2014: Twelve Months in Summary
By Antonio De Jesús Aguado
During 2014, San Miguel de Allende gained visibility, not just for its appointment as “Mexico’s Best Destination” and the organization of festivals like La Calaca, The Guanajuato International Film Festival, and the San Miguel Sound Music Festival that brought singer Lorde for the first time to Mexico. The city was also in the public eye for public health problems involving a rural community, Tierra Blanca, where annually 1.2 people die of lung cancer caused by erionite (a mineral). San Miguel was also identified with political scandals that involved former mayor and current federal legislator Luis Alberto Villarreal, as well as Mayor Mauricio Trejo, who were accused of being “thieves.” On the other hand, 2014 has seen some issues fade into oblivion and others remain unresolved, such as the opening of the airfield and the eco-touristic park in the Las Cachinches stream.
ere is a summary of some of the most significant events of 2014.
1. The New Year came in with new taxes, among them an increase of 16 percent on the price of pet food. Authorities argued that if families could have a pet, it was evident that they had the buying power to pay for processed food. New taxes were also applied to junk food and sweetened beverages, among other products.
2. The state government announced that the Escudo program, an initiative to safeguard the state with surveillance cameras and road arches outfitted with technology and cameras for detecting stolen vehicles, would be launched at a cost of 2,700 million pesos. Mayor Mauricio Trejo announced that security in the city would be a priority and made it clear that more security in San Miguel would be possible, not with more police officers, but with citizens’ participation.
3. In a report published by El Universal, Senator Ernesto Cordero accused federal legislator and former PAN party coordinator in the congress, Luis Alberto Villarreal, of “theft,” along with Gustavo Madero, president of the PAN party. According to an article published in Reforma, Villarreal, supported by other federal legislators, was requesting a 10 percent commission for helping mayors get federal resources for the construction of public works. A mayor, who asked Reforma to remain anonymous, explained the legislators’ modus operandi. On this matter, Villarreal told Atención in November of last year that those complaining ought to file a criminal complaint at the Ministerio Público, which is the authority in charge of handling such accusations. “The doors of the Ministerio Público are high enough,” he said, “for anyone to enter.”
1. The ninth San Miguel Writer´s conference, the biggest in North America and the only bicultural writer’s event was held. It had as keynote speakers Calvin Trillin, Kathi Diamant, and Laura Esquivel, among others. The organizers faced the challenge of maintaining this congress as intimate and small, allowing more personal interaction among presenters and attendees.
2. Arturo Yáñez, director of the Public Security Department, announced that the tourist police would patrol the historic center dressed in Colonial-period costume. The call opened, and 10 posts were available to provide safety for visitors.
3. The construction of Coppel on calle Codo started in 2013, and in 2014 the Protégé San Miguel Group denounced irregularities. The group told Atención that the local government denied them public information, and they were also concerned about the damage the construction could cause to alleged existing tunnels under that construction. The city council approved construction of the store by eight votes. Those who voted against it told Atención that the construction did not meet the requirements included in the REZUS (Regulation of Zoning and Land Use) articles 49 and 50, as well as the requirements of the Guanajuato Code of Territorial Structuring, article 262, part 3. Also, according to the REZUS, for every square meter of construction, the store must have one parking space, and the Coppel store would have just 15 spaces in a 1,730 square meters of construction.
4. The local government held the second Entrega de Corazones, an event that consists of giving statuettes in the shape of a heart to outstanding persons and appointing them as San Miguel Ambassadors to the world. The corazón was received by photographer Spencer Tunick, golfer Lorena Ochoa, and journalist Fernanda Familiar, among others.
1. La Biblioteca Pública de San Miguel AC, the heart of education and culture in our city, was granted another 20 years of occupancy of its historical building until February 23, 2034.
2. The state secretary of Public Security, Álvar Cabeza de Vaca, held a meeting with entrepreneurs, journalists, members of the expat community, and nonprofit organizations in San Miguel to strengthen coordination to prevent crime in the city. Cabeza de Vaca said that the state authorities, along with the local government, were working to benefit the entire city, including Mexico’s largest community of foreigners here in San Miguel. Mayor Trejo, who was also invited, urged the attendees to get involved with the local authorities in security programs such as Neighborhood Watch instead of magnifying the local crime cases on social networks. Trejo also made it clear to the attendees that it was not the Public Security Department that was releasing the arrested criminals, nor the Ministerio Público, but the control judges. He made a commitment to ask for more severe treatment of criminals. District Attorney René Urrutia told Atención that the criminals were released by the control judges because of the new principle in the Penal Law which fostered “the presumption of innocence.”
