2015 in the Pages of History
By Jesús Aguado
This year Atención turned 40 years old after publishing all kinds of stories. This is a summary of the last 12 months with topics that certainly will emerge with a twist in 2016 because in the pages of our history there are still crimes under investigation, major works are uncompleted, halted developments, growing festivals … Here are some of the most relevant events of 2015.
•The New Year arrived with a halt to the rise in the price of gasoline, elimination of charges for long-distance calls by mobile phone companies, and a raise of 4.2 percent in the minimum salary, which now is 66.45 pesos in Region B (including Guanajuato).
•Sara Hoch from the Guanajuato International Film Festival said that this year the GIFF Factory would be constructed. It would be an incubation space for film projects and for their production and post-production. The space will be unique in the Americas and, besides that, it will provide a venue for all the festivals in the city. Hoch commented that the project would have private and public investment. She said that the construction will start this year, and after two years of work, it could be finished in 2018.
•Vicenta Delgado from Tierra Blanca de Abajo, a campesino woman who worked the land, passed away on January 19 due to lung cancer. Her death is additional proof that something is wrong in that rural community: Delgado is the 19th person who has died from cancer there in recent times.
•The San Miguel Writers’ Conference, one of the biggest multicultural and bilingual conferences in the world, celebrated its tenth year. The conference featured keynote speakers Tracy Chevalier, Richard Blanco, Gloria Steinem, and Ángeles Mastretta.
•A group of Sanmiguelenses requested expropriation of the building that 20 years ago sheltered the Hermanos Aldama Cinema. The building, the group told President Enrique Peña Nieto in a letter, should be given to the city as a gift due to its important historical value. The former cinema is currently for sale. The state governor Miguel Márquez Márquez also received the letter and recommended that petitioners check the facts with the local administration. Nothing has happened so far.
•Atención reported the arrival of “electricity” in the area bordering San Miguel with Querétaro, Apaseo el Alto and Comonfort, where several rural communities received solar cells. Now just a memory remains of the times when they had to use petroleum lamps and candles for lighting their homes, times when they had to put an iron over the embers for ironing their clothes. Although they prefer the taste of salsa made with a molcajete, they are leaving that rustic tool behind. Now the residents of those places are different. They sing, dance, and can even see in the dark. They can also get information by turning on a TV or a radio. In the past this was possible only when they were in the city or in other communities with electricity.
•The State Secretary of Public Health informed citizens that the problem of cancer in Tierra Blanca de Abajo was not caused by erionite. According to this department, there is no scientific evidence. Nonetheless, local activists insist, remarking that the local, federal, and state authorities did not pay attention to the problem because it was an electoral year. They did, however, present advice that the three governmental levels must follow for reducing the number of deaths caused by cancer or they must relocate the entire community.
Dr. Marcos Ortega from UNAM presented a list of options that the authorities should consider before thinking of relocating the residents. Among those considerations are reforestation of the area to reduce the mineral’s volatility; construction of houses with a material other than adobe, which contains the mineral in its composition; and covering the streets with stones or other kinds of soil, like tepetate (limestone). Another option is to isolate the source of the mineral, which is situated three kilometers north of Tierra Blanca.
•State General Attorney Carlos Zamarripa Aguirre announced a restructuring of the justice system. René Urrutia, the district attorney who stayed in San Miguel for one year and five months, was transferred to Región C with central offices in Celaya. Armando Amaro Vallejo, who was the district attorney of Region C, is now responsible for prosecution of justice in San Miguel.
•The opening of a new International Venue for Exhibitions was announced for September—on the road to Celaya. The place would bring economic development to the communities nearby. The construction has stopped.
•The Heart of San Miguel, recognition from the local administration, was given to Mexican singer and author Benny Ibarra.
•The month of music arrived with the second Magic Town Music Festival that featured the Maylee Thomas Band, Stephanie Urbina Jones, and Karen Hart, among others. The revenue went to Casa de los Ángeles.
•An era of isolation came to an end in the rural community of San Francisco. With the help of Charles Soberman and friends, a Community Center with computers was opened to offer computing classes and free access to Internet for the residents of the area.
