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2017: All that Happened and All that Is Still to Come

Calle prolongación de Umarán

Capi Correa

Colocación de primera piedra CRISMA

Dr. Gerardo Chávez

Funeral

Luz María Núñez explica algo a Villarreal

Procesión Virgen de Loreto

By Jesús Aguado

The year 2017 brought important events like the opening of the Acoustic Shell, the inauguration of the new slaughterhouse and of Plaza La Estación. But the year also brought demonstrations against public projects and public works that annoyed us. Many of the projects that began as news in 2017 are only halfway toward completion, and others are not even close.

This year, new regulations for weddings came into effect. There was also a boom in tourism—according to official figures, a 50 percent increase. And one of Mexico’s most dangerous kidnappers was arrested here in San Miguel—where he lived.

In this edition, we present a summary of the year’s news:

January

New Regulations for Public Events

According to the Weddings Association, 650 “striking, extravagant, and simple” weddings were celebrated in town, bringing in revenue of 3.5 billion pesos, or US$166 million

Since the wedding industry is a smashing success in town, it should be regulated. Therefore, the city council passed an ordinance stating the criteria for the use of public spaces. This is a summary of the regulation, put together by Atención:

Public spaces (streets and plazas): Priority for use will be as it follows: first, civic and religious events; second, ceremonies and events of the public administration followed by cultural events; finally touristic events, like weddings and reunions.

Schedules for noise: Music will be allowed in open public spaces until 11pm, and in private spaces until 1am. If the noise is controlled and does not impact the neighbors, the permits could be extended until 3am in public and private spaces.

Tents and safety: If tents or canvas are used at events, the color should be sepia or ochre, preferably with no advertisements. The structures cannot be tied to public buildings or trees, and the passageways for pedestrians must not be blocked. Finally, there should be a person in charge at all times to solve any issues that arise.

Callejoneadas and alcohol: The permits will be issued by the traffic department, and the organizers should hire private security. People in charge of the procession must wear uniforms authorized by the local administration. The limit of alcohol consumption by the participants is 100 ml. The musicians playing on the callejoneada route must stop playing when the procession arrives at its destination, which should be either a bar or a home.

Local services: Wedding industry organizers must use at least 75 percent local services for the event.

Fines: Event planners could be punished with fines ranging from 10 to 30 thousand pesos if they do not respect the new regulations. If they violate the regulations on three occasions, permits could be permanently denied to them.

Antonio Luna’s Case: On January 14, an operation of the state attorney general’s office (Procuraduría de Justicia del Estado, PGJE) left three children dead— brothers Juan Adrián, Gabriel Osvaldo, and Mateo—and their father, Antonio Luna, imprisoned. The PGJE stated that Luna murdered his children, but his wife was a witness and accuses the ministerial police officers of being responsible for their deaths.

The incident led several activists (now involved in politics) to demonstrate before state and local authorities in order to urge them to investigate the case. Those demonstrators also blocked the road to Dolores for several hours and on January 21, blocked the annual parade to honor Ignacio Allende. Members of political parties took part in the demonstrations.

The case attracted well-known attorney Rafael Heredia, who declared to the press in July after the trial ended that “in this case, Antonio Luna pled guilty to the death of his three children. He murdered them with a .22-caliber pistol, and he did it because he was afraid of the operation. He did not want his children to be kidnapped or murdered by other people. The fear was brutal.” Luna was sentenced to 16 years and eight months in prison.

February

Trash: Residents of the city complained because in San Miguel there was no established system for collecting trash. In some cases, garbage trucks did not have a specified schedule, and in several neighborhoods, people were annoyed because careless neighbors abandoned their trash on the corners in the early morning, attracting flies and dogs and causing sickening smells. Additionally, the unattractive, unhealthful mess stayed, occasionally for days. Sometimes, thanks to scavengers, the places stayed clean, but often not.

Tostadas: We visited a rural community, El Lindero, a place where there is a kindergarten, a church, a sustainable Unitarian primary school, and a group of women who earn a living by making tostadas.

The tostada workshop is located in the house of a woman known as Pueblito. She happily greets strangers, shakes their hands, and invites them to the workshop of the Tostadinas del Lindero cooperative, which is made up of 16 women.

In front of Antonia, Verónica, and Esperanza—the women in the cooperative who make tortillas—Pueblito told us that they had been making tostadas for many years. One day, three years ago, they brought some for the students at the school of teacher Emma Guerra. She tried them and told the women, “These tostadas are delicious. Why don’t you make them to sell?”

“We thought, ‘Who could want our tostadas? We cannot succeed.’ But teacher Emma encouraged us to do it, and we did it; now here we are,” said Pueblito.

