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Rarámuri (Tarahumara) fight against deforestation, and Isidro Baldenegro's murder, Chihuahua, Mexico

Two very visible murders out of many (Julio Baldenegro,1986, and Isidro Baldenegro, 2017) because of their fight against deforestation in the Sierra Madre Occidental


The Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental  registered eleven murders of environmentalists since 1973 fighting illegal logging  in the municipal territoy of Guadalupe y Calvo,  soutwestern Chihuahua. (4) The two most visible ones were those of Julio Baldenegro in 1986 and his son Isidro Baldenegro, in 2017. The Goldman Prize award for 2005 to Isidro Baldenegro explained that he was a subsistence farmer and community leader of Mexico’s indigenous Tarahumara people in the Sierra Madre mountain region. (1) (The Rarámuri are also known as Tarahumara).  As his father had done, he spent much of his life defending forests from logging by "talamontes" in a region torn by violence, corruption, drug-trafficking.  He was jailed for 15 months. He was killed in January 2017, as his own father had been in 1986, for the same reasons, the defence of the pine and oak forests in rarámuri territory in the Sierra Madre Occidental. He was murdered at 51 years of age at his uncle's home in the community of Coloradas de la Virgen, in Guadalupe y Calvo, en Chihuahua. Isidro was 20 years old when his father Julio was murdered. Isidro started a organization called Fuerza Ambiental in 1993. (2).  This was a non-violent movement, he organized marches and blockades.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Rarámuri (Tarahumara) fight against deforestation, and Isidro Baldenegro's murder, Chihuahua, Mexico
State or province:Chihuahua
Location of conflict:Colorada de la Virgen en Guadalupe y Calvo
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Deforestation
Specific commodities:Oak
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

Isidro Baldenegro was an environmental defender, a leader of a movement against deforestation in the Sierra Madre Occidental in Chihuaha, Mexico. One more indigenous Mexican activist fighting against "talamontes". He was killed in January 2017. As reported in The Guardian (3), in 1993 he founded a grassroots NGO to fight deforestation. In 2002, he organised a series of blockades and marches which forced the government to temporarily suspend logging. The following year a protest headed by the wives of murdered community leaders led to a court ruling banning logging. But his efforts angered the powerful network of state officials, landowners and criminal bosses involved in logging, and in 2003 he was imprisoned for 15 months on false charges of arms and drugs possession. His illegal detention triggered widespread international condemnation from groups like Amnesty International, which eventually helped secure his release in 2004. His death in 2017 was reported by relatives, who said the killers were responsible for a spate of murders and attacks against local indigenous people opposing logging.

Type of populationRural
Affected Population:60,000
Start of the conflict:1973
Relevant government actors:Policia Judicial
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Fuerza Ambiental.
Defensa Tarahumara (Red de organizaciones civiles Alianza Sierra Madre, Consultoría Técnica Comunitaria y Tierra Nativa).
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Rarámuri (Tarahumara) indigenous people. // Journalists (such as Miroslava Breach of La Jornada).
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Desertification/Drought
Other Environmental impactsDeforestation leading to floods.
Health ImpactsVisible: Other Health impacts
Potential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Other socio-economic impactsLoss of sacred values of land (emphasized in Isidro Baldenegro Goldman Prize's acceptance speech).
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Violent targeting of activists
Another death in 2019: Otilia Martinez Cruz and her son.
Development of alternatives:The "project" is the illegal logging in Sierra Madre Occidental. There is resistance. The alternative consists in stopping deforestation as local indigenous people have trying to do.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Leaders of movements against deforestation in the Sierra Madre Occidental, an indigenous Tarahumara territory, has been killed by loggers (as happened to Julio and Isidro baldenegro, father and son).
Sources and Materials
Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

(2) Matan en México a Isidro Baldenegro, el conocido activista ambiental ganador del prestigioso premio Goldman. Redacción. BBC Mundo, 19 enero 2017
[click to view]

(1) The Goldman Environmental Prize. Isidro Baldenegro (who died in 2017) was jailed for 15 months for organizing protests against illegal logging in the Sierra Madre Mountains and his work to defend the forests, lands and rights of indigenous people ...
[click to view]

(3) The Guardian, 18 Jan. 2017.Second winner of environmental prize killed months after Berta Cáceres death. Goldman prize winner Isidro Baldenegro López, who was known for his activism against illegal logging, was shot dead months after Berta Cáceres was murdered
[click to view]

(4) La Jornada, 3 Febr. 2017. Secuestran y asesinan a otro líder ecologista en Chihuahua. Miroslava Breach, Rubén Villalpando y José A. Román
[click to view]

(8) Patricia Mayorga, Exigen seguridad en el Triángulo Dorado tras asesinato de activista y su hijo. Proceso, 3 May 2019.

(10) Tierra de Resistentes:
[click to view]

(9) Jesús Estrada y Rubén Villalpando, Matan a madre e hijo, defensores de bosques en Chihuahua, La Jornada, 4 May 2019.

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Isidro Badenegro, acceptance speech, Goldman Prize
[click to view]

(5) La Jornada, Isidro Baldenegro y la impunidad contra los rarámuris, por Magdalena Gómez
[click to view]

(6) La Jornada. Miroslava Breach, la mujer y la periodista. Olga Alicia Aragón
[click to view]

Asesinato de ecologista #IsidroBaldenegro debería ser escándalo nacional: Aristegui
[click to view]

(7) Editorial in La Jornada, 27 May 2017, Indigenas ambientalistas, los más vulnerables.
[click to view]

Asesinan a Isidro Baldenegro, indígena ecologista. 18 enero, 2017
[click to view]

Other documents

In 2005, Goldman Prize.
[click to view]

Other comments:Journalist Miroslava Breach was killed on 23 March 2017. As reported in La Jornada 25 March 2017), she is remembered by the "constancia y profundidad con que difundió la lucha de indígenas y ejidatarios en contra de talamontes frecuentemente ligados al crimen organizado, como sucedió en Coloradas de La Virgen, donde apenas el pasado 17 de enero fue asesinado el líder rarámuri Isidro Baldenegro López, galardonado en 2005 por la Fundación Goldman por su lucha en defensa del territorio indígena y los bosques".(6)
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Last update13/06/2019
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