Tag Archives: rural communities in Mexico

Meeting with el contratista chueco Phase 5

leaning post domino effect

The fallen post with all its wires pulled on the rest of the posts in a domino effect, causing them to lean.

So el profe, R, the son of the original owner and I had a meeting. First, R started with the information that he had talked to the electric contractor in the presidency and had a list of requirements we needed, proof of work completed, authorization number, proof of payment, etc. We had already been to speak with him, so it really was redundant, but oh well.

The owner’s son tried to explain that el contratista more than likely had done the work without permission as he has never been in charge of projects, only an employee of the electric company. But R seemed not to get it. So we trooped over to el contratista’s office to ask for these documentation.

In el contratista‘s office, R began by asking for these documents, and el contratista wanted to know who had requested them. R gave the head guy’s name at the electric company, although they hadn’t been able to speak with him the last time they went. So el contratista admitted he had done the work but said he wouldn’t give us any documentation as he was still owed money. But he couldn’t say how much. And that he wouldn’t give us anything until he spoke with Chuchi as his contract was with Chuchi. He went on and on about professional ethics.

I was getting angrier by the moment and interrupted to ask whether his contract wasn’t with the people of La Yacata, but he was insistent that it was not. But I disagreed. It would be another matter if he had done work in Chuchi’s house, for example, then the deal would be strictly between him and Chuchi. However the work was done in La Yacata, a development jointly-owned by the property owners.

Then el contratista started to get more defensive. He made the statement that no one could obligate him to show his papers. I interrupted again. I said that we could obligate him. We could go to the Public Ministry, put in a demanda (lawsuit) against him, and he would be forced to show us the contract.

This shocked not only el contratista, but the other members of the committee. Seems that it was a social no-no, and el contratista went back to his professional ethics speech. R pointed out that Chuchi was not likely to pay him any money owed and asked why he would continue to believe that when it had been quite a few years that the work had been done, without full payment.

Apparently, el contratista was wealthy enough to not worry about getting paid or what he did was illegal and didn’t really expect to be paid fully. He made the statement that he didn’t want to start trouble and that if Chuchi didn’t pay, that’s ok. And that those that would be affected by a lien that he would level would be the people of La Yacata. Again I interrupted and said that we were people that lived in La Yacata, and we needed to know how much was owed so that we would know how much each of us had to pay. But he still didn’t want to name a figure. So I suggested since he didn’t want to give us any information, perhaps he would be willing to come to a community meeting and there present his bill to be approved for payment from the community members. He didn’t say yes. He didn’t say no.

He seemed particularly put out by R’s presence. He told R that what he was doing was wrong, but wasn’t specific. R took it to mean that having a new community council and stated that by law we were constituted. Then el contratista changed the subject. It made me wonder if R knew more about these dealings than he wanted to admit.

I was very angry about it as it was obvious there was no legality to the work done. El contratista as much as admitted it was a private deal between himself and Chuchi, and had nothing to do with the electric company. We were stuck in a position that really it would be better if he came and took away all the things he had done and leave it a clean slate to begin again. It’s probably better that I didn’t go along to any more of these sorts of meetings since I am not one to pussyfoot around the issue. I told as much to the owner’s son after we left.  I’m definitely lacking in the fine art of diplomacy.

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And down comes the rain. . . Phase 4

post on the ground

The cattle owner just built his fence over the post and let it lay where it fell.

R, who reminds me a bit of Ronald McDonald, was elected as the new president, however, I immediately had misgivings about him. He basically brought his own supporters to the junta (meeting) so of course, he would win. Majority rules. He was very focused on collecting from the colonos (associates), although I don’t know what he thought to collect for. The only cooperation we had asked for was 50 pesos per owner for office supplies and advertisements. His thoughts were random and scattered. And it turned out, he was a treasurer under Jesus’ regime, but they had a row and he quit.

Finally, but without R, we were able to meet with the electric contractor that worked for the presidencia (town hall). He hadn’t made it out to La Yacata for any sort of inspection as we had requested and when we went to see him at the presidencia (town hall) when he requested the governor of GTO was giving a rally speech or something and he couldn’t meet with us. So we returned the following day and were able to have the meeting.

