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.


Daniel said...

Good write up, the map is a big help in understanding where the titled lots are. Great photos.


Anonymous said...

Recommend you take a look at the La Manz message board. Jane's latest post suggests that you need to take legal action quickly.

Anonymous said...

Wondering if your partner, Michael J. Fitzgerald, ever worked as an air traffic controller in Sacramento, Ca?

Heather said...

So, your land was regularized and you have both your escritura and federal zone permit?

Ross E. Buck said...

Good morning Sylvia. I'm sorry to hear about your current situation. I was forwarded a link to your blog post and am very curious to learn more about your case. What other facts are you able to provide in regards to your situation? What do you know about the pending litigation that you mentioned? If the litigation was affecting the land that you had title to, were you given notice and an opportunity to fight in court? Also, how exactly do you hold title to the land? Do you have a recorded copy of your ownership documents? Was it Ejido land that was privatized and then transfered into the public registry or was it awarded through Presidential Decree? Do you hold a bank trust or a deed? If your parcel is adjacent to the water, do you have a federal zone concession? If so, what specific "rights to use" do you have according to the document. Thanks and I look forward to your response as I'd like to help in anyway that I can.

Dennis and Susan Ross, S/V Two Can Play said...


We are sorry to hear about the problems in Tenacatita. We have fond memories of anchoring in both the inner and outer bays of Tenacatita. Traveling up the "jungle ride" to the village for a rollo del mar was always one of the highlights.

We opened a yacht management and marine survey business (Ross Marine Services and Consulting, S. de R.L. de C.V.) in La Paz in 2008 and have been staying too busy to do any cruising.

We hope that you and Michael are able to secure clear title to your property.

Musica del Mar said...

Sylvia, Very sorry to hear about your troubles in Tena. I hold a titled land (fideocomiso) in trust with a Mexican bank not far from Tena. Like Russ, I would very much appreciate if you could post whether your property ownership was established using a fideocomiso or a deed?

Clara said...

You are a really good blogger. You should consider writting a book .

Anonymous said...

You need to join up here. They are working hard on this.

Friends of Cyberpueblo,

The concession to the beach in Tenacatita which belonged to the Rodenas corporation was CANCELED thanks to the pressure from the public and the hard work of the president of La Huerta and Mexican senators Abraham González and Ramón Guerrero who saw this injustice for what it was from the very beginning and were not afraid to out the governor.