Hats off the the people of Tenacatita! Two years and nine months ago one of the most popular public beaches in Mexico was violently seized by a developer, the Rodenas group. Armed guards destroyed the beach’s thatched seafood restaurants and stole thousands of dollars worth of property from local people and small business owners who had been living and working at the beach for their entire lives. The road to the beach was (illegally) blocked and armed guards with dogs were stationed at the gate. Since that day, the fishermen, restaurant owners, and other local citizens have fought to have the beach reopened. They have been arrested for attempting to protect their belongings, they have been shot with rubber bullets, beaten, and sprayed with gasoline. They have endured the economic depredation caused by the destruction of their businesses and, in some cases, homes. They have set up their own program to help community members most in need. They have waded through an endless sea of paperwork, filed hundreds of documents at great expense of personal time and money, organized protests, and sat through seemingly endless meetings and conferences.
For me, Tenacatita was a place of refuge. A magical place of leisure. Camping at Tenacatita was living the dream. For our local friends, Tenacatita was a source of income: fishing and small time tourism. But it’s been clear to me for a long time that Tenacatita is more than that for all of us.
This recent opening of the beach does not necessarily mean that I will ever be able to camp in a palapa at Tenacatita again. It doesn’t necessarily mean that our friends Mosca and Cuca will get to reopen their thatched seafood restaurant. It doesn’t necessarily mean that their sons will be able to launch pongas from the beach again to fish for the family restaurant. Currently the president of La Huerta has agreed to make no sudden moves: the beach is open, but vending and camping are still not allowed at the moment. According to Milenio (rough translation):
“Julian De Niz Jesus Sanchez, mayor of La Huerta, signed a commitment establishing it will not grant any license, authorization or permit of any kind in the federal maritime zone land. At 15:30 hours the entry and right of way were completely released.”
At one time this would have sounded like an awful compromise to all of us, but when I read about our local friends marching through the demolished gates to explore the beach, I know this victory is not hollow. This image, gleaned from an article at Milenio (rough translation) is enough for me:
“After the state officials removed the guard booth, the villagers walked down the road to the beach. They entered and walked around the places that had been off limits, and they looked at the ruins of what were their businesses, their homes…On their faces one perceived nostalgia and joy to recover what had been taken away nearly three years ago.”
A friend in Mexico writes, “Yes, it’s really true, and even though I walked the beach and played in the water (along with lots of the kids) it’s still hard to believe. The terms of the concession are, playa libre (free beach) and malecon (walkway along the ocean). For now, no vendors, no commercial use and no camping. But this is just the beginning. TENACATITA LIBRE !”
Today local people will be meeting for a beach clean-up.