The year 2012 in review
By Antonio De Jesús Aguado
Many of the events that occurred in 2012, positive or negative, will continue to affect the city in 2013. The broad spectrum of events ranged from visits by notable people such as the writer Elena Poniatowska, former president Felipe Calderón and Canadian ambassador Sandra Hradecky to the election of a new mayor and the resignation of his director of Public Security. Other highlights in 2012 included the controversy surrounding the duck sculpture in Colonia Allende and the inauguration of the Glorieta de los Conspiradores, which occupies the former Glorieta de los Héroes. The construction of a freeway is about to start, which according to environmentalists could cause irreversible social, cultural and natural damage.
The group Saving San Miguel de Allende, formed by citizens concerned about the conservation of cultural and natural assets of San Miguel, strongly opposed the city council’s authorization of a proposed 8,000-unit housing development called Lomas de Atotonilco. The land on which the development was to be built was formerly designated as fomento ecológico, meaning that it was to be preserved in its natural state. The city council, headed by Mayor Luz María Núñez, approved the change in designation in December 2011(conditioned on the completion of 18 requirements). Rodrigo Treviño, a member of the group, commented that “the authorization of land use, with which it is intended to support the real estate mega-project Lomas de Atotonilco, does not respect the law, and therefore we are seeking to revoke it through the courts.”
Senators from the PAN party gathered in the city prior to their ordinary period of sessions in order to check on the legislative agenda. During a dinner with them, Felipe Calderón commented that the fight against crime is an unavoidable duty of the local, state and federal governments, and those governments that do not fight against crime do not deserve to rule, neither a state nor a republic. “The first duty of those who govern is to defend their citizens,” he said.
Sara Hedrecky, Canadian ambassador to Mexico, visited San Miguel de Allende to meet with Canadians living in the city. Outside the building where they gathered, a group of environmentalists protested Canadian mining projects in the municipality of Real de Catorce in San Luis Potosí. At the end of the meeting she talked to the protesters and received two letters from Jesús Lara Chavira, representative of the Wixáricas (inhabitants from Wirikuta). The letters said that the mining projects are destroying the sacred places of the Wixáricas, which have been schools of spiritual formation for the Wixárica natives, and since the moment that the Canadian companies started their mining projects they were damaging the environment. “The Wixárica’s heart is sad and [they are] dying spiritually,” he wrote.
Mexican writer Elena Poniatowska participated in the San Miguel Writers’ conference and told Atención that she was not proud of Mexico but of its people who do their work well. She said that is disappointed about the politicians that we do not deserve and also said that Mexicans deserve neither violence, corruption, nor the drug trafficking that has become what it is today.
Problems began at the city council when the PAN city councilors denounced Mayor Nuñez’s intention to appoint a new SAPASMA board by having each party represented on the city council propose two candidates for every position on the SAPASMA board, and from every two candidates they would select one. He called the idea a “swindle” for sanmiguelenses. Núñez defended herself, saying, “It would be incongruous if try to manipulate a situation in the water system, when I have demonstrated that I am interested in having citizens with initiative.”
The Universidad Tecnológica de San Miguel de Allende bestowed the award “Women Who Transcend” to Mexican producer Carla Estrada; the president of the state DIF, Martha Martínez Castro; and Lucha Maxwell, president of the CENCRE.
Pope Benedicto XVI visited Guanajuato, and according to the former minister of Touristic Development, Enrique Rodriguez, his visit attracted more than 750,000 visitors and generated gross revenue of 850 million pesos.
The local administration began the restoration of the former train station in order to turn it into a museum. Mayor Núñez announced that it would be inaugurated in July of last year and would include a thematic museum. It has not been opened thus far.
The mayoral campaigns started with five candidates, among them Mauricio Trejo, Cristóbal Franyuti and Francisco Tovar. All of them agreed that San Miguel needed an airport, a convention center and an industrial zone.
The historic center was turned into a convention center with the arrival of the 62nd National Dental Meeting, which attracted more than 1,500 dentists and generated important revenue in the city.
The city council rejected the permits for the BANTERRA housing development because the representatives did not fulfill the 18 requirements requested by the local government in December 2011. That revocation brought to the municipality a legal process that is still in progress.
A “dirty war” was launched against the PRI-Verde candidate for mayor. Thousands of yellow envelopes were distributed in the city containing information meant to discredit Mauricio Trejo Pureco. The document stated that Trejo had several lawsuits in progress. Later, it was proved that the documents were false.
The Fundación San Miguel de Allende received the keys to the house that will lodge the Casa de Europa, from the acting governor of Guanajuato, Héctor López Santillana. Mayor Luz María Núñez, members of the Fundación San Miguel de Allende and others gathered at the signing of the 99-year bailment agreement and received the keys to the building, which previously housed state offices.
Dozens of citizens united to denounce the air pollution from the kilns located in Nuevo Pantoja. The local government constructed ecological kilns on the road to Guanajuato but the brick makers did not accept relocation because the ecological kilns did not fulfill their expectations.
Mauricio Trejo won the mayoral race and said that he was going to be the best mayor that San Miguel has ever had and commented that he started working in the rural communities and urban neighborhoods since the day of his triumph.
When the construction of the Guanajuato–San Miguel freeway was announced, inhabitants of communities who live near where the freeway will be constructed gathered to request that the authorities restructure their plans. According to several social activists, if the road passes through the rural communities of San Miguel de Allende it will cause irreversible social, cultural and environmental damage to an important archeological area.
