Tag Archives: Community

Hate thy neighbor

shadow

Our lovely girl Shadow, grazing peaceably.

Yesterday, someone injured our lovely lady Shadow. She and Joey were behind that house. While my son was just up the road with the goats, someone sliced Shadow’s leg, unclipped her rope and startled her so that she, Joey and Chokis the dog, bolted down the road to the main intersection. It was our good fortune that the neighbor, the cow barn guy, was coming to collect one of his cows and passed them on the road. He stopped to let me know and urged me to use my moto to catch up with them before they reached the highway. He even loaned my son a lasso since Shadow’s lasso was still tied to the mesquite. I pulled out the moto and my son hopped on behind. He had come a-running as soon as he realized the horses were gone, leaving the goats to fend for themselves.

At top speed, we raced down the road and found the three escapees under a tree off the road. My son walked back home with them. Joey was ornery as all get out, but Shadow had been injured. We put the horses back in their stalls and went in search of the goats, who had wandered up the hill. Seeing the gravity of the injury to Shadow’s leg, I determined that my husband should be notified immediately. Only, he had left his phone at the house. So I raced to his work to tell him and somehow or other he beat me home to take stock of the damage.

Shadow was injured in two places. One was a clean, deep gash all the way to the bone. The other was a jagged edge wound like she got caught on some barbed wire. We won’t know if she has nerve damage until the wounds heal up, but she’s in a lot of pain right now.

This isn’t the first time one of our animals has been deliberately harmed.  Our poor, defenseless donkey Fiona was shot in the hind leg.  Our babies’ mama Beauty‘s hoof was sliced nearly in half.  Countless dogs and cats have been poisoned. Makes you want to cry sometimes.

We suspect C as having done the deed this time. (See Buying a piece of heaven) There’s no proof of course. And really, there isn’t any valid reason, at least in our opinion, for him to have done so. Although he planted corn this year where my husband usually sharecrops (See Sharecropping) our horses have NEVER been in his corn. On the contrary, we have reason to complain about his pig farming. Every few days, another one of his pigs has died and he throws the corpse wherever where Chokis discovers the tasty morsel of raw, rotting bacon and hauls big sections of it down to our house and leaves it at the front door as a present. It’s disgusting! However, we haven’t called the Department of Ecologia yet.

grazing Shadow

Notice there is not a corn plant to be seen!

This week we have also had a complaint from another neighbor. He claims that it was our horses that have been nibbling his corn. It simply isn’t true. Ever since our other neighbor’s horses were stolen last year, including Spirit one of Beauty’s babies, we have kept our horses close to home. They are either tied or within sight. When no one is there to mind them, they remain in their stalls. The neighbor’s reasoning is that our horses are the closest to his corn field. But we are by no means the only neighbors with horses.

loose horses

Caught in the act! These horses happily munching the corn crop belong to the horse guy!

The horse guy, up the hill, has three horses, two of which are the same size and coloring as Joey and Shadow. Having heard hoof clopping late at night, we suspect that he may let his horses loose at night to graze. But again, we can’t prove anything.

He and the chicken feather guy were recently feuding. The chicken feather guy had a goat in with his pigs. The goat was not a happy goat and we could hear it bleating and bleating, probably because it was alone. One day, the goat disappeared. The horse guy accused my father-in-law of stealing the goat. The chicken feather guy went over to where my father-in-law keeps his goats to look for it. Boy, did that make my father-in-law mad. Not finding his goat there, the chicken feather guy scurried off, tail between his legs. If you think a 67-year-old man isn’t scary, you haven’t seen my father-in-law in the throes of righteous indignation with a machete in his hand.

So the suspect in the goat kidnapping fell back on the horse guy, who hotly denied it, of course. In retribution, the chicken feather guy set La Yacata on fire, destroying the grazing area of the horse guy’s horses. So now he lets them free graze.

The chicken feather guy and the horse guy outdo themselves as ladrones (thieves). Just last week, my son was bringing the goats home and came across the chicken feather guy loading various and sundry building material items into the back of his truck from the lot that belongs to the cholo boracho (drunk punk), another neighbor. I think perhaps cholo boracho is in jail at the moment, otherwise, I don’t think the chicken feather guy would have had the guts to steal from him. When he saw my son, he covered his face as if he was suddenly unrecognizable. Feel free to take a moment to roll your eyes here.

The horse guy has been sighted making off with building materials wherever he may find them as well. He has tried to pin the thefts on us, after all, we live full-time in La Yacata, as that were evidence enough or something. For instance, the newest neighbors recently returned from a 20-year stint in el Norte (the US), are constructing a cabaña (cabin) in La Yacata. Every week or so, something goes missing. The horse guy is very vocal about it being us. It isn’t. Having spent so long in the US, the newest neighbors have a fond prejudice for gringos and a belief in their overall honesty. So, as far as I know, they don’t believe us to have sticky fingers, but I could be wrong.

