On 28 July 2019 four Protestant Christians were forcibly displaced from the village of Cuamontax Huazalingo in the state of Hidalgo, Mexico. Community leaders told the victims that the expulsion was the consequence of their failure to sign an agreement that bans Protestants from entering the village.
Over a year after they were forced to leave their homes, CSW spoke with Uriel Badillo, who was among those displaced:
“My name is Uriel Badillo Lara. I am originally from the Cuamontax community, in the Municipality of Huazalingo, Hidalgo State, Mexico, but I am currently living in my sister’s house in Atlaltipa Tecolotitla, in the Municipality of Atlapexco, along with my parents, my wife and our new-born. I make a living doing odd jobs like helping with electrics and maintenance.”
What is the situation of religious freedom in Mexico?
“There is a lot of discrimination for belonging to a religion different from the majority, especially in the region where I live. The situation is difficult. When you are a religious minority, the government does not do much to support you. In the Huasteca region of Hidalgo, government officials often claim that the problems are cultural issues relating to the Law of uses and customs, when this is not the case in reality.”
Have you experienced any violation of religious freedom? What happened? What was the effect on you and your family?
“Yes, I have experienced violations of religious freedom. For example, in 2011 Christians were prohibited from entering and preaching in my community. Over the years, tensions rose, on 8 November 2018 the community cut off our electricity and on 25 November they cut off our water. All this led to what happened on 28 July 2019 when my family and I were expelled from the village for being Christians and not wanting to participate in the Catholic religious festivities. [Community leaders] then looted and destroyed my home.
Since then I have prohibited from accessing the community and today, more than one year later, I am not allowed to enter my own community and I live elsewhere.”
Have you reported the case? What has the government done?
“I have reported it to the Public Prosecutor, but the government has not done anything about it. As I said, the leaders of the region in charge of reviewing the matter claim that it is a case of uses and customs.
The case was also submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Office, but the government’s response did not address to the specific questions raised.
Despite these efforts, the discrimination against us is ongoing. Earlier this month, community leaders in Cuamontax harvested lands that belong to my father, Gilberto Badillo without his permission, ignoring his property rights in an attempt to appropriate the lands belonging to him.”
How has the Coronavirus affected you?
“The coronavirus has affected us a lot economically, and even more so because I do not have a permanent job – I have to take good care of my parents, since they are old.
Here in Mexico, there are quite a few restrictions, we cannot congregate at church, and in my opinion, in practice, the guarantee of “religious freedom” in Mexico is sometimes a dead letter.”
In spite of all this, you have had some good news recently. Can you tell us about that?
“God gave me a wonderful gift, the best I would say, he gave us a beautiful baby, and now we have the happiness of being parents. Because of our displacement we are no longer recognised as community members of Cuamontax and were unable to register our baby’s birth there. Instead we have registered our baby in the municipality of Atlapexco.”
If you could say one thing to the international community about religious freedom in Mexico, what would it be?
“We would like to be able to return to our house, and that each individual can choose to believe whatever they like without being persecuted and discriminated against. We also want people not to be harassed to pay for the Catholic religious holidays that are celebrated in Mexico, that the persecution in my country would be ended, and that my daughter can choose her beliefs with all the freedom guaranteed by the Mexican Constitution without her facing discrimination or persecution.
Please pray for my wife, my parents, and now my baby Zurisadai. Pray that my matter is settled according to the will of God, and that we can have our own home.”
Click here to read CSW’s 2020 Mexico Report.
 Editor’s Note: Mexico’s Law of Uses and Customs gives significant autonomy to indigenous communities to implement and maintain their own social and cultural norms. Whilst the Law of Uses and Customs is meant to be exercised in line with the individual rights guaranteed in the constitution, in reality the government at both the state and federal level does little to enforce this.