However, I’m not sure that it was at all helpful. First, he said he needed the electrification plan, which Chuchi refused to give us. Then he told us it was a long and extensive complicated process and mentioned that he was so near retirement that he was tired. This wasn’t encouraging at all. He asked if we had escritoras (deeds) but again, he should know that we don’t because you can not have a deed until the lot has services which include electric, sewer and water. As we had none of those, we had no deeds. To me, it seemed he was putting the cart before the horse, but anyway. . .

So he said that we need the receipts of the posts and transformers and wires that are already in place, which of course we didn’t have.  He suggested we write the numbers on the posts down and possibly the factory that made the posts could give us some information about it.  The wires may be able to be reused as there had been no electric passing through them.  But the transformers would have to be taken down and sent to a lab to see if they were still functioning.  Additionally, he says that the new rule is that all wires must go underground, so the system we had in place was obsolete.  This seemed ridiculous because we already had the posts and wires and transformers and it was only a matter of updating what needs updating, repairing anything that needs repaired and turning on the electric, at least in our minds.  Then he intimated ominously that we would also need the “cambio de uso de suelo” (zoning change) to proceed and permission from Desorrollo Urbano, (zoning office) which he knew we didn’t have and hadn’t been able to get. He further went on to speculate that the change from agricultural to habitation may be more difficult that we would like to imagine since farming is considered ‘sacred’ in México. I found it hard to believe that the area that was still being farmed in La Yacata, which was plowed and planted and harvested by one elderly man, would be considered so sacred that the necessities of the families living there would not be considered, but who could say for sure.

Well, we did what we could. We copied the numbers off the posts and went to CFE, the electric company, and asked about them. They had no registration of any of the posts and referred us to the main office in Celaya. So another day trip to Celaya, who referred us to the contractor who had supposedly done the job, since their office had no record of a permit ever being issued nor work ever being completed. As el contratista was from Moroleón, we returned home, no progress made.

Two months after R’s election, he still hadn’t registered his presidency, probably because there was a cost involved and the La Yacata funds were non-existent at the time. So I took matters into my own hands again and went to see the son of the original owner.

We had met with him when J was still president to ask about what he knew about making La Yacata conform to current norms. He was polite and helpful. But we needed something more. He had a vested interest in the success of La Yacata as a good portion still belonged to his family. Furthermore, he was the contractor and president of several other developments, so knew how to obtain the proper documentation from the presidency, which seemed to have all of us stymied.

I don’t know what he was thinking when I went to his office to plead our case. There was so much I didn’t know about these things, both the legal and illegal aspects of it. So he started at the beginning. He explained how we would have to purchase water rights before we could even apply for the electric. That will cost about $10,000 pesos per lot. Seems expensive, however then the municipality would do all the work and it would be done right. But before he became overly involved, we would have to have another meeting and present both the information we obtained and the motion to remove the current president, who had done nothing thus far.

Meanwhile, it was rainy season in La Yacata. All the desert blossoms were nearly in bloom and the ground was covered in springy plants. Unfortunately, with the heavy rains and the fact that the electric posts were put in a swamp without any sort of base, one had fallen over. It pulled the rest of the wires and created an incredible tension on them, causing a domino effect with the other posts in both directions. The electric company didn’t bother to come out when we called because they have no record of posts being there.  Civil Protection did come, however, and move the posts and wires off the road, where it sits still.

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The Battle for Power continued Phase 3

La Yacata

Our community gets its name from this pile of rocks. It is a pre-Hispanic mound constructed by the indigenous people that was used as a signal tower. It is about 60-70 feet high and has a large hollowed out area where the wood was lain and lit.

Chuchi had yet to let go of his dictatorship. Since he was getting such poor showings at his juntas (community meetings) in La Yacata under the mesquite tree, he changed his meeting point to the garden in Jinete (where we, as the new mesa directiva, have been meeting). This was a deliberate attempt to confuse the associates, who would come thinking that this was the new directive, not Chuchi calling the meeting.