Next to a prensa—a press for making tortillas—Esperanza and Verónica were at work, obtaining the perfect size and thinness for frying them and turning them into tostadas. Meanwhile, Pueblito was proudly telling Atención that each woman of the cooperative sells up to 30 bags of tostadas per week—just in the communities near El Lindero—and sometimes, during festivities or Christmas, they run out of tostadas the first day because everybody wants them to eat with pozole. The process of making the tostadas is totally organic and artisanal from beginning to end. The ladies boil the corn to make the nixtamal (corn that has been partially cooked and soaked with calcium hydroxide) and then take it to the grinder. They manually make the tortillas, fry them, and put them in bags, in packs of 30. The price of a bag is 30 pesos. If you want to visit the women or buy their products, call 415 101 8840.

Water Heaters: 4,805 men and women gathered at the Jardín Principal to receive their new solar water heaters, valued at 3,803 pesos each. During the event, Mayor Ricardo Villarreal stated that this support goes to people most in need. He noted that by using this equipment, users will save up to 3,500 pesos a year in energy costs, because they won’t be using electricity or gas.

March

Airport: State Secretary of Tourism Fernando Olivera Rocha revealed that the city council would call for the private sector to invest 200 million pesos into converting the local airfield of San Julián to an international airport. It was said that the first commercial airplane could be landing or taking off in December, 2017.

During an interview with Atención San Miguel, Mayor Ricardo Villarreal assured us that his administration had worked hard to encourage construction of the airport. First, he said, they had to recover the land, which was in possession of a nonprofit organization Amigos de la Aviación, AC.

According to Villarreal’s information, his administration reviewed the documents of the airfield to find out that the administration was not the owner. It had just the possession, “and you cannot grant a concession or invest in something that is not yours,” he remarked. That is why the local government started the process to also get some other plots, which expanded the landing strip from 1,500 to 1,850 meters.

After procuring the land, a study was conducted to see there if the site would be viable for not just an airfield, but an airport, which would be known as the International Airport of San Miguel de Allende. The proposed airport could receive direct flights from Houston Airport (IAH), as well as William P. Hobby (HOU), Dallas Love Field (DAL) or Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW) airports. The San Miguel airport would have an appropriate landing strip, a terminal, fixed-base operations on site to provide support services—such as refueling, aircraft maintenance, and hangaring of planes—and immigration services.

Several citizens opposed the project, and to date, there has been no new information about the proposed project.

New Bus Fare: In a city council meeting, the new fare for a bus ride in the urban area—which went up from five to seven pesos—was approved. Suburban routes raised their fares 20 percent.

The fares had not been increased since 2008. “It is not good news, but we cannot go against the economic reality,” Mayor Ricardo Villarreal told the press. The change in fares was also caused by the new fuel taxes that went into effect at the beginning of 2017.

Public transportation providers approached the local government and asked them to allow an increase in fares. They based their request on their increased expenses in insurance, fuel costs, maintenance, payrolls, among others. A commission was made up of city councilors, directors, and providers to conduct studies that fixed the new price.

April

Mobility: Locals and visitors had long complained about the congested traffic and lack of parking spaces in the historic center. Those who decided “to do something” presented an initiative with 20 proposals to solve the problem. Most of these ideas will go into effect in 2018:

1)     Public policies need to be created for improving the mobility in San Miguel.

2)     The order of prioritization should be pedestrians, cyclists, public transportation, and private cars.

3)     Plans need to prioritize the well-being of Sanmiguelense over visitors.

4)     Parking lots should be constructed at the four access points to the city.

5)     Alternatives for economical, safe, and permanent transportation should be generated.

6)     Public bicycle rentals with preferential fares to residents should be initiated.

7)     Quality public transportation with low fares, Internet, and AC should be created.

8)     The local administration should control the fares of executive transportation and regular taxis, and fine those who do not respect the rates.

9)     The prices of private parking lots need to be regulated; those closer to the historic center should be more expensive.

10) Parking meters should not be installed if there are no parking lots at the four access points to the city. The parking meters should be digital, modern, and with preferential rates for Sanmiguelenses.

11) Public transportation needs to be regulated, generating companies with modern buses and updated routes and anti-doping tests for drivers.

12) Transit regulations need to be updated and known by the citizens. Tourists should receive a copy with the most important articles of the law.

13) There should be information about the pedestrian areas, and those who live in the historic center will need a permit issued by the administration to enter.

14) Suppliers should make their deliveries in the historic center on a regulated schedule, between 10pm–9am.

15) Fines should be higher for those who park in spaces designated for the handicapped and for suppliers working off schedule in the historic center.

16) The hotels in the World Heritage area must have valet parking to avoid the traffic.

17) New developments should provide private transportation in order to avoid the use of cars.

18) Traffic signs should be placed in the streets of the World Heritage Zone as well as maps with the routes of public transportation.

