Restaurant "La Mosca" is gone, destroyed by the state police . The open air restaurant, with its sand floor and thatched pavilion, sat overlooking Tenacatita bay, on the coast of Jalisco, Mexico. The portly owner, Adrian, nicknamed "La Mosca" (the fly) for the mole on his forehead, had planted bougainvillea vines and flowers and painted the cinder block kitchen bright blue and green. It was from this modest facade that his wife Cuca served her famous chile rellenos, earning the restaurant a singular popularity and allowing the family to eke out a modest income, supplemented by Mosca's and Cuca's sons, who went out each dawn in a fiberglass skiff, or panga, to catch fish for the restaurant.
Naming a restaurant "The Fly" is a ballsy move, but, then again, La Mosca is a ballsy guy. He's not the only Tenacatita resident who had cojones. Since 1993, residents of the small fishing community and the nearby village, El Rebalsito, have defended the beach from violent attacks spearheaded by a the Rodenas Corporation, a development group with plans to build an elite gold resort on the property. In 1993, 1998, and 2006, Rodenas obtained the help of the state police to demolish the thatched buildings that dot the cove.
The problem? Most of the small restaurants, hotels, and stores on Tenacatita bay are operated by families that have lived on the land for generations. The beach attracts a regular flow of tourists from the United States, Canada, and Mexico City. Visitors camp in palapas (huts) or stay at one of the modest hotels, such as the Hotel Paraiso, owned by Maria and Felix Mendoza, who are of retirement age but who still work in the hotel every day--Maria in the kitchen, Felix at the desk. On Sundays, families from nearby towns flood to Tenactita--kids play in the surf and adults relax in the shade eating camarones al mojo de ajo and other local specialties. Profits from the restaurants, hotels, and camp spots fuel the economy of El Rebalsito, which has no other major industry.
Although most of the buildings on the beach have been burned or bulldozed more than once and residents have been repeatedly arrested, villagers have returned each time to rebuild. They've also fought the case in the courts.
Jose Maria Andres Villalobos, head of the Rodenas group, contends that he purchased 42 hectares (about 103 acres) of beachfront property in 1991 from the widow of a former state governor. Although you can't legally own a beach in Mexico, Villalobos claims he obtained the beach concession rights in 1993. Locals say the land wasn't the widow's to sell in the first place and allege that Villalobos has a judge or two in his pocket.
Most of the beach's small business owners are members of the local ejido, or land cooperative. (The Mexican government created ejidos to implement the land reforms fought for in the revolution.) The Rebalcito ejido was established in 1940 and its holdings include the land that affords access to Tenacatita beach.
reprinted form Milenio.com
On the morning of August 4, 2010, Jalisco State Police in full riot gear arrived to evict Tenacatita residents and business owners. Police stated they were acting on behalf of the Rodenas corporation; that a judge in the nearby town of Autlan had issued a ruling in favor of the corporation. Locals resisted, demanding to see the paperwork from the ruling, which has still not materialized. Instead the police fired over 200 shots, mostly into the air. They were aided by civilians in yellow shirts (possibly employees of the Rodenas Corporation) who broke car and house windows, smashed belongings, emptied the contents of the restaurant kitchens into the street, and demolished palapas. Locals allege that police also stole furniture and belongings.
The Mexican daily Milenio.com, which has been providing excellent coverage of the story, confirms that the police arrested 27 people, among them three suffering from gunshot woulds: Guadalupe Israel, Fabián Vera and 75-year-old José Cruz Flores. Sevenenteen local residents were wounded in the altercation.
Police then barred access to the beach, and Milenio reports that the municipal secretary of La Huerta (a nearby town) and a Puerto Vallarta-based Jalisco Human Rights Commission observer were required to relinquish their cellphones and cameras to police before they were allowed to enter the area. On Friday the newspaper Mural quoted Villalobos on the subject: "Everything on the beach will be demolished. It's not infrastructure. It's only rubbish."
In retaliation, residents of Tenacatita and El Rebalsito set up a road block and protest on Highway 200, the main artery from Puerta Vallarta to Manzanillo. They were joined by supporters from neighboring communities. The ejido sent representatives to Guadalajara to seek help from the federal government: ejidatarios say that according to Mexican law this case should be settled at the federal level: that a circuit judge in Autlan has no business making proclamations in regard to a federally mandated institution such as an ejido.
Rumors that the judge was bribed are rampant, and some ejiditarios allege that Villalobos has powerful friends in the Mexican government. Other locals say the court order is completely fabricated, citing the following evidence: no one has seen it, and the police seemed edgy when asked for it, even threatening to kill one of the women who requested verification.
The actions of the ejido mirror their response to past incidents. In 1993, when developers tried to occupy the beach by setting up mobile homes inhabited by armed guards (occupation plays a vital role in Mexican land disputes), local residents towed the trailers back to the highway with the guards inside. In 2006, when state police again attempted to seize the beach on behalf of the Rodenas corporation, the citizens of Rebalsito came out in mass. Women and children formed a human barrier across the road, standing their ground against riot police armed with machine guns.
The Mexican news service Noticistema reports that since taking control of the beach the Rodenas corporation has built a fence that cuts through Tencatita's mangrove swamp, which is protected under federal law. Because Rodenas did not get official permission to cut mangroves, the Jalisco delegation of PROFEPA (a federal environmental agency) are scheduled to appear at the beach on Monday to denounce the perpetrators.
A local man (name withheld for his protection) who visited the beach on Saturday reports that access is still blocked and fish from the restaurant kitchens rots in the street. Palapas lie splintered, and homes and restaurants have been looted of furniture and other valuables. In Rebalcito, store owners report that they're already seeing the results of the town being cut off from its major source of revenue: people are asking to buy on credit.
Teenage detainees from the August 4 incident were released; several have black eyes and all had been beaten. One boy was covered with wounds from rubber bullets. The nearby municipality of La Huerta has come out in support of Tenacatita residents, stating that many of the evictees have titles to their property and therefore the action by the state police is not supportable.
Ejiditarios obtained a temporary cease-and-desist order from the federal government but, as of the time that this was written, local residents reported that the state police were still occupying their homes and businesses.