2011 in review
By Jesús Ibarra
In 2011, Mexico had to struggle with the increasing reports of drug trafficking and violence in the international media that wreaked havoc upon the national and local economies. Although it has been affected by this unfavorable publicity, San Miguel is still a safe and wonderful place to live. As is traditional at the end of the year, Atención presents its annual summary of life in San Miguel as we say goodbye to 2011.
The Roza Kent Community Center was inaugurated in Colonia Francisco Villa, one of the most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods in the city. The creation of the center was supported by several non-governmental organizations and the local government.
The price of items in the family shopping basket increased 5 percent on average, but the minimum wage increased only 4 percent. According to the municipal treasurer, Oliverio Sánchez, the budget for 2011 exceeded 500 million pesos, of which the greatest part would be spent on public works.
The restoration of the former presidencia building, completion of the underground wiring system, and the urbanization of part of the Las Cuevitas neighborhood were the local government’s main public works projects for 2011, according to Fernando Liceaga, former head of the Public Works Department. Liceaga resigned on February 25.
The archeological site of Cañada de la Virgen opened February 15 after undergoing more than a decade of research and restoration.
Alarmist and inaccurate articles by the national and international press about three isolated deaths of foreigners in the municipality during the first two months of 2011 generated more fear about living and visiting Mexico and San Miguel. However, San Miguel continues to be a safe place to visit and live.
The Baroque Music Festival was held from March 14 to 20 with highlights such as Dido and Aeneas, a baroque opera by English composer Henry Purcell, and an open-air concert at the canyon in El Charco del Ingenio.
The local government plans to build a new community center in Las Cuevitas.
The Canadian consul in Mexico, Jean Sénécal, visited San Miguel de Allende and offered an informative talk in the Sala Quetzal at the Biblioteca about the services the Canadian consulate offers Canadian citizens visiting or living in Mexico. About 200 Canadians attended the talk.
For three months the traffic circle on the Bulevar de la Conspiración (formerly Glorieta de los Héroes) had stood empty of its previous ornamentation. On April 4, Mayor Luz María Núñez unveiled the winning design for its restoration, consisting of three stone monoliths with spouting water, local vegetation and pedestrian accesses. The project included a system for rainwater harvesting. The project has not been installed yet.
Most of the journalists working in the different local media formed the the Asociación por la Libertad de Expresión (Association for the Freedom of Speech).
On April 12, Governor Juan Manuel Oliva and Mayor Luz María Núñez officially inaugurated the bridge that is a continuation of Libramiento Manuel Zavala and passes over Calzada de la Estación, across from Bodega Aurrerá. The total cost of the project was 61 million pesos.
Thanks to the support of the local government, the women of the rural community of Clavellinas opened a small sewing company with eight industrial sewing machines and a small workshop.
On Sunday, May 8, San Miguel joined the march for peace that took place that same day in Mexico City, organized by Mexican poet Javier Sicilia, whose son, Juan Francisco, was killed along with six other people. Around 70 people, most of them dressed in white, began gathering at the Cardo and marched toward the Jardín.
El Charco del Ingenio, San Miguel de Allende’s 67-hectare nature preserve, was devastated by a wildfire on Tuesday, May 24, that destroyed almost 50 percent of this local treasure. Around 100 firefighters, police officers and Ecology Department workers fought to control the fire, which burned 30 hectares of the nature preserve and 20 acres of adjacent property.
On June 2, San Miguel’s “father” of mojigangas, Don Polo Estrada, was honored with a state-sponsored award for his contribution to local artisan culture.
Cristina Salazar, head of DIF, invited Miguel Barrera, leader of the collective group Marabunta (the word means “crowds”), the fourth-place winner in the Iniciativa México competition, to San Miguel to work with youth gangs in troubled neighborhoods.
Mayor Lucy Nuñez announced that she would not reinstate the Sanmiguelada, San Miguel’s most controversial public event that was cancelled in 2007.
Federal Health Secretary Doctor José Ángel Córdova Villalobos presided over the graduation ceremony of eight young women who finished their midwifery studies at CASA.
The violent death of Judith Baylis, a 64-year-old Canadian resident of Atotonilco, was under investigation by the Ministerio Público (District Attorney’s Office).
