Deterioration of the Fountains
By Sandra Ríos
The fountains of San Miguel have always been an attraction for visitors. Some of them have a history of at least two centuries; others are more modern, but just as important. To preserve them, the fountains of our city have received special care from the authorities and civil society groups for at least three administrations. They have demonstrated their concern not only for these monuments, but also for the facades of the historic downtown area.
Unfortunately, these fountains currently look shabby and some are not working. We interviewed Filip Lein, president of the group San Miguel Siempre Hermoso, who has been responsible for the maintenance of the fountains and cleaning away graffiti on the streets of our city for some years, and María José Garrido, Director of the Department of Economic Development and Tourism San Miguel, which develops projects to strengthen the image of our town.
Sandra Ríos: What has been the work of San Miguel Siempre Hermoso in this municipality?
Filip Lein: This is a public-private partnership, and we work together with the municipality, in this case with Ms. Garrido. Our association is responsible for removing the graffiti from the walls (around 1,000 per month) and maintaining the 47 fountains in this city. Some fountains do not work, but we are gradually restoring them, with 33 now working correctly. Our purpose is not only to beautify the city, but also to reduce vandalism. For us, graffiti is vandalism and destroys the fountains, too.
SR: Where did the initiative to create this association come from?
FL: We started during the administration of Luis Alberto Villarreal (2003-2006) and later some foreigners came together to work with the government. We agreed that the government would contribute with 50 percent of the expenses and we would cover the other 50 percent to carry out this program. I arrived a year after the partnership formed, and now I’m president. We have collaborated with every mayor on this project from the beginning.
SR: As an association, how do you generate revenue to carry out its programs?
FL: Through donations from civil societies anxious to see this city looking more beautiful.
SR: We can see on the streets of San Miguel that many fountains are turned off and have had little maintenance. Why is this?
FL: For a while this administration told us that they were going to take care of the fountains. We left them for about a year, but they did nothing. Now we have been in charge of them again for about two months. We have a plumber whom we are paying. It’s amazing, but the pumps of the fountains are stolen, and we have to constantly get the money to replace them.
SR: How much money is needed to have the fountains in good condition and give them constant maintenance?
FL: The total budget is approximately 500,000 pesos per year, which includes removing graffiti and keeping up the fountains—60 percent for graffiti removal and 40 percent for fountain care.
SR: Do you have something to do with Muros en Blanco?
FL: Yes, we support them with money because this is two sides of the same coin. We remove graffiti, and they put art on the walls along the streets. We can see the artwork on some walls in colonia Guadalupe.
We also interviewed María José Garrido to find out whether her department gives any support to San Miguel Siempre Hermoso and its anti-graffiti programs and maintenance of fountains. This is what she told us.
Sandra Rios: In an interview with Filip Lein, he told us that you were put in charge of the city fountains for about a year. We realized that they need more maintenance. Can you tell us what happened?
María José Garrido: Fountains are good news. San Miguel Siempre Hermoso is concerned with the esthetics of the fountains so that they are clean. However, the fountains are very old, and there are many. Right now, the Director of Heritage and Historical Center is concerned about this issue. Garrido has a budget to fix them (she declined to give the figure). What they were doing was patching them, she said, and in a week they did not work. Then the focus went to ten fountains, mosty in the Historic Center, so they were perfect. When others break down, Garrido thinks drafting San Miguel Siempre Hermoso to join the Directorate of Cultural Heritage Historical Center will be the solution to this problem.
SR: When will the Cultural Heritage of the Historic Center be in charge of the fountains?
MJG: In late February.
SR: What happened in the course of this year?
MJG: The budget is never enough, and it is not an easy job to repair the pumps. They were not damaged during this administration. The damage was going on for many years, and this administration took the reins and was worried. These reports and concerns have been coming for a long time. The change is going to happen in this administration with the support of San Miguel Siempre Hermoso and the funds from its grantees. Repairing the fountains is major work. It is a bigger problem than the department imagined.