Coca-Cola Sucks Wells Dry in Chiapas, Forcing Residents to Buy Water

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In Zinacantán, a Tzotzil indigenous community outside San Cristobal, Coca-Cola is widely sold during the festival for the town’s patron saint, San Jerónimo. (Photo: Martha Pskowski)

The water is disappearing in San Felipe Ecatepec, an Indigenous town three miles outside of San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, in southern Mexico.

People sometimes walk two hours a day to get water. Others have to buy their water.

“In the past four years, our wells have started drying up,” says Juan Urbano, who just finished a three-year term this February as the president of the Communal Territory of San Felipe Ecatepec. “People sometimes walk two hours a day to get water. Others have to buy their water.”

Where is all the water going?

In between San Felipe and San Cristobal lies a Coca-Cola bottling plant, operated by the Mexican company FEMSA. The plant consumed over 1.08 million liters of water per day in 2016.

In Zinacantán, a Tzotzil indigenous community outside San Cristobal, Coca Cola is widely sold during the festival for the town’s patron saint, San Jerónimo. (Photo: Martha Pskowski)In Zinacantán, a Tzotzil indigenous community outside San Cristobal, Coca-Cola is widely sold during the festival for the town’s patron saint, San Jerónimo. (Photo: Martha Pskowski)

Urbano, 57, explains that the urban growth of San Cristobal has gradually eaten up agricultural lands in San Felipe. He is part of a shrinking number of people in the community that still grow corn, beans and squash on plots of land passed down for generations, and drink pozol, a drink made from fermented corn dough.

“Many people don’t drink pozol anymore,” Urbano laments. “They’ve replaced it with Coca-Cola.”

San Felipe Ecatepec is one of thousands of towns across Mexico where corporate water consumption has taken precedence over local need. Advocates are scrambling to rein in a chain of public health consequences.

Government Is Failing on Constitutional Right

In Zinacantán, a Tzotzil indigenous community outside San Cristobal, Coca Cola is widely sold during the festival for the town’s patron saint, San Jerónimo. (Photo: Martha Pskowski)In Zinacantán, a Tzotzil indigenous community outside San Cristobal, Coca-Cola is widely sold during the festival for the town’s patron saint, San Jerónimo. (Photo: Martha Pskowski)

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