San Miguel Rural Roads
By Jesús Aguado
By traveling the newly paved roads of this city, it is fast and easy to arrive at the last rural community (El Nuevo Cimatario) on the road to Juventino Rosas. Arriving in San Isidro de la Cañada, after an hour of driving on an improved road, is also visually appealing because there the water spouts from the mountain and still is drinkable, the crops are planted during the rainy season, and the solar energy is turned into electricity.
El Nuevo Cimatario
On the road to Juventino Rosas is an exit for El Nuevo Cimatario. The road that leads to the community is approximately 15 kilometers long. The first part of the road is flanked by oak trees, the second, by corn crops, and the third, by pink wild flowers and 70 houses of the families who have inhabited the place for 40 years.
Five kilometers of the road were improved by the local administration, with an investment of 1.5 million pesos. The road, restored with limestone, is about to be handed over to the locals. In a corn field we found don Isidro Juan trimming weeds that he would take home in a wheelbarrow for the livestock.
Isidro Juan told Atención that there are about 70 families in the community. Previous local administrations have helped them to get potable water, electricity and, recently, the restoration of the road. Juan made it clear that it is very important to have the road in good conditions because it allows them to get to the road that connects to San Miguel or Juventino Rosas faster in cases of emergency. He said that the old road was full of holes, and during the rainy season the cars used to get stuck. He added, “Now it is very easy to leave the community, above all else during emergencies. It is a road that has saved the lives of our sick people.”
The community has a kindergarten and a secondary school. Those young people who stay in the community go to school and work the land, and those young adults who leave the place seeking better opportunities in the US help their families to build better houses and support their economy.
On the old road to Guanajuato is the access to San Isidro de la Cañada. Getting to the community along the road that was restored by the local administration takes at least one hour. On the road it is easy to see all kinds of birds, grazing livestock, panoramic views of the city, and the Allende dam and other ravines.
Next to the road on a hill is a small construction (chapel). The legend, we heard later from Gabriel Núñez, is that the place was inhabited by a priest who used to steal the products from the vendors going along the path. The products, were given to the poor (like the Mexican Robin Hood, said Núñez). Later, the priest was murdered and his body was divided in four, distributed to the four winds, and buried in Robledad, Calderón, Novilleros, and Chalayote.
Several gates must to be opened and closed to get to San Isidro de la Cañada. On the way there are artificial lakes with migrant ducks. Next to a lake, there is a cross on a rock. Núñez commented that it has been there for centuries, and it is believed that it was the work of lightning. Now, the chapel and the area near the cross are used for healing or bewitching people. Candies, flowers, and candles used by the curanderos can be found scattered nearby.
San Isidro de la Cañada
Surrounded by mountains, tiny houses made of adobe and others made of brick are visible. Above them are solar cells. Five of the solar cells distributed by the local administration are in this community. Next to the last door, there is a spring bringing water from the mountain. It is not crystalline, but it is drinkable and used for domestic tasks.
Señor Gabriel Núñez, his wife Remedios, and his daughter-in-law Eva García—who is mother of Alan and Valeria—welcomed Atención to this house. There, Núñez showed us the small construction that shelters the equipment of the solar cells. He says that he has lived there during the last 30 years. He had eight brothers and lived in Cañada de la Virgen. His father sold his land but later refused to work with the new owner. Núñez’s father decided to buy 20 hectares for each of his sons (one of them was Gabriel) and leave Cañada. That was how they populated that particular area. At the beginning there was just his family. Núñez remembers that there was more water on the ravine adjacent to his house, but it eventually disappeared. With the help of the local government, he constructed an artificial lake on top of the mountain. It provides water during the entire year. “This year we have not had too much rain,” he said. However, he is not worried because they can carry water in containers from a community nearby.
Now, there are 40 families in the community, but the houses are spread over more than 200 hectares of land. Some have electricity, but others, like that of Núñez, do not. He has never had electricity, even when he was living in Cañada de la Virgen. Now his life has changed as well, especially the way he spends the nights. He loves watching the news and listening to the radio. At night he lights a bulb and knows that it will not affect his budget anymore as candles did in the past.
Among the rocks, Valeria (who wants to become a doctor) and Alan were playing hide and seek. With them was their mom, Eva García. She was from another rural community where electricity is normal (Ojo de Agua de García). She got married seven years ago and although she knew there was no electricity here, she migrated for love. “I knew that, and now I am used to it,” she said. At night they used to light candles, but now everything has changed for her and the children. Although the power is not enough for a refrigerator or a microwave oven, she said that as long as they can light a bulb, use a blender, and watch TV at night, it is more than enough.
Francisco Carmona and Gloria Morín left the community after it started (30 years ago). They wanted to improve their lives and migrated to Mexico City. When Francisco retired he wanted to live with the nature and decided that it was time to go back to San Isidro. Although they knew there was no electricity, they wanted to live in a place where they could have a garden. They built their home and lived without power for less than one year. Then they benefited as well from solar cells.
The residents of San Isidro do not go to the city very often, just every two weeks to buy products for the pantry, to start a process with authorities, or to handle an emergency. Without a car, it would take three hours to get to the road that connects with San Miguel.
Osvaldo García, director of the Social Development Department of the administration, told Atención that there are 120 rural communities and 90 neighborhoods in the urban area of San Miguel. CONEVAL (Nation Council for the Evaluation of Social Development), the organization that measures poverty in the country, has said that in San Miguel there are 73 priority zones for social development. According to García, 67 of them are rural communities (we visited two) and six are in the urban area, especially at Ejido de Tirado.
In these locales, said García, the department will keep working with more social programs to improve people’s lives.