Guajuato–San Miguel freeway plans go forward
By Antonio De Jesús Aguado
On April 13, the state government announced that this year they will solicit bids for the construction of the Bicentennial Freeway that will connect Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende with more than 70 kilometers of roadway. Previously, some residents of rural communities in San Miguel had complained about the layout of the road, which they said could damage the area’s tangible and intangible heritage. According to the former administration, the road would be built in accordance with the environment of the area.
The freeway was a project of the former Guanajuato governor, Juan Manuel Oliva, who announced the plans in 2010. The road will begin at the community of Menores in the municipality of Silao off Freeway 45, pass through the city of Guanajuato and the community of Trinidad, and connect with the road to Juventino Rosas, continuing on to San Miguel de Allende, where it will connect with federal road 51 (the San Miguel–Dolores Hidalgo road) near the Taboada hot springs. Oliva also commented that this was a project that the tourism industry had been waiting for and it would improve tourism in San Miguel, Dolores Hidalgo and Guanajuato.
In 2011, social activists and inhabitants of the rural communities of Banda, Oaxaca and Cruz del Palmar, among others located near where the road will cross, issued a letter in which they “warned” authorities and the general public about the damage that the construction of the road would cause. According to the letter, the road would pass through the site of the first settled agricultural community in the area. The inhabitants of those early communities had their own astronomically based observations, myths and rites that they performed at sites called “coecillos” (small mountains). There is also civic architecture from the period of the viceroyalty, a paleontological zone and a zone appointed as a World Heritage site that will be affected. The letter also stated that the wetlands of the San Damian-Laja River, which cross through Taboada, Xoté and la Cieneguita, will also be affected, as well as the migratory route of American storks, which come to the northern area of the Presa Allende during the summer. Residents said the freeway will also have an impact on the geologic border between volcanic Mesoamerica and semi-desert Aridoamerica and the largest paleontological site in North America, covering more than 3,000 acres, which contains fossils dating from 50 million years ago. The construction of this freeway, according to a video, would break the bond between the San Miguel de Allende–Atotonilco World Heritage sites and the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (Royal Inland Road), the first route created by the Europeans in America. San Miguel de Allende was the last city it crossed before it reached the volcanoes near Mexico City.
In July 2011 Édgar Bautista, director of Urban Development, said that originally the freeway was planned to pass through the communities of Oaxaca, Banda and Nuevo Banda, which would have to be relocated. For that reason, the plans were redrawn to position the road 50 meters from Oaxaca. Later, the municipal leaders proposed a route crossing through Atotonilco, which would have been worse because the paleontological zone is located nearby. Then they asked for help from INAH (National Institute of Anthropology and History), and representatives indicated the areas the freeway could or could not cross, taking into account the archeological and paleontological sites as well as historic architecture. “The current plan respects all the archeological, civil and symbolic remains. We followed the observations made by the INAH,” commented Bautista, who responded to residents’ concerns although this is a state and federal, not municipal, project.