground and cracked several houses7.
The incident escalated when “Frisco officials, with the collaboration of the government of Zacatecas and the Autonomous University of Zacatecas (UAZ), through the Academic Unit of Environmental Sciences, strategically developed the narrative of a natural geological fracture to justify the displacement of the community to a new housing complex located five kilometers away.”
Land and Freedom Today
As documented on the 2020 analysis, Two Mining Conflicts in Mazapil, Zacatecas: Between Opposition8, Negotiation and Collaboration, communal division arose as a consequence of the incident. Among the differences was “the position of the collective led by Don Beto, which views the territory and resources as inalienable and non-negotiable assets.”
Years ago, the group led by Don Beto "requested that the company presented evidence on how it acquired the land, since it was legally considered national land. In response to the position of this sector of the local population, the government of Zacatecas authorized the eviction of the people who continued to live in Salaverna.”
He justified “the action with the narrative of a natural geologic fault, using Article 106 of the Civil Protection Law of the state of Zacatecas as a justification.”
Since August of 2021, Don Roberto has been exiled in a hut just two kilometers below Salaverna, because “the entrance is blocked with a fence and two guardhouses, and his son – also summoned to attend today’s hearing – was "warned by the municipal authorities that "something was going to happen to him" if he tried to return to the town, as he denounced. He lives with his goats and some dogs. He says that his son "is still there, scared," but he encourages him by saying that they must defend their town.”
“Competition makes you better, always, always makes you better, even if the competitor wins”, wrote inspiringly Carlos Slim on his website. Nevertheless, for expropriation, or “appropriation… without exchange, i.e., appropriation minus the equality in all actual exchange relationships9” his platitude is inaplicable.
In interview with CNN, when inquired about his modest lifestyle approach, Slim stated: “Money is not the objective. The objective is to make the companies grow, to develop, to be competitive. To be in different areas, to be efficient, to have a great human team inside the companies and to take care of the human development of the people inside these companies because you cannot do anything without human capital, without a human team.”
“There must be something rotten in the very core of a social system which increases its wealth without diminishing its misery, and increases in crimes even more rapidly than in numbers” or so muttered a bearded man once.
The free workers, unable to be absorbed by the lure of capitalist progress and its mute compulsion, suddenly dragged from their wonted mode of life, the ones who could not adapt themselves to the discipline of their new condition have been, historically, “turned en masse into beggars, robbers, vagabonds”. Legislation treats them as “voluntary” criminals, and assumes that “it depended on their own good will to go on working under the old conditions that no longer existed.”
On the expropriated in the colonial sphere, Frantz Fanon10 wrote, “abandoning the countryside, the landless” are driven away, “crammed into shanty towns and endeavor to infiltrate the ports and cities, the creations of colonial domination”. They “circle the towns tirelessly, hoping that one day or another they will be let in.”
Zacatecas might sound far away. Yet, as Joshua Clover11 wrote, we cannot efface “the extent to which the imperial welfare state has always depended on immiseration – domestic and exported – on exploitation, dispossession, and despoliation that remain out of sight and out of mind.”
With this in mind, we recall Carlos Slim’s famous maxim12:
"In wealth itself, the important thing is not how much you have, what you have; but what you do with it."
Speaking of expropriation, plundering, and exploitation, Don Roberto de la Rosa must be at his hearing right about now.
Perhaps he’s explaining how it is impossible for him to finance mental health treatment for Carlos Slim's workers, who apparently do not have medical insurance with therapeutic coverage, or any resources available for mental health needs.
It is clear that for Slim, "it is not how much you have, nor what you have; but what you do with the wealth."