If “Justice in the life and conduct of the State is possible only as first it resides in the hearts and souls of the citizens.” –Plato, and the hearts and souls of La Yacata are representative of all of Mexico it is no wonder that 43 students are still missing, that journalists and activists are murdered, and that the countryside is full of mass graves.

Well, as my husband says “El cantaro da muchos vueltas” (what goes around comes around)

I counter with “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” (Romans 12:19) and Karma is sweet.

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Fighting for Flowers

flowering tree

Yesterday afternoon, I turned into the neighborhood where I live and came upon three men with machetes cutting down the flowering trees at the entrance. Without thought, I stopped and demanded to know what they were doing

The leader of the two said he was beautifying the neighborhood since the branches were low hanging and ugly. I asked if he had permission. I meant permission from the owner of the lot who borders the trees, although I suppose the trees were technically in the public thoroughfare. He thought I meant permission from the Departmento de Ecología (Department of ecology) since cutting green trees is a fine-able offense. He said he didn’t need permission to tidy up the place.

So I asked who he was. He said he was the owner of the trees–of course. I told him I didn’t believe him. As I am part of the community board of directors, I know nearly all of the people who own lots in the community. These three men were strangers to me. Not that my neighbors in La Yacata are any better.  (See Good Fences make good neighbors, unless your neighbor steals it) He told me that I should contact the town council and tell them to come and trim the trees in the neighborhood.

My Spanish failed me at this point. I wanted to say eloquently that the town council would not come and trim trees until after they installed water, sewer and electricity in our community. I wanted to say that cutting such beautiful trees is a crime against nature. I wanted to say that he was a lying piece of poop that really had some gall thinking I would believe his altruistic motives for cutting the trees when we both knew he would take and sell the leña (firewood) in town.

tree cutter

What I said was that I would take pictures and show them to the owner when he asks me who cut down his trees. So I did, not that it did much good. One man turned his back to me, the other partially covered his face. I thought maybe I could get some identification from the moto (motorcycle) that was parked there, but it didn’t have any license plates.

I remained on edge the rest of the afternoon and into the next day. I tried to go and see the president of the neighborhood, but he wasn’t in his office. So I sent an email with the pictures and an account of my interaction with the men. He wrote back and said that he would investigate the matter.

My husband scolded me afterward. I shouldn’t be going around taking pictures of men with machetes. What was I thinking?

I have to admit to being impetuous at times. These men were destroying that which I enjoyed every day. The flowers on these trees and the scent they emit are my welcome home. How DARE they destroy that?

You see, that morning the mother of three of my students was shot and killed while heading to the gym. Last week, the father of a former student was kidnaped and is being held for ransom. Last month, someone in front of Waldo’s (a local discount store) was shot “accidentally” by police officers. The month before that two transito (traffic) officers were shot and killed by “unknown” assailants. Not so very long ago, my nephew was taken and tortured by rival drug members. Before that, my mother-in-law was run down by a police vehicle and killed. And before that, my husband was kidnapped right in our own neighborhood.

Those are the local issues. Looking beyond the borders of my own town– Last month, 42 people and one police officer were executed by the police just a few hours away in Michoacan. Last September, 43 students disappeared in Guerrero.  Mexico averages nearly 100 murders a day. In the past three years, more than 10,000 people have disappeared. Last week, a reporter and 4 female activists were tortured and murdered. Femicide is commonplace.

tree stump

And I can do NOTHING about any of these things. This place that I now call home is lawless, corrupt, and dying. The beauty that has existed for thousands of years is threatened by the unethical actions of man.

However, I could threaten the bejeezus out of these three men. Maybe word will get out that a crazy “gringa” (white lady) lives in La Yacata that goes around hugging trees and dancing in the rain–someone these would-be wrongdoers should steer clear of. It’s a small, unrealistic hope. The truth is there is no enforceable consequence for their actions. They know it. I know it. The government knows it. The world knows it. But I have to try.

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Trying to bow out of La Yacata revolution

community board

The La Yacata community board, or as I like to call, Vitrina de verguenza, wall of shame!

Unfortunately, the scheduled date for the junta (community meeting) was the Sunday Mexico determined should be daylight savings time. This, of course, meant attendance problems. Additionally, in order to save money, the date of the junta (community meeting) had been included on the aviso (announcement) to go to the office and fill out the survey. Since it was obvious that very few bothered to read the flyer, we weren’t expecting a great multitude.