19) The tourist trolley must change to a “hop on-hop off” style, with established routes and schedules and with a frequency of every 20 minutes. A single fare should apply for the entire day.

20) There should be nocturnal public transportation with competitive rates.

May

Connectivity: A new road proposed to connect colonia San Luis Rey with the road to Dr. Mora fell by the wayside. The money was invested to improve Avenida Las Américas.

The local administration got into a dispute with El Charco del Ingenio. The public administration worked to achieve the road connecting San Luis Rey to Dr. Mora, however, agreement with the land owners was impossible. “There were some achievements, but El Charco del Ingenio opposed the project. We have a document signed by César Arias, president of the nonprofit Charco del Ingenio, in which he mentioned that the drawing of the road where we proposed was impossible,” Mayor Villarreal told Atención and also commented that some properties had to be impacted. Since the local government cannot expropriate them, they had to work to achieve agreements.

According to a copy of the letter submitted to the administration, provided to Atención by Arias himself, among the reasons to be against the drawing of the road was the negative impact on the environment and what it represented for the ecosystem, the wildlife, and the landscape, as well as the tranquility and safety of the area. The document states that those elements make El Charco a relevant tourist destination in San Miguel de Allende.

The organization also explained that, from their experience, this kind of road generates trash, noise, vandalism, and fires started by humans, due to the easy access to the zone. The road, it was stated in the document, would destroy a great mass of plants “well conserved to date.” Those who signed the letter mentioned that the local administration should look to construct the road 300 meters north of the originally proposed site, where there is already a trail, and the flora and fauna would not be impacted. It would also reduce the cost. Basically, El Charco proposed another trip to the drawing board.

June

Justice for those with no voice: In a neighborhood between La Paz and Cieneguita, “The Dog Slayer,” as she is now known in the area, poisoned at least 20 dogs, causing the deaths of ten of her victims. After a trial, she found guilty in one of the multiple cases.

A judge found the woman guilty in the deaths of three pets. The woman had to pay a fine of 1,915 pesos and, in addition, offer an apology. The case ended because the owner of those dead pets decided to grant a pardon.

July

CRISMA: The city council decided to donate a piece of land to the Vamos México foundation, managed by former president of Mexico Vicente Fox and his wife Martha Sahagún. According to those against the donation—between Landeta and Charco del Ingenio—the space was catalogued as natural reservoir. Later, it was proven that the information was wrong.

The two hectares were donated by Mayor Villarreal, the assistant mayor, and nine city councilors from different parties. One PRI party member voted against the donation.

Villarreal commented at the time, “I am very happy that Vicente Fox and Martha Sahagún, with other Sanmiguelenses, are thinking of expanding CRISMA with an investment of 40 million pesos. I am very happy because many of the 5,000 persons with disabilities in the city will finally have a rehabilitation center.”

Mayor Villarreal explained that the Centro de Rehabilitacion Integral Teletón (CRIT) in Irapuato attends to only eight children from San Miguel because the center is used by the entire state, and there is no room for more patients. He also said that the state government gives 16 million pesos a year to the CRIT, and here in San Miguel, “we will give nothing but the land to the new hospital.” The space will be self-sustainable.”

Director of the Charco del Ingenio, Mario Hernández, described the donation as “a nonsense decision. I acknowledge that there are handicapped people in the city that need attention, but make it clear that the institutions who serve them ought to perform impeccable work.” He criticized the land being handed over to a couple that “is still living on the public budget.”

August

Donation of Bodies: We visited the medical campus of the University of Guanajuato in León. There, we had a talk with Dr. Gerardo Chávez Saavedra, who explained how the Donation of Bodies to Science program works.

Chávez Saavedra confirmed that the university has an agreement with some authorities to have access to unclaimed bodies. However, it is easier for the students to preserve them when they are in similar condition to when they were alive.

Since Chávez arrived at the faculty two years ago, “eleven people have donated their bodies. Most of them are women from the United States of America and some Mexicans from León. The youngest person who has donated is 27 years old, and the oldest 91,” the doctor told us.

According to Chávez, when somebody decides to donate a body, personnel from the university pick it up after a doctor has certified the death, and the university pays for transportation to León, as well as for the taxes that the process requires. Once in León, the body will stay the necessary time. The parts that are not used are later cremated or buried at a special place in the local cemetery in that city.

If you need more information about the university’s program, contact Dr. Gerardo Chávez, and he will pay you a personal visit: g.chavezsaavedra@ugto.mx.

September

Virgin of Loreto: To celebrate the 475th anniversary of the foundation of the Town of San Miguel of the Chichimecas, for the first time in 25 years, the priests from the Oratorio organized a procession for the Virgin of Loreto through the main streets of the city. The Virgin of Loreto was once named the patroness of the village.

