Protege San Miguel approves of Coppel, but not in the historic center
By Antonio De Jesús Aguado
Members of the Group Protege San Miguel (Protect San Miguel) said that they are not against the opening of Coppel in San Miguel de Allende, but they are against the location. The group also denounced the disrespect of the government toward them and announced a public information meeting.
Some cities appointed World Heritage sites have lost that distinction from UNESCO because their governments did not respect the regulations of the institution. Currently, according to the web page of Quinta Columna, two cities have lost their appointments as World Heritage sites. The first was the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Oman, which was appointed in 1994. This case was different, because its government asked UNESCO to take it off the list in order to take advantage of the minerals in the area. The other site was Dresden Elbe Valley, removed in 2009 after a four-lane bridge was built there.
Information published by ICOMOS (International Council of Monuments and Sites) of UNESCO was provided to Atención by Protege San Miguel. According to this document, the most important monuments and symbolic spaces have not suffered physical alterations or functional variations. ICOMOS considered that “the urban structure and the historical ensemble of San Miguel de Allende have not suffered alterations that could affect its integrity.” Nevertheless, because of changes in buildings such as the one at Codo 26 members of Protege San Miguel are afraid that San Miguel could be at risk of losing the appointment. The group also is concerned that a tunnel that used to connect the Casa Solariega of the Canal Family—now Instituto Allende—with the Parroquia has been destroyed.
Local historian Graciela Cruz said that those tunnels were part of a hydraulic system in colonial times and their remains have been preserved in the historic center of San Miguel, including below calle Codo. She said the tunnels are large, as tall as the door of the former city hall building. They must be preserved, she commented. She said that although the existence of a tunnel below the site where Coppel is being built has not been proven, the possibility cannot be discarded.
The process to get the permits for the construction and opening of a Coppel store, which sells furniture and clothing and also includes a bank, started about five years ago. However, because the company did not meet all the requirements of the REZUS—Reglamento de Zonificación y Uso de Suelos (official rules for land use)—the permits were denied several times. Although it was finally approved, one of the members of Protege San Miguel said that the construction does not respect the REZUS guidelines, which state in Article 2, Part 33 that franchises are prohibited in the historic center.
In addition, on November 9, 2013, when the city council approved the change of land use on calle Codo—within the buffer zone of the area appointed a World Heritage site by UNESCO—from residential to commercial zoning, the city councilor of the PRD party was not in attendance but said he would have voted against it. Three city councilors of the PAN party did not approve the proposal; one of them talked to Atención and commented that it was because the company did not meet several requirements and the change would violate REZUS Articles 49 and 50, as well as the Guanajuato Code of Territorial Structuring, Article 262, Part 3.
Protege San Miguel told Atención that they need to be listened to by the local administration, which could be working with the same noble aims as the group. They stated that the group is not an enemy but a good ally because they want to protect and preserve the essence and the intangible heritage of San Miguel. The members said in addition that since last year they have requested information from the local authorities about the possible construction and opening of a Coppel in the city but the public servants of the Urban Development Department never handed over information or gave them a response.
The group also highlighted that since November 2013 they have been hoping to have a meeting with Mayor Trejo. Although some meetings have been scheduled they have been canceled several times. In February of this year they delivered a letter to the offices of Mayor Trejo and other offices of the local administration asking for more information about the construction and the store, but thus far they have not had a response.
The group, made up of Mexicans and foreigners, in the past achieved the cancelation of the construction and opening of McDonald’s on Canal 16 “thanks to the support of the government,” they said. According to the group, other franchises such as Burger King were ready to invest in the city after the McDonald’s opening, but McDonald’s did not succeed.
The group made it clear that they are not against the store, because San Miguel is growing and needs more services, but they are against the location. Coppel ought to be in the peripheral area, they said, because it is for locals, not for tourists. The members commented that this new store would only be patronized by a few who are not sanmiguelenses.
The group said that in the weeks to come they will hold an informatiional public meeting so people can have first-hand information about this topic. They are hoping to attract as many people as possible, who should not be afraid of taking part in the group but need to be informed about what is going on in the city.
More information from the group can be found at www.facebook.com/protege.sma.