Tag Archives: rural communities in Mexico

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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Overcoming Obstacles Phase 2

The electric post

This is the electric post that convinced us to buy here instead of someplace else. It stands smack dab in front of the house and has provided not one bit of electricity to our house in the 6 years we have lived here.

First, Chuchi challenged our formation of the new mesa directiva, insisting that we had not registered it. This was not true. We were unable to obtain copies of the testmento (official register) immediately due to lack of funds to collect it from the lawyer, however, the mesa directiva was registered with the proper authorities in October of that year. When we received our documentation, we sent copies to Desorollo Urbano and the president of Moroleón, allowing them to deny any further requests made by Chuchi supposedly on behalf of La Yacata.

Stymied there, Chuchi then had another sort of testamento drawn up, giving himself special powers as he had been named the first president of the colonia. This document he sent to the presidencia which complicated the situation. Those offices do not want to be of assistance to La Yacata and therefore any sort of irregularity puts the stopper on negotiations, a pretext of non-involvement. Chuchi had also been told the same, and angrily sent out a notice that because of our involvement, the presidency has not given him the documentation to apply for electricity. If there were such documentation, we would have received it, but according to those offices, Chuchi was never given even promises that this documentation would be at his disposal.

Chuchi also has made comment, and as gossip it flew through this little town, that the mesa directive is not valid because I am a member, being both American (white) and a female. While it is true that I, as an immigrant, am not able to vote nor hold public office, it seems that I do have the right to be part of the mesa directiva as I am a colona of La Yacata. The association is a civil organization it is not the same as official offices, of which I will only be able to assume power when I am granted citizenship, which I am still waiting for a response concerning my application from Mexican Immigration. However, as many of the property owners are machismo males, this argument gave them pause and needed to be addressed at the next general committee meeting. It seems that no other candidate has been brought forth that all of the association approve, so I remained at my post.

Another objection that flew through the grapevine, is the collection of cooperation. In 6 months, we have only collected $50 pesos from each property owner, which didn’t cover expenses. Each member of the mesa directiva also loaned $600 pesos of their own money to cover community expenses. I’m sure though, it was annoying to Chuchi to discover how willing the colonos were to give us that little bit of support in the form of pesos.

Whether or not these allegations were true, was of little importance, the damage was done by the negativity of it all and the people lost confidence. Additionally, the discouraging responses we have received from the town administration had dampened any enthusiasm or hope that any of the services can be obtained.

We determined that we needed to put a stop to Chuchi’s interference and registered a complaint to the Ministerio Publico. As a group, we went and were told we needed to talk to the other office which was open on Tuesday and Thursday. On Thursday, J and el taxista returned to register the complaint only to be told that the individual members of the colony needed to register the denouncement. Therefore, a Thursday was determined and more than 30 members of the community presented themselves to the Ministerio Publico, who then shut the door in our faces, saying that the complaint could only be given by the mesa directiva. Whatever!

This situation was difficult, to say the least.  The last meeting of that mesa directive ended with J storming off angrily saying that if we didn’t have a legal assessment, he would not continue as president.  That left us leaderless and vulnerable and still with an incredible amount of work to do.

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In the Beginning. . . The Birth of the Revolution

rainbow over la yacata

There are simple things, every day, that take your breath away.

When we moved to la Yacata, the encargado Chuchi, the person in charge of it all, assured us that it would be a matter of months before the area would have basic services such as electricity, running water and sewer. The pipes were laid, the water storage tank for the community was installed and the posts were in place, with transformers. Six years later, we still do not have any of these services. Furthermore, the water storage tank has rusted, the sewer pipes are not regulation size AND the posts we put so much store by, were never registered with the electric company and most likely stolen from other areas and planted here.

The colonos (colonists) of La Yacata convened and determined that in order for any progress to be made, we would have to do it ourselves. Additionally, the presidency of Moroleón, had on various occasions, made it clear that while Chuchi was in charge, there would be no assistance from their offices.With that ultimatum in mind, the assembly determined to vote a new mesa directiva (committee) to continue the work necessary in La Yacata. The first voted into office was J, son-in-law of one of the first property owners. J made it clear that he didn’t have excessive time to donate to this cause, but the vote was cast in his favor. Secretary was voted as el plomero, a plumber-electrician who has lived in La Yacata with his family for more than 5 years. El plomero also stated he had limited time to give but would do what he could. I was nominated for treasurer, but objected, mentioning that in case I needed to open a bank account, my immigrant status might cause problems. This objection was dismissed on the grounds that I could open the account for La Yacata in my husband’s name, who was then voted as my vocal, hence no real impediment to my accepting the post. But I objected again, really not wishing to have such a responsible post. However, my objections were overruled with this reasoning–I was a gringa and a woman, therefore was the least likely of the bunch to make off with the money collected. No lie! I objected a third time, saying that my Spanish was not adequate and was again overruled. Numbers were the same in either language, so problem there. The vocales (understudies) were voted as el taxista, (taxi driver), and el profe, (a retired teacher) and my husband, a bricklayer.

This make up of the mesa directiva was insisted upon by J.  He felt that we should include people who live in La Yacata, such as el plomero, my husband and myself and people who visit La Yacata on a regular basis, such as el taxista and el profe, and a representative of property owners that did not frequent La Yacata as often, such as himself.  Of the 5 members, el profe, J and I had university educations.  The others were not-so literate.  Again, this was representative of the property owners, some being professionals with investments to protect in La Yacata, some being campesinos (farmers) whose every penny went into the purchase of one of these lots for themselves or their children to someday take up residence there.

A request for a cooperation of $50 pesos was made in order for us to purchase necessaries to begin operations and pay for ads in the paper or radio announcing future meetings.  This was given freely with a mere notation of the names and a promise of receipts when we purchased a receipt book. (In due course, each person who contributed was given a receipt for their $50 pesos signed by me, newly elected treasurer).

pump house

This is the building that holds the water pump that supposedly connects to Moroleon and the water tower.

We began with our official meetings of the mesa directiva as all revolutions must, in secret.  As I was the token woman, in some form of strange notion of chivalry, our meetings were located at our house.  This meant that our meetings were often conducted by candlelight since we had no electricity, which added an eerie feeling of revolt.  This also meant, that as the sole woman, I was expected to whip up some refreshments for the hungry menfolk, although I worked more hours than most of them.  And being me, I was the most vocal about what our needs were and what our plans should be, causing some discomfort to my introverted husband.  But what must be said, must be said, without sugar coating.  (Or perhaps it was that my command of the language was still lacking and I said things bolder than need be.)  Either way, my role was both hostess and team leader during these meeting.

outside the pump house

This is the electric box outside the pump house. All the copper wires have been stolen.

Within the next 6 months, individually and in groups, representing La Yacata, we went to the pertinent offices to see what could be done about the situation.  Agua potable (water) said that water could be run up to the right hand of god if the price was right. (Basically asking what our mordida would be.) Desarollo Urbano (the town planning commission) said that not in 20 more years would La Yacata have an adequate drainage/sewer system and we should sell our lots and get out now, buying somewhere else.  Ayuntamiento, the office that grants the permit to change the zoning from farmland to residence, has denied us this document stating that La Yacata is not fit for human habitation, although 10 families are currently living there.  The president at the time of Moroleón himself did not want to get involved because of personal problems with Chuchi.  And Chuchi did not want to give up the reins and has put obstacle after obstacle in our way.

inside the pump house

This is inside the pump house at the entrance to La Yacata. The pump is still there, but all the pipes connecting the pump to anything have been stolen.

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