•Then San Miguel Mayor Mauricio Trejo Pureco requested a permit from the city council to leave his post for more than two months. Three days later, an audio recording was broadcast nationally. The investigation presented on Televisa included an audio in which Trejo allegedly asked his personal assistant, Benjamín Ramírez, to manipulate the news of the death of American Bobbie Marie Nagy, asking him to handle it as a suicide. This was before the Ministerio Público’s investigation. The woman’s death occurred on September 17, 2014. Then District Attorney René Urrutia confirmed that the death was a suicide. The woman was beheaded by a train.
•José Luis Chagoyán was appointed interim mayor. His second city council, said some city councilors at that time, would be impugned because of the authorization of land use for a high residential development on the road to Dr. Mora, Cumbres de San Miguel, next to Splash. The development would have up to 13,000 inhabitants, and the developers could not guarantee the water supply. The council was never impugned.
•The local administration started the expansion of the Libramiento Manuel Zavala Zavala from two to four lanes. The investment was 33 million pesos (federal and municipal resource). In the end, the work did not include four lanes, but three, and explanations were never given.
•The mayoral race for the 2015-2018 administration began with six candidates. The strongest were Martín Cacho running for the party PRI and Ricardo Villarreal for the PAN party. They had 60 days to win the confidence of Sanmiguelenses. Villarreal proposed the construction of the freeway from Silao to San Miguel, as well as completing pending works such as the band shell, the slaughterhouse, and the community center of Cuevitas, among others.
•Atención reported the case of “the other San Miguel—Ejido de Tirado—where there is an irregular neighborhood called Magisterio, with a kindergarten that daily shelters 40 students. This kindergarten is in the urban zone, but it lacks a name, as well as basic services: water, electricity, drainage, and decent classrooms. It also lacks one other important thing: legal title to the land for constructing the infrastructure.
Without the legal title, the Guanajuato Secretariat of Education (SEG) cannot construct classrooms in that zone. On the other hand, Acacio Martínez, then director of the Education Department of the local administration, made it clear that the legal title would be handed over to the SEG in the months to come. He also remarked that the representative of the SEG in the north region, Román Cifuentes, assured that even if the legal certainty of the plot was obtained this year, the classrooms would not be constructed until 2016.
•Mayor Trejo—on a leave of absence—granted his first interview after he left the administration. He said he left the post in order to seek a candidacy for local legislator. He assured that the national broadcasting of the audios involving him with manipulation of information influenced his not getting the post as “diputado plurinominal” that he wanted. The PRI party had offered him post five, and after the audios they offered him post seven. He decided not to take it for the low possibilities he had to win the “honor” of representing the Sanmiguelenses in the local congress. He gave Atención proof that the audios were edited.
•The Señor de la Conquista (Lord of the Conquest), the Christ statue dating from 450 years ago, was restored. In the mid-18th century it had been attacked by moths. The early lack of knowledge of proper restoration led people to paint the sculpture with inappropriate paints. “In the end the Christ will look as our ancestors saw it,” commented restorer Pablo Amador Marrero. The statue’s weight does not surpass six kilograms due to its construction of corn cane paste.
•The Industrial Park on the road to Querétaro opened with Stant Inc., a company that provides employment for more than 300 people.
•Leticia Fernández, president of the Red Cross, announced the construction of a new Red Cross building on Boulevard de la Conspiración. This construction would help to give a faster emergency system to the upper area of San Miguel. Nothing has happened since then.
•The political campaigns concluded, and the mayoral winner was Ricardo Villarreal García. After the changes in the electoral law, the new mayors in Mexico will be the first allowed to be re-elected for a second three-year term in 2018. The day after the election, Villarreal granted an interview, and we asked him for two of his proposals and how to make them possible. “Social development needs to be better so we can improve the quality of life for those most in need. We will provide them the basic services of potable water, electricity, and drainage; we will also work hard to give people legal certainty of their plots so they can live in a decent place. We will improve the recreational spaces in rural communities and neighborhoods. The Cuevitas Community Center will be a reality and one of the biggest centers in Guanajuato. It is important because it will provide social development to people as well as employment. The economic development will always be linked with the social. If there is economic development, there is social development.
“The improved economy will be possible with the attraction of private and public investments. We will bring investments that will generate employment in tourism, industry, and technology. If there is more employment, we will live better, and there will be more security. The insecurity needs to be attacked with opportunities, respecting the law, and with better and well-trained police officers. We will ask for help from the state and the federation as well as from the private sector. We will all build the police department that we need so they can take care of us,” he concluded.