It was surprising then to see about 70 colonos, representing about 200 lots, at the meeting. SuperPrez read the results of the survey and was greeted with silence. These die-hard junta attendees were those who most want to see some progress and were naturally disheartened.

SuperPrez made the comment that really the members of the mesa directiva (meaning he and I) were very busy in other things and that perhaps what the colonia needed was someone who had nothing else to do than take care of these community obligations. Additionally, he commented that we apparently weren’t motivating enough if people wouldn’t even come and fill out a form expressing their opinions, not to mention pick up certificates or pay the $250 pesos each lot that we still owe the lawyer for the demandas (law suits). Perhaps the role as president of the association should be held by someone like Chuchi. After all, he did manage to swindle the majority of the property owners $4000 per lot for the imaginary pozo (well). (See Demanda 1, Demanda 2 & Demanda 3)

We opened the floor up to discussion. An elderly, well-educated colona, then asked how it was possible that Chuchi has not been held accountable for all the things that he has done when everyone knows he’s a ratero (thief). She went on to say that on Saturday, Chuchi had come to see her and brought some papers that showed the second and the third etapa (section) did not have public escrituras (deeds). Chuchi accused SuperPrez of illicit activities in that he had the government officials destroy or redo the papers that listed the escrituras. She said she didn’t believe it, but she wanted to present the information that Chuchi gave her. She handed the “proof” over to SuperPrez.

Oh, the nerve of that Chuchi! Even now, after losing 3 demandas against the community, he continues with his smear campaign. But as my husband said, “El perro que come gallinas no se compone.” (A dog that begins eating chickens never changes).

Here’s the true story. Only the first etapa (section) has public escritorias (deed). This was done way back in the day when Chuchi was given the reins in 1997 or thereabouts by SuperPrez’s father. The other sections were owned by SuperPrez’s mother and in fact are still in her name. In seems she had the intention of getting the escrituras, however, was killed in an accident 8 months or so before I went to plead on behalf of the colonos for SuperPrez to become involved. (See Phase 4) Therefore, there were no escrituras issued.

This was to our advantage in all three demandas. Chuchi sued La Yacata, but as you can only sue a community that has escrituras, this only involved the first section. However, the hole in the ground that pretended to be a pozo (well) was located in the second section and had no escrituras. Therefore, our argument was that neither he nor the pozo guy, could sue a community over a pozo that was outside its defined boundries. Case closed. (See Demanda 1, Demanda 2, Demanda 3)

The M the horse guy (See Good Neighbors make good fences and No honor among thieves) began to go on about how we needed to go and put a demanda (lawsuit) against Chuchi. He was looking really to point fingers because J. the previous president of La Yacata (See Phase 2) was in attendance and we had been unable to proceed with a community lawsuit because J. failed to show at the Ministero Publico (Public Ministry) when we went en masse. Well, I tried to shut M down by commenting that Chuchi has several pending lawsuits that were brought against him by individual members of La Yacata and that M was more than welcome to take his proof of fraud documents and make a similar case. After all, the ministero Publico is a free service available to all citizens. He said he did not feel supported by the community in such action. SuperPrez then quietly asked me if M had paid his lawyer fees. He had not. So SuperPrez told M that he should understand how we, the mesa directiva, feel when colonos (community members) such as himself have not paid their dues so that La Yacata could pay the lawyers for their legal defense of the entire community. M had nothing further to say on that matter.

However, M brought up another point. He had this idea of organizing by street or block in order to get the services needed in the community. He happened to be standing next to his neighbor and patted him on the shoulder saying that between the two of them they would put in the sewer lines for their properties. Hate to break it to you M, but your neighbor has shown himself to be non-participant just like yourself. Good luck trying to get him to commit to installing the sewer.

Another colono (community member) asked about the feasibility of going service by service rather in one lump sum. He commented that perhaps the lump estimate of $50,000 pesos for water, electricity, sewer and pavement scared the colonos (community members). If it were broken down into segments and presented to the colonos, perhaps they would respond more favorably. So supposing the estimate for the sewer system was between $6,000 and $8,000 pesos it seemed much easier to handle as compared to $50,000. He even suggested that the amount be even further broken down by square meter per lot. M chimed up again and said he was only going to pay for one sewer system (or one payment of $6,000) although he has 4 lots because he was only going to have one house on the property. Super Prez said amounts could not be figured like that since each property was, in fact, paying for the central system and the line to Moroleon, which would be about $6,000 pesos per lot, no matter if the lot were 6 x 20 m or 20 x 50 m. In addition to the central line, each property owner would pay for the connection to the central line. For example, we have 2 lots, however, we only need 1 connection, so our price would be $12,000 plus the connection fee. A bit steep, but given time, could be done.