According to city historian Graciela Cruz, the Virgin was appointed the Grand Patroness of the Villa of San Miguel el Grande in 1736 by the Spanish city council. For that reason, a celebration to honor her is held every September. The inhabitants of the village used to ask the Virgin for favors in hard times, such as times of illness or drought. “There are documents with testimonies of miracles granted by the Virgin, such as the healing of illnesses,” said Cruz.

She also commented that the Virgin of Loreto’s celebrations were as important and as spectacular as the celebrations for St. Michael the Archangel. She agrees with Father Roberto Almaguer that the festivity lost its importance due to social and religious changes like the Mexican War of Independence. The traditional celebrations were firmly linked to the Spanish families that were forced to leave the village during the War of Independence. But it is notable, commented Cruz López, that the largest neighborhood in the village, with more than 400 families, bore her name: Barrio de Loreto.

The Barrio de Loreto has only one street with the Virgin’s name now. Hermenegildo (El Cuca from La Ermita) lived there, and he and his neighbors collected money 25 years ago for a sculpture of the Virgin. He also organized one of the fiestas that has become a tradition in San Miguel for the past 25 years.

October

Rain: After the heavy rains, attention was focused on the current of the Las Cachinches and Obraje streams, as well as on how the water would impact classes in several schools adjacent to the banks. At the Plaza Guadalupe market, vendors were asked to evacuate.

According to Alan Álvarez Flores, director of the Civil Protection Department, the current did not represent a threat, but they wanted to prevent any material or human losses. The vendors went into action and removed their merchandise to safer places. People like Mercedes Rico did not want to lose their property as they did 19 years ago.

The center of attention for the authorities, the people, and the media was also Prolongación de Umarán, in the Las Cuevitas neighborhood, which had much flooding in the street. Neighbors, volunteers, and members of the emergency corps teamed up and used sacks filled with sand to build a wall to prevent the street from being washed away.

November

A Hound Killed Capi Correa: What happens after a hound attacks livestock? What does one do when a person dies after a dog attack? What is the next step when dog, with owners and without have attacked people on different occasions? What do we do when the number of street dogs is up to 23,000 in San Miguel de Allende?

At around 5pm on Tuesday, November 14, the 099 emergency number received a call to report a man injured from dog bites near San Julián. The man was 92-year-old José María “Capi” Correa, well-known for promoting sports in this city. Correa was taken to the general hospital and there, according to information provided to Atención by the Ministerio Público, he died due to lacerations of the carotid artery and jugular vein caused by dog bites.

Norberto Carbajo, director of the Ecology Department, said that four dogs were confiscated showing traces of human blood. We requested an interview with District Attorney David Amaro in order to talk about how owners can be dealt with by the law when their animals attack people. However his public relations director, Antonio León, told us “It does not make any sense. We do not want to speculate on this or any case.”

Atención did have an interview with Carbajo, however. He said that what happened to Correa was a disgrace and a surprise, because he was a well-known man in the city. After the report of the injured man in San Julián, Carbajo asserted that people from his department went to the location and captured four dogs with traces of blood. Two of the owners were found. The dogs were handed over to the Ministerio Público, which opened a file to investigate the attack. The same day, the local administration held a raid in San Julián, but people hid their dogs. Later, the dogs in custody were put to sleep with pentobarbital.

In the past two years, said the director, 1,300 dogs have been taken to the Ecology Department’s facilities, and just 10 percent of them have been claimed. The rest have been killed, and the bodies are buried at the sanitary landfill. “We need to control the population of street dogs in the city, and we will make it possible with people’s help. It is estimated that there are 23,000 dogs with no owners in San Miguel.”

December

Development for Low-income-families: Lomas de San Miguel will be constructed over 50 hectares. It will be a project that will offer houses to those who can prove a 10-year-residence in town. The highest price for a home, thanks to different subsidies, would be 100 thousand pesos. The project could feature 5,000 houses with basic services—water, electricity, and drainage—a religious and recreational center, a supermarket, schools, and public plazas.

This development “would be just for people from San Miguel de Allende to buy a house or for those who can prove that they have been living here for ten years because the houses will have a subsidy and will be very accessible,” Villarreal told Atención. He also said that institutions like FONAPO, INFONAVIT, and the Sociedad Hipotecaria Federal are involved in the project. That is why a house could cost only 100,000 pesos.

This, according to the mayor, will be a national model, and that is why the Hipotecaria Federal gave four million pesos to the Local Institute of Housing to develop the project that began last year. “We will defeat the lack of housing, doing the right thing from the beginning.”

In addition, Villarreal told us that people could work in the industrial park that will offer thousands of jobs in the years to come. The second phase of the park will be developed next year on 120 hectares, he said. He also noted that his administration is still working to connect the upper area with the road to Dolores and diminish the traffic on Libramiento Manuel Zavala.

 

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