Juan Elías Robledo, Integrating the Universal with the Local
Personality of the Month
By Jade Arroyo
Given that we are contemporaries, Juan Robledo and I share and can discuss the virtues and stigma our generation faces. There is a hyper-realistic connection and at the same time a distance through which individualism seems to gain ground among millennials.
However, within this generational range there are also many people whose ideas are all about heart, about authenticity—those who integrate technology with matter.
If we have to put a tag on him, Juan Elías Robledo is a 29-year-old architect, a native Sanmiguelense, an amateur actor, and an activist for social justice causes, such as LGBTQ community rights and sustainable and ecologic development.
Juan grew up during the ’90s, before the commercial boom of SMA, and he enjoyed great freedom in his childhood. The youngest of three brothers, Juan developed normally and found the path to architecture. He decided to study in León, where he stayed for a few years, and then continued his schooling in Querétaro. He was able to explore different approaches, traditionalist in León and more humanistic in Querétaro. At the end of his studies, he flirted with going to cities like Mexico City, Querétaro, or Guadalajara, but there was a drive that made him return here.
This city is not always an easy place for young people, who find few options outside of tourism. The high cost of living also works against them. Juan is one of those who decided to return and build something here, starting with the collaboration and support of our local culture. “San Miguel is a place where you feel a strong sense of community; there was a sense of responsibility that made me return here.” The quality of life is undeniable, but beyond there is a sense of identity and desire to create something for San Miguel as a sanmiguelense himself.
Juan’s professional career began in the Municipal City Hall when he was only 23 years old. He worked in the conservation area of the Historic Center. There he understood how “the machine” works and discovered the great creative and human limitations within it. It was also a great experience of learning and growing, especially understanding what has to be done regarding the historical character of the streets of San Miguel. The rules of heritage govern and a high sense of architectural and cultural ethics is required.
When he left this position, he decided to establish his own office of architecture, where his approach of sustainability and respect for the environment will continue.
Parallel to his formal profession, Juan is very involved with social justice organizations. One of his most important activities is with Colectivo 41, the first civil organization in the city that is dedicated to the rights of the LGBTQ community and of which he is now the official representative, the president. He first became involved as a volunteer. Little by little, he created networks with other members, and his commitment to Collective 41 grew. He realized the importance of work in a city like this, which on the one hand is very cosmopolitan but on the other is also strictly conservative and religious. His work for the association is mainly raising funds, contacting grantees, and managing spaces.
As a heritage city, San Miguel has a great population, both architectural and artistic, contributing in various ways and encouraging an important cultural effervescence. Juan lives on calle Aldama and was recently one of the spokesmen for the “Save Aldama” project, through which neighbors and citizens opposed the change that the municipal government wanted to make to the historical character of this street, seeking to transform it into a pedestrian walkway. “It is very important that we consider an ethical and conscious development plan,” Juan said. “It is important to take action, to call people to safeguard our city.”
He is currently working on a project for a rural community in Los Rodríguez, which will be fully supported by sustainable inputs, from rainwater, solar energy, and treatment plants to orchards and composting. “The important thing is to generate an environmental and social impact, to try to counteract all the negative effects.”
Juan went to Brazil to participate in a workshop on ecological architecture. There he met many people who were doing similar projects. He also studied urban agriculture with The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). This encouraged the creation of networks between different people in Mexico and Latin America. This is something that always marks these projects, creating a local network and distribution through the community.
“For me the social issues are very important. I do not consider myself an activist, but I think the important thing is to contribute, to be able to generate change. It gives me great satisfaction to contribute to the community. What I can do, whether small or large, is great if it generates a solution that the community needs.”
Of course, not everything is about being caught up in humanitarian causes. Juan has a completely cosmopolitan side. It shows in his well-modulated voice, elegant gestures, and impeccable mustache. A lover of the arts, he has found a channel for his restlessness in the theater. He has performed in several local independent theater productions, such as the El Caldero group, and has done some monologues.
Young people here await opportunity. They are not so different from the mature population, and in unity there can be change.