The conversation became more positive at this point. The colonos present said they recognize our efforts and realize the costs for making things right would be high. They did not wish us to step down. In fact, they offered to assist us in things like getting the rest of the colonos to fill out the encuestas (surveys) by going to their family and neighbors. That was nice to hear, however, entre trato y hecho hay un gran stretcho (there is a great distance between word and deed). So it remains to be seen whether this promised help will materialize. They also said they would be interested in proceeding with the sewer project and that we should present the project at the next junta (community meeting).

So I guess I haven’t been allowed to resign yet. The next meeting will be in about 2 months. In the meantime, I am working on making a list of shame to post in the vitrina (display case) that names those who have yet to register, those who have yet to pick up their certificates, those that have not paid for the lawyer, those that have not filled out the survey, and those who have issues with their lots. But as we have seen, La Yacata is full of sin verguenzas (shameless ones) and I doubt it will cause much of a stir.

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Who owns what? Phase 6

leaning post

With the wires cut and stolen, the tension was reduced, but the posts were still leaning.

So another week or so passed. Then a group of men came and started marking the roads. We hadn’t sent them to do any measuring or marking and when the workers were asked who they were working for, it was “Ingeniero Ching” which led us to suspect Chuchi. They finished their lot markings,  all of manzana (section) 7-C which I knew to belong to one owner, not being Jesus, and went on their merry way.

Another week passed. We were out with the goats and happened across Chuchi with his plans and certificates. Seems he was making out new certificates for the lots he had marked. I called the owner and told his secretary that Chuchi was in this very moment selling lots. His brother arrived about 15 minutes later, then he himself, but Chuchi had already gone. They were both angry enough to go and visit Chuchi in his home.  Chuchi said that things would continue as they always had done and called the police on the brothers to have them removed from his home.

In addition to this, a man came the week previously to locate his lots. He had bought the lots from the engineer who put the tubes down for the sewer some 10 years ago. I checked the records and lo and behold, there was another registered owner. Seems Chuchi had given an entire section of lots to this engineer in lieu of payment. So I explained this to the man, who was angry, but decided he needed to go and straighten this out with Chuchi. So what happened to the money that the colonos (associates) paid for the work? Right into Chuchi’s pocket.

We have been working hard to contact the persons we know to be owners of land in La Yacata.  The son of the original owner decided to call a meeting, requesting copies of payments and certificates to try and find out how much money Chuchi had received.  Hopefully, we could use this proof to put a demanda (lawsuit) against Chuchi for non-completion of something or other.  My husband complains that we ought not to be working for free, but I felt that in the long run, we will benefit as members of the community there.  Volunteering doesn’t bother me, although personal funds were in mighty short supply just then.

Chuchi continued selling lots, even to calling and offering deals to prospective buyers.  A few have thought to investigate a bit further and been referred to us, so did not fall into the baited trap, but others either didn’t suspect or didn’t care.

Along the way, we had another community meeting and proposed that the original owner’s son be elected as president of the association.  As R had yet to register his presidency, this wouldn’t necessitate any additional paperwork, but might just be the motivation we needed to make some real progress.    In order not to completely alienate R and his cronies, we suggested that he be the secretary in place of el plomero, who really didn’t have time to devote to this endless stream of meetings.  Even so, R’s feelings were hurt.  I was unanimously reelected as treasurer.

It was quite a job organizing these receipts that come in, but we now had about 100 out of 650 that were more or less verified. We also decided that since Chuchi was still using the old certificates to sell and resell lots, that to protect our interests and the interests of the other rightful owners, we would issue new certificates signed by all members of the mesa directiva (community representatives).

The changing over of certificates took longer than expected. A full 6 months since we started and we were nearly half way through. The problem was contacting the owners. We had a tentative list of property owners and had made efforts through printed notices to contact those on the list, however, some had sold their lot, moved, or were currently in the US. Daily though, we had visitors to our house in La Yacata. Some on foot, some by moto, some by donkey or horse, some came on the bus, some in cars or trucks, and some have even come in taxis, just to visit us and bring their copies.

Then there was a problem with multiple owners of the same lot.  That has taken some doing to straighten out. We, or rather I, have had to tell a number of people that they had been defrauded and needed to register a complaint against Chuchi with the Ministerio Publico (Public Ministry) however, to date, I have yet to hear of any of these victims making a formal complaint.  It’s free, however, it is time-consuming, as is anything bureaucratic here in México.  There is also the fact that most of these owners are campesinos (farmers) and not well educated.  Some can barely write their own names.  To expose themselves and their illiteracy and the shame that they had been taken in by a glib talker, may be too much for them to do.  And so, those that have take more, and those that have not, continue to do nothing about it.

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