•The Mexican Supreme Court (SCJN) declared unconstitutional the Civil Code of the states that bans same-sex marriage, including the State of Guanajuato. The SCJN considers any link between marriage and personal sexual preferences and/or procreation as discriminatory. Now the judges responsible for the Civil Registry in Guanajuato and all over Mexico must marry same-sex couples requesting the service. Meanwhile in Guanajuato, Governor Miguel Márquez Márquez kept his distance from the topic and left decisions to the local deputies. The government Secretariat, Antonio Salvador García López, responsible for civil registries, did not know what to do, and the president of the State Court, Miguel Valadez Reyes, gave the green light to applications for a “writ of amparo,” a remedy for the protection of individual constitutional rights that can be requested from the court, that in this case would allow the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) couples to get married in the state.
•The improving of the airfield may be one of the biggest works in town, and it was a flagship for Mauricio Trejo, who announced for three years that San Miguel would have it open to attract tourism with greater buying power. In July, Atención reported that the opening was suspended. In 2013 work done on the strip was not performed correctly by a contractor hired by the Consejo Coordinador Empresarial de San Miguel de Allende (Business Coordinating Council) CCESMA, according to Amigos de la Aviación, an organization interested in the improvement of the airfield when nobody else cared. CCESMA got involved in the project and applied the funds that Amigos had gotten from the state government and, in addition, a PEMEX donation worth a total of 5.5 million pesos for the airport improvements. However, “the contractor was told by CCESMA to ignore the construction plans that had been prepared by the council and approved by the General Direction of Civil Aviation (DGAC),” an Amigos de la Aviación spokesman told Atención.
“The only reason the airfield was closed down by federal inspectors was that the work was not done in accordance with the plans submitted by CCESMA that specifically required leveling of the runway surface before paving. The airport has serious oscillations,” said Russell Henson, treasurer of Amigos de la Aviación.
Juan José Álvarez Brunel, a founder of CCESMA and also the first president, commented that one of the council’s projects was to improve the airfield to provide a better economy for the city. His information matches that given by Ricardo Garrido. Álvarez acknowledged that when the CCESMA was formed, Amigos had already applied for and received 1.5 million pesos from the state government for the airfield. Moreover, the administration of the financial resources was observed by the OFS (State Control Organism) because of administrative misconduct of Amigos.
The CCESMA gave Governor Juan Manuel Oliva, who was sworn in to the council of CESSMA in 2011, the project of improving the SMA strip. However, according to Álvarez, due to the administrative misconduct that the OFS detected, Governor Oliva stated that if the government gave money for improving the airfield, it would be on the condition that the money had to be administered by CCESMA. “We did not decide it; it was the governor’s decision,” said Álvarez.
•Unexpectedly, Mauricio Trejo returned to the local administration “to conclude his three-year term.”
•A demonstration took place at the Laja River due to the “illegal” extraction of petrous material. Before the demonstration neither the federal authorities nor the locals had paid attention to the problem. Later during the month, the representative of the National Commission of Water in Guanajuato, Humberto Navarro de Alba, assured that the extraction was illegal, and nobody had concessions for extracting material for the entire extension of the river.
•The local administration headed by Mauricio Trejo had October 9 as a deadline to issue a letter of apology for restricting journalists’ freedom of expression in San Miguel de Allende. The violation of the right to express themselves freely as well as the lack of access to information was proven before the Procuraduría de los Derechos Humanos de Guanajuato State Human Rights Ombudsman (PDHEG). That office issued the recommendations. Previous to ending his three-year-term, Trejo told Atención that he had issued the letters.
•The Guanajuato International Film Festival turned 18, involved in controversy due to the reduction of state financing. Guanajuato Governor Miguel Márquez Márquez commented that the festival is not a source of revenue for the state, and he remarked additionally that GIFF was not a public institution to be financed. According to him, GIFF is 18 and it should be self-sustainable. Annually, GIFF receives “10 thousand million pesos,” he said, “and it should be financed by private institutions.” These comments put the construction of the GIFF Factory at risk.
