This article is from the May 1996 The Mexico File
Back to Articles List
In the February 1996 issue of this newsletter I wrote on Tepoztlan, the quaint and beautiful village in Morelos, forty miles south of Mexico City. I recounted how the local Tlahiuca people had thwarted an attempt by Jack Nicklaus and others to build a golf course, hotel complex and industrial center in the midst of their sacred lands. A win for the little guy! Or was it? Yes, the project was officially abandoned and the investors withdrew in early April, but not before paying their half kilo of flesh.
On the morning of April 10, about 800 campesinos and members of the Tepoztlan Unity Committee (CUT) set out on their traditional pilgrimage to visit significant sites in the life and battles of their local hero, the revolutionary Emiliano Zapata. They were celebrating the 77th anniversary of his death, and he was certainly the inspiration in stopping the planned development. That afternoon, five dump trucks belonging to the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM) blocked the road, stopping the CUT convoy. The campesinos left their vehicles and continued on foot, only to be met by more than 300 riot police flilly outfitted to rumble. And rumble they did, beating the sal sa out of the Zapata descendants, men and women. One sixty-five-year-old man died of a bullet wound to his neck (La Jornada, April 18).
The governor of Morelos, Jorge Carrillo Orea, offered an interesting spin on the incident.
The death, he said, was the result of "individual disobedience." Furthermore, there was a "lack ofpolice professionalism and exposure of a police group to pressure for which it was not prepared, .the campesinos provoked the violence by reftising to submit to an inspection or identif~ themselves." Lastly, he declared that the detention was part of a crime prevention program and that the campesinos represented a menace to public security (Heartbeat ofMexico, April 19, 1996).
This little incident is becoming news. There is testimony that the soldiers were acting on the governor's orders. Is it possible that the governor was to greatly benefit monetarily had the development been completed? Bet your last peso on it. Is revenge an effective tool for someone with power? Read your history books.
The governor of Guerrero was recently driven from oftice for abusing his position in a
violent manner against the peasant class of his state. Keep your eye on Morelos. I believe
the Zedillo governinent is trying (albeit slowly) to enact reforms within the country.
What took place at Tepoztlan will have to be responded to.