3. The local government announced that the arroyo (stream) of Obraje will be turned into an eco-tourism corridor, featuring artificial lakes, murals, and fruit trees. It was hoped that this improvement would diminish the insecurity in the area and offer economic opportunities for those whose houses face the stream. The project would have three phases, and the final cost would be 122 million pesos. It was slated to be finished by the end of 2015.
1. New Zealand singer Lorde, famous for the hit “Royals,” performed for the first time in Mexico in San Miguel de Allende along with Jenny and the Mexicats as part of the new San Miguel Sound Festival. Maylee Thomas and Stephanie Urbina Jones performed during the Magic Town Music Festival to benefit Casa de los Ángeles.
2. In September 2013, neighbors from Atotonilco had denounced the installation of a cell tower in the area as well as the lack of commitment of the local authorities to remove it. The neighbors also commented that the antenna was situated in the area appointed as a World Heritage site, and it was damaging to the image. Finally, the cell tower was removed with the help of the local government.
3. The National Autonomous University of Mexico, San Miguel de Allende campus, received a donation of 4.5 hectares in the upper area of the city. According to Mayor Mauricio Trejo, it will be a part of the City of Knowledge, a project that includes educational institutions, sports facilities, and the airfield.
4. In national media it was published that San Miguel was a city that had been overtaken by crime. On this matter, Mayor Trejo commented that people need to understand and check the crime indexes in the national media. He remarked that in the city there were no kidnappings, safe houses, or narco-graves as there were several years ago. The same month, the state Secretariat of Public Security installed 600 panic buttons in businesses and some neighborhoods in the city when the Escudo program was launched.
5. Members of Protege San Miguel approved the construction of Coppel, but not in the historic center.
1. The International Congress of Coexistence and Universal Brotherhood, which presents cultural events including music, dance, literature, and theater from across the world, turned 15 and celebrated with the visit of ambassadors from more than 40 countries, and beauty queens, concerts, and exhibitions.
2. An extreme adventure park opened behind the Cerro de las Tres Cruces. It features seven funiculars and an 80-meter-long suspension bridge.
3. Domestic animals (dogs) were frequently found tortured, hanged, or mutilated in colonia San Luis Rey. The neighbors expressed their concern that this problem caused by young gangs could go beyond animals and be applied to human beings. They tried to file their criminal complaints at the Ministerio Público but were ignored, so they used Atención to ask the Ministerio Público to do their work. Later District Attorney René Urrutia told Atención that the animal mistreatment was considered a crime and assured that his office would investigate the cases in San Luis Rey. He said that neighbors were not ignored in those offices but were well treated when they tried to file a criminal complaint.
4. A demonstration called Protege San Miguel was held outside of the construction on calle Codo. Those against the presence of Coppel were asking for a relocation of the store while construction workers held placards stating that they were in favor of the store because it was a Mexican company that was providing them employment, not a franchise. Demonstration against the construction was supported by former Mayor Luz María Núñez Flores, who was severely criticized for politicizing the protest.
5. The Ministerio Público announced that victims of house robberies no longer have to go to Ministerio Público offices to file their criminal complaints. A new mobile unit is now available for investigating residential burglaries. It is equipped with the necessary materials, a micro laboratory, and even a “mobile MP” that files the criminal complaints.
1. Atención published that San Miguel occupies the third position in the state in the number of poor inhabitants (63 percent), just after Dolores Hidalgo (64 percent) and San Felipe (68 percent). In colonias like Adolfo López Mateos, the inhabitants do not have decent housing or public services like potable water, electricity, and drainage.
2. The local administration announced that the old city hall building will be turned into a recreational area for Sanmiguelenses and visitors. Construction is to include an amphitheater, a salon for showing experimental films, rooms for galleries, and a rooftop sculpture garden with a cafeteria or a bar and the best panoramic view of the city. Architect Enrique Norten will direct the project. It will cost 40 million pesos (of which the administration had half at that time). The changes need to be ready before October 10, 2015.
3. After the animal mutilation in colonia San Luis Rey as well house robberies and muggings, neighbors of San Luis Rey organized with people from eight additional neighborhoods to hold a meeting with federal and local security offices. The neighbors requested patrols from the federal police and even from the army. Representatives of those groups took their petitions and said they will analyze them.
4. The Coppel public relations department informed Atención that the company had fulfilled all the municipal requirements for the construction of the store on calle Codo. They also commented that INAH—the authority in charge of watching over the correct use of historical buildings—had made it clear that the crumbled building was not historical nor was it situated in the area appointed as a World Heritage site.