•In July, an update of the Development Plan was submitted to public consultation although there were no forums or tables of analysis for review, only a released file with more than 800 pages, which, according to members of the Citizen Observatory, was impossible to read in such a short time. The estimated time for citizens to issue their opinions is 40 days, but the administration allowed only 21 days.
•The Urban Development and Environmental Management Planning Program was illegitimate, immoral, and illegal, said members of the Citizen Observatory. Then Mayor Mauricio Trejo sent the director of Urban Development at that time, Édgar Bautista, to defend the program. The plan is “perfectly legal, moral, and will bring direct benefit to the entire population that has use of land,” said Bautista.
The approval of the Program of Urban Development and Ecological Zoning (POET) renewal proposed by the local administration was qualified as a “replacement for the current program.”
It was said that these changes in land management, which would change the density of housing of H1 (low) to H3 (high), especially on the road to Querétaro and the road to Dr. Mora, would lead to disorderly growth for future housing developments. This would require not only public services, security, and water; it would also be devastating to the ecology. It has been said as well that new industrial areas could be built. Members of the Citizen Observatory, an organization formed by members of civil associations, added that this program was a threat to the sustainable development of San Miguel, development that for now, they said, was due to particular interests. The plan was never approved; this fight was won by the Observatorio Ciudadano.
•Atención turned 40 years old, printing the news that made the history of this city.
•The PAOT (Attorney’s Office of Environment and Land-use Management) conducted an operation for closing kilns. They closed five in Presa de la Cantera and ten more between El Santuario de Atotonilco and Los Rodríguez. The kilns were closed for not respecting the Law of Preservation and Protection to the Environment in the state of Guanajuato. In addition, the producers were not observing the Technical Regulation for Environment NTA-IEE/2010, issued by the Guanajuato Institute of Ecology and published in the state official newspaper on February 7, 2012. The owners of the kilns were not fined because PAOT did not have the right to do it, so PAOT just closed their hornos. They cannot open again until they can fulfill the regulations. Now PAOT also gave the responsibility for those kilns and all of the others to the local government, which is the authority in charge of issuing land use permits to open them, according to Environmental Attorney Juan Pablo Luna Mercado.
•Mayor-elect Villarreal said that the payroll was madness. One of the biggest challenges in his administration, he remarked, would be that of reducing the payroll expenses that had increased by 67 million pesos since 2012, going from 116 to 183 million pesos. At that time, there were 1,350 public servants in the local administration. During Villarreal’s administration, the number will be reduced by 20 percent, he commented.
•The then Director of Public Services accused recyclers of stealing the trash from the sanitary landfill but made it clear that the local administration could not throw them out because that was their way of life. In a visit to the place, the trash collectors assured that during the 2009-2012 administration, a woman died, crushed by a machine, and the local administration then headed by Luz María Núñez, paid for the funeral services. This information was confirmed by Julián Villela, director of Public Services. The official version states that “when the trash carts download the trash, mountains are formed that are later processed by a machine that drives 10 meters forward and 10 meters back. The woman found something valuable to her, and when she wanted to take it out of the trash, she did not notice that the machine was coming back. It rolled over her and crushed her.”
•It was not at the most important plaza of San Miguel—the Jardín Principal—that current Mayor Mauricio Trejo gave his third—and last—government report, but (literally) in the backyard of the Instituto Allende. Although in the past there were up to 5,000 people, this time Trejo spoke before 300 people, including state Governor Miguel Márquez, Fernando Olvera, Secretary of Tourism, some entrepreneurs, directors of the local administration, and the general public about his “greatest achievements” to benefit Sanmiguelenses.
•San Miguel received its new mayor with a bang. Ricardo Villarreal presented his cabinet, including the new Secretariat of Public Safety, Traffic and Civil Protection, headed by Ricardo Benavides. Villarreal started working on October 10 by placing the first stone for improvement of the esplanade of the railroad and was sworn in that day at the Jardín Principal before at least 2000 people.
•The first night of Villarreal’s administration there was a street fight on calle Umarán, and a 29-year-old man—the Monkey—was murdered on Libramiento Manuel Zavala.
•Later the same month, October 15, in colonia San Luis Rey, two men were shot. They were taken to the General Hospital. According to the Ministerio Público, which is conducting the investigation, the shots did not put their lives at risk.
