Foreign energy firms have flocked to a narrow region of southern Mexico, known as one of the world’s windiest places, to build towering wind turbines, but some projects have angered and torn indigenous villages.
The construction of wind farms has soared across Mexico, with the gusty Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Oaxaca State attracting investors from as far as Europe, Japan and Australia.
The projects are a key part of Mexico’s efforts to combat climate change, one of the priorities of former Mexican president Felipe Calderon that has been picked up by his successor, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who took office in December last year.
This renewable energy had a capacity of just two megawatts nationwide in 2006, according to Mexican Wind Energy Association (Amdee). Today, it has grown to 1,400 megawatts, with a goal of 12,000 megawatts by 2020, representing 15 percent of the nation’s energy.
However, some indigenous groups have blocked two projects in Oaxaca, including one that would become Latin America’s biggest wind farm, fearing that they would wreck fishing and farming while dividing people over the rent payments.
“They have upended the life of the villagers in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec by interfering with their daily work,” said Carlos Beas Torres, head of the Union of Northern Zone Isthmus Communities.
“Women and men have been pitted against each other, because the Mexican and multinational companies that have invested here have taken advantage of a lack of information among natives of the area to lease their land for 1,000 pesos [US$82] a hectare per year,” he said.
There are 18 wind farms in operation in Mexico, with another nine under construction and a dozen more in development, Amdee president Adrian Escofet said.
The great majority are in Oaxaca, with its isthmus, flanked by the Pacific Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, providing powerful winds for the turbines to churn out energy.
However, their presence has angered some of the Ikoots and Zapoetcos indigenous populations, with some protests turning violent.
Last week, more than 20 people were injured when police clashed with a group of protesters who have been blocking a road leading to the projects.
The blockade, which began on Feb. 25, has been opposed by shopkeepers on a beach that cars can no longer reach, saying it has hurt their sales. The shop owners sat the wind farms would benefit the community.