Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Chacala Fence/ or "Don't Fence Us Out"

Our beautiful, unspoiled beach, before the fence. Now the fence closes off the land from just beyond where the foreground palm tree divides the picture , all the way to the south end of the beach. (Photo by Ana Getzoff.)

As most of you may have heard, a chain-link fence was erected by developers this summer that encloses half of the Chacala beach and also closes the original, historic and until recent years the only road into the pueblo. Residents of Chacala have apparently been unable to find out the intent of the developers or even who the developers are. To that end, a town meeting was held on 24 September 2008 in the church yard and interest was high. Officials from Compostela and the two elected officials of Chacala were present along with a large crowd of interested residents.  Now as a long time resident of Chacala, I have a strong interest in the future of the town and did attend the meeting. However because I don’t speak Spanish, I didn’t understand much of what was said, I have asked several local residents to share their thoughts on what they heard at the meeting. 

GORDON PRESTON has been a part-time resident of Chacala for 16 years, and a full-time resident for one year. He can be contacted at gpreston27@yahoo.com.

The new fence runs alongside Chico's restaurant, from the beach to the old road. (Photo by Viky Robelo)

Running south along the beach, the fence leaves one row of palm trees on the beach side. The others may be destroyed for building. (Photo by Viky Robelo.)

EMILIA ROBINSON writes this about the town meeting:

As a newcomer to the town I found the meeting pretty eye opening. I think most people were confused and disappointed when one of the officials from Compostela explained that they did not know' to whom the land had been sold and they  had no further information for the audience. Apparently, they wanted us to do the talking, so the meeting was turned over to the audience. We heard from a good cross section of the town; restauranteurs, shopkeepers, fishermen,  newcomers and Chacala residents of over 40 years. The main preoccupations of the group were that the new development be more lawful than Marina Chacala-that is that it should not block public access to the beach, it should give 15% of its land to the use of the town and it should not block off the historic road from the main road to the South side of the  beach  (near Mar de Jade) which unfortunately it already has. 

To give a couple of examples, a businessman from Las Varas made an impressive and emotive speech about the importance of the right of the common man to have access to the beaches, which are part of, not only Mexican, but in fact world heritage. There were a minority of speakers who felt it was pointless getting worried or upset when we don't even know what the development will bring, and it may not even  be so bad after all. From a personal perspective, it seems that more than anything, it was a it public airing of opinions, which may only serve as a publicity stunt to the government involved; they will be able to say "you had your chance to speak." The real shame was that they hardly even pretended to listen.

EMILIA ROBINSON and her husband, Arturo have opened a new restaurant in Chacala called “Chac Mool,” Vino deli cafe. (http://chacala-cafe.blogspot.com) Emilia can be contacted at chacmoolcafe@hotmail.com.

Facing north, you can see the partially completed fence dividing the palm grove from the beach. For awhile, the summer activity went on as usual on both sides of the fence. Now the fence runs south all the way to the end of the beach and cuts in blocking the old access road. (Photo by Viky Robelo.)

CONCHA comments on the town meeting:

Greetings to all. I have lived in this community for 30 years and I want to tell you that I am not opposed to developments, but only those that conform to the correct norms and that do not run over in their tracks a single resident.

My plea is that they leave access or windows to the sea and that in these areas there be services for our visitors and that in case of an accident an ambulance and paramedics may be able to enter.

As far as I’m concerned, I am opposed to the fact that a fence has been put up – I feel as if I’m in a zoo!
(Translation by Emilia Robinson)

CONCHA is an active member of Chacala, and owner/operator of a four- unit “Techo de Mexico” guest house, “Casa Concha.” Concha can be contacted at Guanahani_234@hotmail.com.

Another view of the fence, facing north. (Photo by Viky Robelo.)

DR. LAURA DEL VALLE submits the following statement:

We, the inhabitants of the Port of Chacala and citizens of the municipality of Compostela, are resentful at the way Fideicomiso Bahia de Banderas have treated us and disrespected us by ignoring totally the needs and customs of the town in the alleged sale of the ‘poligano’ of 38 hectares of Chacala that comprises the greater part of the beach. Aside from this arbitrary closure of the beach of Chacala, access to the beaches of Las Cuevas, Chacalilla and El Naranjo have also been closed.

1. In August, in the style of an ambush and with no prior informative meeting with the town, a team of people began to wall off with chain link fence the greater part of the beach, thus blocking off the main entrance to the town to inhabitants of Chacala, of the region and to our visitors. As one Chacalan woman said, ‘I do not like the idea that fenced off the road that in the 50 years that I have lived here had never been closed.’ They managed this with the collaboration of the president of the Citizen Action Group, Eduardo Bustos, who told the town that the way was being closed in order to repair it; an event that was followed, to his surprise, by the erection of the chain link fence, ‘We feel fenced in like in a zoo’.

2. The approximately 100m2, traditional recreation area, known as ‘El Palmar’, was also walled off; an area that has been the access to the sea for all those of us who live in the Municipality of Compostela for many generations.

