Saturday, August 14, 2010

Tenacatita beach takeover - a tragedy for Mexico

We made our first land purchase in March 2007, buying an ocean beach lot in Tenacatita through Santana Realty not long after then-President Vicente Fox signed an order allowing the land to be titled. This title process guaranteed federal government protection of the purchase.


Or so we thought.

Tenacatita road is now closed
A serious fence blocking the public road to Tenacatita

If you have been reading the Mexican press, or any of the message boards in Costalegre, you're aware of the outrageous land grab last week by a developer from Guadalajara of all of Tenacatita lands. More than 100 armed state police took people out of their homes and off their land, barring them from even taking their possessions. They did so at gunpoint, for the most part.

The land grab was of 42 Mexican hectares (or about 103 acres) of gorgeous land, some ocean front, some fronting on Tenacatita Bay. The bayfront had seafood restaurants, a beautiful swimming beach along with pretty pristine mangroves and estuaries. It has been a favorite spot for thousands and thousands of Mexicans (and gringos) every year. We first discovered it when cruising Mexico on our sailboat, Sabbatical, in 2001.

The ocean beach was more wild and less placid, but still very beautiful --- and the site of some new homes (owned by Americans, Canadians, Germans and Mexicans). On many of the other lots, homes were in the planning stages with electricity and septic already in place.

We had originally planned on building a beach house there and upgraded the property with utilities before changing our minds and moving north to Arroyo Seco. But our love for Tenacatita continued. We headed down the beach from Arroyo Seco through El Tecuan to Tenacatita by Honda quad for weekly seafood lunches followed by an afternoon of boogie-boarding and snorkling with our Tena friends.

All that changed in a day, when the developer who took over the area by force said he had just won a decades-long court battle for ownership and was exercising his legal rights.

Naturally, we were stunned.

We had been told when we purchased the land that the court case was solely contesting the ownership of the bay concessions, essentially the restaurants on Tenacatita Bay, just around the corner from our lot on the Pacific Ocean. We were told in 2007 (and many times since) that the land we bought was originally Ejido land that had been regularized and sold as titled land.

All our legal experts still agree that what we were told is correct.

Unfortunately, the developer --- and a police force he is mostly likely paying -- now has possession of the land and all of us will have to wind our way through the Mexican judicial system for resolution and/or restitution.

Which we'll do. Count on it.

But how could it be, in 2010, in a country desperately seeking foreign investment, a state judge would allow a developer to send a massive, armed police force into a community one morning and evict the entire community of around 800 people, without notice?

How could a country allow people to be evicted that morning without allowing them to take their possessions?

How could a country possibly --- in 2010 -- allow foreigners to lose --- at gunpoint or otherwise --- federally titled properties? Land and homes in bank trusts? In Mexican corporations?

The map for Tenacatita that shows the numbering for titled properties

All I could think this week is that as stunning a loss as it is for Michael and myself to potentially lose our beach lot, the loss to Mexico is much greater. Our hearts go out to the hundreds of Mexican families who have lost their homes and their livelihood.

Tenacatita Bay beach and restaurants
Paradise lost for everyone

And the potential to the Mexican workers continues: Why would anyone buy property and build on the coast if land can be taken away without compensation?

In a wonderful irony last week, a CNN Money Matters expert announced that now is the time to invest in Mexico.

Right. He must not have meant the coast.

And please, those of you who live on the coast that want to keep saying --- and believing --- that this is just a Tenacatita issue, think again. If someone can take federally titled land, or land legally held in a bank trust or Mexican corporation --- in Tenacatita or anywhere --- everyone's in a heap of trouble.

Me, you and Mexico.

Thank you to so many of our friends who have reached out to us this past week. You've asked if we're done with Mexico.

Nope. No way!

We're still planning to return to Mexico this fall to our home in Arroyo Seco, Costalegre, pick up the pieces and carry on.


Story in the Guadalajara Reporter
Jane's blog in the Guadalajara Reporter
Photos of Tenacatita

Unfortunately, blogspot doesn't appear to have a mechanism for replying. Your email address is hidden. But to answer your questions: Those of us who are working to regain our land have a variety of what is supposed to be protected titles including titles, bank trusts, and Mexican Corporations.

All land was confiscated, regardless of type of ownership. No one was contacted beforehand.