photo RSMAtnWebAdRed13.jpg

New Attempts to Protect a Beloved Historic Landmark

By Jesus Aguado

The Quince Letras, Las Cuatro Milpas, La Piedra Parada, El Golpe de Vista: these are only some of the iconic and now extinct shops of the city, those easily identified by Sanmiguelenses as landmarks and commonly known meeting points. However, there is something special about Golpe de Vista, a former general store going back hundreds of years whose building no longer exists after a planned demolition by owners about a year ago took down its final existing wall.

Located at the intersection of calle El Cardo and the old Calle del Hospital (now known as Prolongación Aldama), Golpe de Vista was not just a store but a meeting point for locals, especially those who drove mules into the city from the outskirts. Not only was this landmark one of the first shops in the village of San Miguel de Allende, according to oral history it was built prior to the historic Casa de Allende, family home of Mexican independence hero Ignacio Allende.

None of the building remains, not even the foundation, because Proteccion Civil (the Civil Protection Department) authorized its demolition; the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia (National Institute of Anthropology and History), known as INAH, gave approval for construction, and the local government issued a building permit to create four apartments there.

Now, however, area neighbors of the site have come together to “stop the destruction of history,” as they put it.

Neighbors in the area told Atención that they have registered a formal complaint with INAH and the local government, not only for the damages to the “historical monument,” as they call it, but also for what they say is a negative effect on neighboring properties.

Rebuilding the wall

According to Francisco “Titoy” López, a neighbor in the area, El Golpe de Vista was a general store and a meeting and rest point for mule drivers. The store has been closed for several years.

According to historian Graciela Cruz, residents of neighborhoods like Guadiana, Ojo de Agua, Cañadita de los Aguacates, and San Antonio congregated here because it is where various craftsman had businesses—shoemakers, tanneries, and rebozo makers. People passed through this central neighborhood spot and found out about the latest town news, chatted with friends, shopped, and bought a torta ahogada—a bun with cheese, jalapeños, and vinegar.

For many years after Golpe de Vista closed, it slowly deteriorated or was partially demolished, and for many years, the only remainder of the store was its wall. Recently, owners took down the wall, which now, as part of a fine handed down by the city, must be reconstructed.

The demolition site is currently covered with white plastic, although it’s evident that the wall will now be eight meters in height instead of two and a half as it was before.

Despite the owners obtaining permits, there has been some confusion about the legality of demolition at the site. When the demolition occurred, Planning and Sustainable Development Director Angel Gastelum told Atención that the owners had a legal construction permit at the Golpe de Vista site, but that they “did not have the right to demolish the wall. They should have respected and restored it,” he said at the time. That resulted in the stop work order.

Yet now, Director of the Centro Historico Francisco Garcia says that the site is neither within the Historic Center zone, nor in the locally protected buffer zone surrounding the Historic Center. However, it does have one closure order from INAH—an interior decal (announcing work must be stopped). Garca said that the owners built 20 centimeters higher than allowed and changed the size of a window. “That is why construction has been stopped,” he said. “The owners and architects are looking into the concerns and are ready to demolish what is necessary in order to adjust the measurements.”

Neighbors raise their voices

El Golpe de Vista was sold for cash by Doña Victoria thirty years ago. The current owners bought it two years ago. Now nearby residents remain convinced it will be turned into a hotel. They worry not only about the height of the construction, which they say will be higher than 12 meters, they worry their privacy will be invaded if a terrace is built on the roof. They worry about the noise from parties that could be held on such a terrace. Some expressed concern that the security of their homes will be compromised, saying a criminal could easily jump from a terrace onto their terraces.

Also a concern, neighbors said, is a six-to-eight-meter excavation onsite. They think it will be a spa pool. Also a concern, they said, adjacent houses are showing structural effects that they say is due to the overburdened construction pulling on their homes.

The College of Architects wants to help

Emilio Lara, president of the Colegio de Arquitectos (College of Architects) of San Miguel, told Atención that in coming days he met with Mayor Luis Alberto Villarreal and will meet with García to discuss how to prevent changes to the Historic Center. Lara is hoping his school can work with the municipality “as inspectors, of course, without power, simply as watchdogs” so that there will be no more destruction to historic buildings in San Miguel.

Protection doesn’t have to stop at the Historic Center

Previously, David Jimenez Guillen, Gunajuato’s INAH representative, said that aside from the rules given by the Ley Federal de Monumentos (Federal Laws of Monuments) and their regulations, there are complementary municipal responsibilities.

“On occasion one asks for support, even if the monument is not catalogued as historic or artistic. Municipalities must solicit the help of INAH in order to give them the value they deserve.”

Jimenez stated that in order to avoid follow-up damage to spaces not catalogued as historic but that represent a value to the general community, the municipality can take action.

“A building is given value by UNESCO or INAH, but it is not limited to this. Value can be determined by the community, by common sense,” Jimenez Guillen said, without institutional validation.

“If it’s valuable to a group or a community, it’s worthy of preservation,” he said. “The request can be taken to the authorities—the San Miguel de Allende City Council—because it’s part of collective memory, so the municipality (with the citizens’ initiative) takes protection into account. With this, a great void would be filled in federal law, so that the monuments do not remain defenseless and depending upon recognition by institutions. This would be a valuable tool that would come from the community,” he said.

BOX

The other side of the story

Atención attempted to contact the site’s owners to give us their perspective on the project, but we were told they were not in San Miguel at the time. Their employees assured us that the owners would call, but as of press time, they had not.

Director of the Centro Historico Francisco Garcia said that the excavations that can be seen on site were only for laying down the foundation and not for a spa pool. He also remarked that the land-use permit grants permission to build four apartments, not a hotel.

He also said that the height of the construction, measuring from the sidewalk, will be eight meters.

 

Comments are closed

 photo RSMAtnWebAdRed13.jpg
 photo RSMAtnWebAdRed13.jpg

Photo Gallery

 photo RSMAtnWebAdRed13.jpg
Log in | Designed by Gabfire themes All original content on these pages is fingerprinted and certified by Digiprove