Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tenacatita: Truth and Consequence



There is a little oasis on the Costalegre known as Tenacatita. The sheltered bay has one of the best swimming beaches in Mexico and is home to one of the best coral reef snorkeling sites on the Pacific coast.

Tenacatita is a fishing village - pongas dot the beach when they are not at sea seeking out the abundant fish thriving off its shores. The beach has many madre y padre restaurants offering the catch-of-the-day and ice-cold beer under the shade of palapas. This is how the locals do business - this is their livelihood.

The people of Tenacatita also rely on the tourism that comes from holidaying Guadalajarans over Christmas and Easter, they rely on the snowbirds from el Norte. Americans and Canadians wintering in nearby communities make a point of bringing first time visitors to Tenacatita for a day at the beach. Some tourists winter in Tenacatita, some camp out under the stars at either end of the beach. Some have bought land. This is their idyll.

It's a bucolic existence, a symbiotic relationship that has been fostered and nurtured over the last fifty-plus years.

But who does own the land, the beach at Tenacatita?

On the one hand, the locals claim to have been deeded the land through ejido and on the other hand you have a developer who claims to have purchased the oceanfront property from the widow of a former governor. Both sides claim they have the right to the land at Tenacatita Bay. The locals want to continue with their way of living, the developer has visions of a high-end resort that would displace the community and limit access to the Bay to it's own clientele. Needless to say, locals and tourists prefer one eventual outcome over the other.

Ejido is a complicated land management system that promoted communal land use and dates back to the Aztecans. It was a vital component of land reform after the Revolution designed to give landless farmers rights to the land it worked. A right that could be passed down from generation to generation so long as the land was worked. The ejido system was eliminated by the federal government in 1991. Coincidentally, it was in 1991 that the developer - Andres Villalobos - bought its' 40+ hectares of land in Tenacatita.

For the third time in recent memory the developer has sought to reaffirm its' claim to the land in Tenacatita Bay. On August 4, 2010 reports started appearing on local English language message boards that something was afoot in Tenacatita.

There has been lots of hearsay reporting as to what has transpired. Depending on what you've read (and when you have read the accounts) the village has been razed, people have been shot and homes have been pillaged. Access to the village and to the gravity of the situation has been denied by roadblocks outside nearby Rebalsito.

As verifiable news outlets were initially silent on what was occurring...or not occurring in Tenacatita it was these message boards that lit up with various reports. Emails were forwarded and social media sites linked to blogs all in the hopes of gaining some understanding, some truth, as to what is transpiring in Tenacatita. Americans and Canadians, accustomed to instant news access were left in the lurch. The first reports shocked sensibilities and left many asking, "How could this happen?"

The dissemination of news in Mexico is fraught with many pitfalls, especially in small fishing villages along the Pacific coast. The message boards often serve as the news voice of the English speaking ex-pat community. Finding the truth in many newsworthy situations asks the curious to sift through hyperbole, good intentions, hearsay, party line gossip and online attacks. It has been said that visitors in Mexico should ignore the first 24 hours of breaking online news reports for the aforementioned reasons. Some message boards have done a better job than others in getting the facts out to the public.

Ten days into the Trouble at Tenacatita news outlets including the Guadalajara Reporter are investigating what has transpired on August 4, 2010 and since. Most local politicians have - to date - been silent on the matter. The silence is deafening and as reports continue to filter out and the news of the evictions becomes widespread elected officials will have to take a stand and comment publicly.

The rest of us wait for the truth to emerge.