•Early Sunday morning, October 18, according to the Public Relations Department of the Ministerio Público, two men (a father, age 64, and son, age 26) were walking in colonia Aurora when they were attacked. The father was wounded by three gunshots, and the son received two shots. The victims filed a criminal complaint at the MP, and the case is under investigation.
The four men who had been shot were in stable health. Mayor Ricardo Villarreal stated that in one week, his administration could not solve the insecurity problems that had been accumulating for a long time. He noted that his administration would work hard to guarantee peace for Sanmiguelenses, stating that those previous problems come from members of criminal groups that are sheltered in the city.
•Another gunshot occurred on the Libramiento Manuel Zavala Zavala, on October 19, resulting in the death of one man. Official sources confirmed that the deceased was Gustavo, a 21-year-old Sanmiguelense.
•The local administration began the Citizens’ Tuesday, a program where the directors and the mayor talk directly with people in order to solve their problems with the local administration. It is held every other Tuesday in the old city hall building in front of the Jardín Principal.
•The Community Center CEDECOM was closed due to the lack of public budget. The director and city councilors donated their first payment in order to keep the center open.
•On Monday, October 26, a 78-year-old American woman, Dee Ropers, was found dead in her house in colonia Montes de Loreto. Ministerial officers stated that her head had been beaten with an unknown object. The body was taken to the forensic service, where they determined that the cause of death was a traumatic head injury. The Ministerio Público informed that the case is under investigation. Robbery is being considered as a line of inquiry in this case.
•On October 29, the neighbors on calle Cuauhtémoc in colonia Azteca reported some gunshots to the Secretariat of Public Safety. Police officers did surveillance of the neighborhood, and paramedics from the Red Cross, after checking the vital signs of a wounded man, determined that the Sanmiguelense was already dead. The Ministerio Público removed the body to the forensic service.
•The latest criminal acts occurred between November 5 and November 9. They left four murdered men. The director of specialized investigations from the Ministerio Público, Juan Ivan Luna, reported that most of the crimes in the last month had been committed with a 9mm weapon, and the murders had occurred in dark places. They were thought to be related.
On Thursday, November 5, after 2 pm, a 24-year-old woman was shot on calle Ancha de San Antonio at the corner of callejón de la Bayoneta. The local Secretariat of Public Safety observed in a press release that the woman was involved in illegal activities.
•On Saturday, November 7, the 066 Emergency System requested help from the Ministerio Público after a man was shot on calle San Felipe in colonia San Antonio at about 8pm. The dead man was Salvador, a 32-year-old Sanmiguelense.
•Two days later, on the road to colonia Santa Cecilia, two men were attacked before 8pm. One died there and the second died at the hospital.
•A man died on calzada de la Estación on Monday, November 9, after a street fight.
•State and local authorities held a meeting in the city to analyze the security agenda. After the meeting, they announced that through joint operational works, they were able to detain 10 drug dealers, as well as several persons involved in some of the latest murders.
•On Tuesday, November 10, the death of a man inside a car repair shop was reported in colonia Luis Donaldo Colosio.
•The Water Park Splash was authorized in March by Trejo’s administration. It was controversial when the local administration assured that the works would be halted due to the lack of permits. Then local activists made the topic even juicier when they published a letter against the dolphins that the park would allegedly include as well as objections to the waste of water. “All of our permits are legal,” said Carlos Koloffon Lara, representative of Splash; he also assured that the park would offer hydrotherapy, dolphins, toboggans, pools, saunas, sharks, and manta rays. The administration wanted to halt the development due to the lack of permits, but Splash proved that they did have all the permits granted, and the park is still under construction.
•The local administration headed by Ricardo Villarreal stopped construction of Cumbres de San Miguel, a development that would house up to 20,000 people. The new housing development was being urbanized. Rubén Conchas, administrator of the project, commented that the place had been divided into 4,300 plots. Each plot would be 112 square meters, and the land use authorized by the city council was H2, which means that each house can shelter 5.5 inhabitants. The land would have all the public services as well as urbanization.
In a press release, Villarreal’s administration informed that the works were temporarily halted because the developers did not have feasibility of water from the Water System or the concession of water granted by the National Commission of Water. The developers filled a criminal complaint against the local administration.