1. Atención published that just two of the four community centers constructed in neighborhoods classified as extremely impoverished were operating. Those centers are aimed at training residents in workshops for the arts and trades to integrate them into the city’s social and economic life. The Roza Kent center was abandoned, and the neighbors did not even know who had the keys. The construction of the Cuevitas community center is halted, but Governor Miguel Márquez assured that it is “on his to-do list.”
2. The State Secretariat of Touristic Development announced the construction of a craft market and an eco-touristic park along the Laja River, plus improvement of facades at a cost of 30 million pesos. The market would be up for citizen discussion, and it has not started yet.
3. After the controversy caused by the construction of Coppel and the possibility of losing status as a World Heritage Site, Francisco Vidargas, manager of the World Heritage area of INAH, spoke to Atención and stated that UNESCO did not even know about this case because it was a local issue. He informed Atención that the appointment was not even at risk.
4. San Miguel was once more the venue of the Guanajuato International Film Festival, which paid homage to Mexican actress Angélica María and had among its special guests director Anton Ascorbic.
5. The city council approved the construction of an industrial park that it said would create 2,700 jobs. The park would be located in 250 hectares on the road to Querétaro.
6. Atención published that people in the community of Tierra Blanca were dying from lung cancer caused by erionite, a volatile mineral that was in the soil and in the air. The inhabitants denounced the lack of commitment of the governmental authorities to conduct specialized studies to avoid deaths. At least 1.2 people have passed away annually because of that disease.
1. Rancho Toyán held its second grape harvest festival with the performance of Mexican singer Guadalupe Pineda.
2. For the first time the Public Security Department provided a report of activities, which announced the purchase of 14 more patrol vehicles (six 4x4pickups, two Ford Focuses, a cargo van, and five motorcycles).
3. Inhabitants from Cruz del Palmar reiterated to Atención that they would always be against the construction of the Autopista Bicentenario (freeway) that would start in Silao and end in San Miguel de Allende. The road would cross indigenous communities. “This is the new conqueror; they want to exterminate us,” they said. Locals are also concerned that the construction could disturb the source of the erionite that causes lung cancer in Tierra Blanca, and volatility could cause a major public health problem.
4. Mayor Mauricio Trejo announced that there were three studies being conducted at the airfield, which would be finished “in the next 30 days.” He assured that the aerodrome would be open in approximately 60 days.
5. The first stone for the industrial park was placed. Local and state authorities confirmed that it would have “green industry” and would not damage the local heritage. The industrial park, it was highlighted, will create employment for 1,500 in the short term, benefiting inhabitants of the upper area of the city living in extreme poverty. During the event, Governor Miguel Márquez assured that the Autopista Bicentenario would be constructed despite political, economic, or other kinds of interests.
1. The National Commission for Natural Protected Areas (CONAP), a department of the SEMARNAT (Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources), declared the total surface of 380 hectares (939 acres) as a Natural Protected Area, including the Charco del Ingenio, a property of the civil organization Jardín Botánico. The protected area includes the federal wetlands formed by the Colonias and Obraje dams and the canyon. Certification as a protected area is good for 99 years.
2. An online document stated that firing skyrockets on Sunday morning was not well accepted by Mexicans or by other residents in the city. It also noted that setting off fireworks was unnecessary and purposeless, and the noise was very dangerous to the health and well-being of many inhabitants. The letter assured that fireworks are a cause of devaluation of homes, mostly those situated in the neighborhoods impacted by the noise. Sanmiguelenses were invited to sign a letter that would be submitted to the local authorities asking them to end the firing of skyrockets. The tradition was well defended by Sanmiguelenses and even by Mayor Trejo, who said that his city council will support and reinforce traditions like this one.
3. The body of an American woman was found at the railroad station. The Ministerio Público advised that the deceased committed suicide.
4. In the state of Guerrero, students were attacked by police officers from Cocula and Iguala; 43 students were arrested and later disappeared.
1. Dr. Marcos Ortega from UNAM, in charge of the studies being conducted in Tierra Blanca regarding erionite (a mineral that causes lung cancer and mesothelioma), told Atención that the current discoveries revealed only the tip of the iceberg. Ortega said that the cause of cancer, found though a study conducted by the state government, was erionite, and “… there is an annual index of death due to lung cancer or mesothelioma of 1.2 persons in the area.”