Three of the seven chapels that made up the tour Indians’ Chapels Route closed. The tour was launched in July 2011 and consisted of a stroll through the religious centers constructed in the 16th and 17th centuries by evangelists to convert more natives to Catholicism. For this tour the natives of the communities were the guides, and they told the stories of their communities and the chapels. They also sold arts and crafts and food and rented their horses, but they became disappointed in the lack of tourists and decided to close the chapels. The Tourism Council commented that they would redesign the tour.
To prevent future flooding in the low-lying areas in San Miguel, the Civil Protection and Social Development Departments worked to clean up the Cachinches stream with the help of 65 workers who live in extreme poverty. According to their leader, Juanita Ramírez, president of Colonia Cuevitas, the workers did an excellent job. They worked well together and were mutually supportive. The employees were happy to have a job even if the salary was not the best.
In mid-2010, a duck-shaped structure appeared in Colonia Allende. A lawsuit to stop construction of the avian-inspired architecture was initiated soon after its appearance, but the lawsuit was invalidated when the owners elevated the duck six more meters. Edgar Bautista, director of Urban Development Department, said, “We are starting a new process against this, because it alters the context of the urban zone.” Bautista also commented that the construction does not conform to the municipal regulations for construction.
Owing to several robberies of bronze sculptures, railings, plaques and even firewood from Parque Juárez, the Ecology Department, in cooperation with the Public Security Department, established visiting hours for the park, from 8am through 10pm.
Sanmiguelense federal legislator Luis Alberto Villarral García was elected as PAN congressional coordinator.
Diego Boneta, a Mexican actor who performed in the movie Rock of Ages, visited the rural community Palo Colorado with Feed the Hungry and made the commitment of adopting a kitchen in order to feed more children.
Despite several events of insecurity in San Miguel, such as an attack at a gas station, the violent robbery of an American couple and the discovery of a burned car with two victims inside, Mayor Núñez commented that San Miguel was still a safe city and those were were just “isolated events.” She commented that San Miguel was so secure than event Calderón’s wife, Margarita Zavala, Guanajuato governor Héctor López Santillana, and the minister of national defense, Guillermo Galván, visited the city to relax.
Luz María Núñez gave her third government report and asked the incoming authorities to maintain what her administration achieved and look for ways to improve the quality of life of those sanmiguelenses who live in extreme poverty, and she urged them to look for ways to improve tourism in the city without sacrificing its identity.
Mayor Núñez ended her administration. She said that she would like to be remembered as the first female mayor. She herself graded her administration as an 8 on a scale of 10 based on mistakes (the major error was the election of her directors) and good decisions (making the citizens the protagonists of her government). The last day of her administration she inaugurated the Glorieta the los Conspiradores, which occupies the former Glorieta de los Héroes.
Mauricio Trejo was sworn in as mayor before the state governor, Miguel Márquez, and announced that his efforts would be targeted toward security and promoting San Miguel around the world in order to attract more tourism and investments. He said also that in the next seven days he would start the construction of the first convention center in San Miguel.
Rodrigo Treviño, director of the Baroque Music Festival, announced that in 2013 the Festival would be cancelled because a special concert was offered at a former Augustine convent in the city of Yuriria. A group of tourists were driven to the concert in a bus hired by festival staff. On the way back to San Miguel, the driver suddenly stopped on the highway between Celaya and Salvatierra, refusing to continue and prohibiting the passengers from leaving the vehicle until money supposedly owed to the transportation company was given to him. The tourists were extremely upset, and the incident was called an “express kidnapping” on some Internet blogs and other communications forums. This unfortunate incident tarnished the festival’s image and generated expenses that have consumed the festival’s funds.
For the first time the La Calaca Festival was held in the city. The Festival took advantage of already-existing events and brought new ones such as the Earth Harp, the biggest musical instrument in the world, which turned the Parroquia into a musical instrument. It also included giant decorated skulls that were exhibited around the city and a photo shoot by Spencer Tunick.
The association Friends of the Park completed the restoration of the playground at Parque Juárez at a cost of 2.5 million pesos. Their next goal will be the restoration of the bathrooms.
Five vendors were removed from the historic center by the local administration. According to Mayor Trejo, it is time to begin an age of legality and they did not have the proper permits for operating. The vendors started a lawsuit against the municipality that is still in progress.
After been closed since 2011, the emblematic building commonly known as Bellas Artes, one of the most important cultural centers in the city, was reopened after renovation of murals and restoration of the infrastructure. This cultural center will now offer options for art education and production and also will be increasing its level of professionalism and support for young people who want to continue their art studies.
“Because of bad decisions made by the administration headed by Luz María Núñez Flores in 2009–2012, the current local government received a notification nullifying the suspension of construction in the building located at Canal 16, which could allow McDonald’s to open,” said Ali Patlán Matehuala, legal coordinator of the local government. He also announced that the local government is waiting for a similar decision in the BANTERRA case. Following this statement, the former mayor, Lucy Núñez, responded with advice to the current administration: “Stop complaining and get to work; now the municipality is your responsibility.” She also made it clear that the franchise will not be opened because there is a juicio de lesividad (a trial in which the local government accepts its error but gives an explanation of why the franchise cannot be opened) in progress, a legal proceeding started by the municipality.
The Vibra San Miguel Festival was held in the city, featuring Spanish singers Victor Manuel and Ana Belén, famous in Mexico for songs such as “La Puerta de Alcalá.” In an interview they said, “Coming to Mexico means coming to a country that is a bit like home. Mexico became our home in a difficult time for us. We were able to work; we lived here when we could not go back to Spain. Mexico has always been very generous to us. We have been to Mexico many times without singing, just to see our friends.”
Octavio Drago Quero resigned his post as director of public security because he did not meet requirements for being in a directorial position. The new director is Gabriel Arturo Yáñez.