The Guanajuato International Film Festival, GIFF (previously known as Expresión en Corto), was held in several venues, among them the long-closed Cine Hermanos Aldama, originally the home of two of the most prominent players in the Mexican independence movement.
On July 29, a group of residents dressed in black gathered at Teatro Ángela Peralta to protest before the city council, which was holding an official session there, against the authorization of the housing development Lomas de Atotonilco, which would supposedly have 8,000 houses. Mayor Lucy Núñez responded that the information the group had was imprecise and the issue of Lomas de Atotonilco was not considered during that session because the project was still under analysis.
From August 19 to 21, normally a weekend with few tourists and the last of the summer holiday season, San Miguel received motorcyclists from all over the country and from other nations who took part in the 2011 National Enduro Championship, an event that combined sports and tourism.
In Guanajuato, the reform of the Mexican judicial process, establishing oral trials, took effect on September 1 in Region D, which includes San Miguel de Allende. According to the district attorney of Area D in Guanajuato, Miguel Angel Rangel, the reform upholds the rights of suspects and also benefits victims and citizens in general.
In honor of the Dalai Lama’s visit to Mexico and to commemorate the International Day of Peace, celebrated on September 21, Atención San Miguel joined the peace movement in Mexico and dedicated the September 9 issue to that cause.
On September 8, Mayor Lucy Núñez presented her second government report at the Jardín. She remarked that her administration had six main themes for the development of programs and projects: Citizen Participation, Safe Municipality, High-Quality Public Services, Economic Development and Social Participation, Green Municipality, and Transparency and Reports.
A group of concerned citizens whose goal is to improve the quality of life in San Miguel formed the civil association Ciudadanos Pro-San Miguel de Allende 2025, whose first goal is to become certified as part of the program “Comunidades Seguras” (Safe Communities).
Plants are capable of producing extraordinarily sweet and relaxing music. This wonder of nature and technology was presented at the conservatory of El Charco del Ingenio thanks to the art, science and ingenuity of Ariel Guzik, who connected a cactus to a specially constructed type of lute whose strings vibrate to produce music when they receive signals from the plant.
The Education and Culture Department, headed by Magdalena Carbajo, imposed certain requirements on the different dance groups participating in the celebration of the patron saint of the city, St. Michael the Archangel, which this year took place on October 1 and 2. As a result, the group of mojigangas from Valle del Maíz, headed by don Polo Estrada, refused to participate.
For the first time San Miguel de Allende played host to an expanded program of performances as the official second venue of the International Cervantino Festival, from October 14 through 30.
More than 100 race cars passed through the streets of San Miguel de Allende on October 25 as part of the Carrera Panamericana (Pan-American Race). The race was won by a team from San Miguel managed by Mats Hammarlund and his wife, Eva Hellstrom.
César del Río, head of the Tourism Council in San Miguel, passed away on October 31.
The San Miguel International Jazz and Blues Festival took place from November 16 to 20, with special tributes to Stan Getz and Stevie Wonder.
The Federal Department of Environment and Natural Resources (Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales, SEMARNAT), through the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (Comisión Nacional de Áreas Protegidas), officially designated the 5,000-hectare area surrounding the archeological site of Cañada de la Virgen as a protected area.
City comptroller Salvador Ramírez (of the opposition PAN party) called a press conference to discuss the preliminary findings of an audit of local government expenditure at which he presented a list of the media advertising contracts held by the local government. The list showed that Radio San Miguel and Channel 4, both owned by Javier Zavala, husband of Mayor Luz Maria Nuñez, received almost 70 percent of the total media advertising spending in a 12-month period.
The San Miguel Cantador Festival, in its second year, presented a concert at Rosewood Hotel with tenor Fernando de la Mora, composer Armando Manzanero and singer Lila Downs.
A group of around 150 residents strongly opposed the opening of a McDonald’s in the historical center of San Miguel de Allende. The Urban Development Department suspended the project.
Eduardo Arias, head of Urban Development, was dismissed by a unanimous decision of the city council. Four days later, the city council approved the change of land use from fomento ecológico (land to be maintained in its natural state) to residential, with eight votes in favor and four against, allowing for the controversial 8,000-unit housing project Lomas de Atotonilco.