2. Mayor Mauricio Trejo gave his second government report before people from el campo. He highlighted the construction in progress of the industrial park, roads, and bridges in rural communities. Fernando Olivera Rocha, secretary of Touristic Development, announced that the federation would hold a 20 million dollar campaign to promote the magic cities of the Mexico in the world. San Miguel was included.
3. In a small restaurant on Plaza Pueblito, the Attorney General’s Office captured Héctor Beltrán Leyva, member of the criminal organization of the same last name. Germán Goyeneche, a well-known entrepreneur from Querétaro, was also apprehended for being the financial operator of the organization.
4. Feed the Hungry, a nonprofit organization that feeds more than 4,000 students, daily, celebrated its 30th anniversary with the Sin Sangre event that presented rejoneador (horseback bullfighter and trainer) Gastón Santos as a special guest.
5. Several demonstrations held in the country and in San Miguel de Allende aimed to put pressure on the federal authorities to find the 43 missing students from Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, who disappeared in September.
1. La Calaca Festival held its event for the third year, bringing back the biggest stringed musical instrument in the world, the Earth Harp, played by Andrea Brook, as well as art exhibitions and, for the second year in a row, a photo shoot by Spencer Tunick.
2. The PGR informed that the 43 missing students were arrested and taken to the local police station in Iguala, then transported to a point between Iguala and Cocula. There they were handed over to those who later killed and burned them. Jesús Murillo Karam, the General Attorney, advised that an investigation to identify the burned bones was to be conducted by the world’s most prestigious laboratories at Innsbruck University in Austria. Because of the extreme calcination of the bones, the experts could not give a deadline for supplying the results.
3. The Biblioteca Pública, one of the oldest nonprofit organizations in San Miguel, turned 60 and celebrated with concerts, art exhibitions, and a party with music and joy.
4. Two incidents involving firearms were registered in the city. The first took place in colonia Olimpo, where a police officer shot a man “in self-defense” after a street fight. The second event occurred in colonia San Felipe. A 34-year-old man was driving his truck, accompanied by his 9- and 14-year-old daughters, when a second vehicle stopped in front of them and shot them. The Ministerio Público discarded the idea of organized crime participation.
5. San Miguel was appointed as Mexico’s Best Destination by Food and Travel Magazine.
6. More than 18,000 Sanmiguelenses in extreme poverty received digital televisions from the Secretariat of Communications with the aim of being prepared for the analogue switch off scheduled for December 2015.
1. The second Theater Festival took to the streets and public plazas of San Miguel.
2. The Golf Club Malanquín joined the project to raise monarch butterflies. The idea came from Dr. Manuel Velázquez, who uses the scientific method to encourage the butterflies to remain in his backyard. This project could be taken by the local authorities to Juárez Park and the Parque Bicentenario.
3. The district attorney’s office (Subprocuraduría) talked to Atención about the progress in the murder cases of San Miguel expats that occurred in 2013. One of the first cases the district attorney’s offices worked that year was that of Canadian artist Marcia Dworkin. Dworkin, who had lived in San Miguel for more than 16 years, was assaulted and severely beaten in her home on September 13. She was found unconscious by her maid three days after the incident. The Canadian was taken to the San Miguel General Hospital and later transferred by air to a hospital in Canada, where she died days later of complications related to the assault. The main investigation line was robbery (a strongbox was stolen). On this matter, district attorney René Urrutia assured that his office was working hard with Canadian authorities to resolve this crime, and in the weeks to come, they would have important information that would lead to closure of this crime, which is not related to the case of Canadian Zena Bailys, who was stabbed in Atotonilco in June 2011.
4. The murder of American Joyce Hart, who was killed by her adopted daughter, Noemi Corona Hart in February 2013 was solved. The Ministerio Público said the case was closed, thanks in part to the expat community’s support, which provided all the needed information for the localization of Corona, who along with her friend and partner in crime, Marisol Espinosa Pavón, received sentences of 22 years and six months, and 18 years and nine months of prison, respectively.
5. Another closed case is that of David Simone Cole, an American man murdered and found in a refrigerator in December last year. Urrutia said the case was solved as manslaughter and that the responsible person, Francisco Baruc, compensated the victim’s family. Urrutia disclosed that the perpetrator and the victim’s relatives had signed a private contract. They did not mention the amount he paid, but they canceled the criminal complaint. Baruc is on conditional release for two years and two months.
6. Inhabitants from La Cuadrilla were informed that the vehicular bridge constructed by the local administration was closed because authorities wanted to avoid its “wearing down.” The neighbors said it was to be closed until its official inauguration. However, according to local authorities, the opening will depend on federal, state, and local authorities’ agendas.