3. Besides this, people who used to have stalls at the entrance and families that have lived in front of the beach for many years have been removed and are being removed with pain and bad faith, being tricked by a so-called engineer that claims to be a representative of the buyer. He warned them that they could end up in jail if they did not get out and he promised a sum of money to some of them that has not been handed over. The inhabitants asked for relocation within Chacala itself, which was denied. The said person has shown no document to prove his judicial status as the owner or as representative. Nor has he made any kind of contract that commits him to paying the families once their houses have been destroyed.

1. By blocking access to the entrance, to the parking lot and to the beach, vehicles and tourism buses are going right back out of town and we are ending up without customers in our restaurants, our hotels and shops. This sudden and unplanned action affects the daily bread of the majority.
2. The current state of affairs leaves those who live in the Municipality and those that visit us without a decent recreation area by the beach.
3. The displaced people, who make their living from fishing and from tourism, are being brought to live in great poverty since not only is it the intention to take away their houses but also their way of earning a living. With the small amount of money that they are offering (and in any case are not paying), the affected people are not even able to buy a lot in order to remain living in Chacala.

1. The intervention of the Judicial Authority of the Municipality was called upon to act immediately to remove the fence at the entrance of the town – it never arrived.
2. Letters were written to the Governor – he never replied.
3. We began to complain through the media and this provoked finally a visit from Jesus Torres Rodrigues, the new district secretary, Mr. Mario Antonio Andarete and Mr. Gabila Rosas, both legal representatives from FIBBA. When asked the name of the buyer responsible for the recent events and to show us his or her project, the confessed that they were not able to bring any information to the meeting which leads us to suppose that they were only coming to see what the size of the resistance was.

1. To begin with, we want the access that we used to have to the beach, in the traditional recreation area ‘El Palmar’ and that it may remain open to the public as a municipal green area park. This would become part of the 10% that the buyer is obliged to give up to public use.
2. We ask that the municipal road, which has been in use for generations and whose closure is anti-constitutional, be reopened. This could be done in the most convenient place for both social groups.
3. We ask that an entrance to the sea be made on the South side of the Bay where there are other existing and growing developments.
4. We ask that the land and necessary investment for the growth of commercial, social and civic life of the town of Chacala including the following works: Civic Square, Commercial Zone, Public Parking, Beach Services (WC/Showers).
5. Absolute respect for the docks of the fisherman which is the life and natural character of this town.
6. Relocation with lots in Chacala itself for the families of fishermen that have held possession for more that 30 years and to whom no worthy offer has been made to let them remain living and working in the very own town.
7. Absolute respect for the ecological surroundings, in as much the beach itself as its flora and fauna. We express a resounding rejection to the idea of dredging up a marina.
8. We ask to establish a ‘Free Beach’ program, opening access to all the above mentioned beaches that are illegally closed off at this time.

In essence, we ask that the Governor Ney follow in the footsteps of his father who did look after the needs of the town. Since those who voted for him did so thinking that he had the same humanitarian character as his father. We are not opposed to tourist development but ENOUGH with trampling on the needs of the town. Responsible development and addressing the needs of the town are compatible goals.
(Translation by Emilia Robinson)

DR. LAURA DEL VALLE was born in Mexico City and was perhaps the first person to put Chacala on the map. She has operated a hotel retreat, Mar de Jade, at the south end of Chacala for many years. Laura de Valle can be contacted at lauradejade@gmail.com.

Sunset from the hill above town. Land to the left of the palm tree near the beach, is now fenced off.  (Photo by Ana Getzoff)

This entry posted by Ana Getzoff


Mea said...

Margaret, part-time resident of Chacala.

I was wondering if anyone has connections to the LA Times reporter that was in Chacala a year or was it two years ago. I think he would be interested in what is happening. We have seen how the press can influence the politicians in Mexico before. In Canada Brenda Martin's friends were able to get a trial for her and then have her transferred back to Canada, all through negative press in the US.

Mea said...

Margaret again:

I am not so sure that is what would be best - On thinking more about this - it might create more problems with tourists deciding not to come this year.

Anonymous said...

I was in Chacala 1 year ago and can't believe what I'm reading. When I see the fence I want to scream. Who can stop this? What about the Techos for Mexico people? Someone needs to stop it.
We had booked some time in Chacala this winter but have made other plans not related to the situation but when I read about the fence I wonder if the town is going to suffer from people not coming there. To that "little piece of heaven".

thereddeb2 said...

How very, very sad for the people of Chacala. My 1st visit was last year, I stayed 4 weeks. I couldn't wait to return this year and will again spend a month. I believe what the fence represents for Chacala's future is not in their best intrest. Their beautiful, serene, safe, and friendly way of life will be compromised. It will draw a whole different, more demanding, disrespectful kind of tourist. I saw it happen in the Yucatan in the 90's. Now I wouldn't even consider visiting that area of Mexico again. My heart goes out to you all.
with mucho respect, Deborah

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