Upon discovering this, we decided to crash the party ourselves and hear what Chuchi has to say. We arrived to find about a dozen people milling about, most of whom thought we had called the meeting and maybe 4 persons who actually support Chuchi. So we let him speak. First, he insisted that there were no advances in La Yacata due to our meddling and the confusion with 2 mesas directivas. When that argument failed to sway the meeting in his favor, he then went through the accounts, mostly the debt for the pozo (community well) and the threat of a lien against La Yacata for non-payment. According to him, the contractor for the pozo, upon learning there was a new directive, demanded immediate payment. I’m not sure why he wouldn’t have just forwarded him and the bill to the new mesa for us to take care of, but he didn’t.

He then passed around a letter that was stamped with the date of February 2011 from Desorollo Urbano (zoning office)  that he claimed was permission to proceed with the change land use for the development, from farming to habitation.  The letter passed quickly from hand to hand, but I held on to it and read it completely.  As expected, it was a letter from that department, to be sure, but not granting permission, only a letter of receipt of the application made by Chuchi and a list of further requirements.  I think Chuchi about shit his pants when he realized I could read in Spanish.  Later in the junta (meeting), a second letter was flashed about and when several people present suggested I read it and explain it, Chuchi tucked the letter back in his files and packed up to go.  Imagine, a gringa who can read and understand Spanish!!  A seven-day wonder to be sure, at least in these parts I expect.

Chuchi did have the proof of payment of this year’s taxes, which was a point in his favor.  J, the president who quit on us,  didn’t get around to the payment and thus we didn’t have the receipt.   Any old person off the street can go to the office and say “I’m here to pay the taxes on La Yacata.” and they can pay and receive the receipt, it’s all the same to the tax collector.  So Chuchi beat us to that.  And he had the “studies” done supposedly for the change of land use application, all with color photos (even with our house proving that there are residences in La Yacata) and aerial photos from the satellite.  These things are accessible on the internet free of charge if one knows where to look.  I suppose he thought to dazzle these campesinos (farmers) who have no computer literacy whatsoever.  He kept parading these folders about with the comment that it didn’t matter who received the change of use permit, him or the new mesa, as long as La Yacata had some progress.  Well, we took him at his word and made a formal request in front of witnesses that he turn over his documentation to the new legal representatives of  La Yacata.  At that, he scampered.  Literally, high-tailed it out of there.   His parting shot was that we need a written application to request these documentations.  No problem bub, I can write in Spanish too!

Monday after Easter, we went to Chuchi’s office to formally request the documents pertaining to La Yacata.  El profe and my husband went to the presidency in the early morning to leave a copy of this written request and then to the public ministry.  However, the public ministry said that they could not accept the copy until Chuchi had refused to give us the papers.  So we met on the corner, in the marketplace, on the road that Chuchi had his office.  When I pulled in, Chuchi was on the phone, practically in front of me.  Not 2 minutes later, he passed us, while we were still waiting for el profe, without any sort of acknowledgment, and walked on down the street.  The point is, he saw us and left.  So when el profe arrived a few minutes later, we walked up to the office, knowing he wasn’t there.  We asked the secretary when he would return and she didn’t know.  She called Chuchi when we said we would wait for his return and reported back that we should come back in the afternoon as he would be gone several hours.  El profe said we would wait, but gave me permission to leave as I had other classes to teach.  So el taxista, my husband and el profe waited.  I passed el plomero leaving La Yacata and sent him down too.  Some time later, Chuchi did return but refused to hand over the documents.  He said that he had registered another mesa directiva and that Desorrollo Urbano said that they were going to grant the cambio de uso de suelo (zoning change) to him but since there were 2 groups claiming directive, now they wouldn’t.

So with that, el profe and my husband went back to Ministerio Publico, but now they wouldn’t accept a copy of the formal request because they said we needed to get a lawyer to prosecute or something before they get involved.

So the next step was to bring this up at the junta that Sunday, elect a new president and see what the colonos thought.

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