Anales de Tepoztlán

Tepoztlán: Dignity Behind the Barricades1.

Luciano Concheiro Bórquez2.

Translated by Albert L. Wahrhaftig

The inhabitants of Tepoztlán now offer a special reception to visitors:

“Welcome to a town which defends its customs and traditions.
No to the Golf Club.”

And beyond this banner a barricade and further on a beautiful experience of a democracy which goes beyond a community saying no to a megaproject for a giant tourist facility for millionaires to a profound revindication of maintaining one’s identity, one’s culture, and one’s practice of self-government.

At this very moment in the nation, in this town in the state of Morelos, barely 60 miles from Mexico City, without exaggeration one of the main battles against the neoliberal lifestyle is being played out. In Tepoztlán, the people, as an organized community, have put into action their entire tradition of fighting to defend their dignity, their right to govern themselves. As in the past six decades, various modernization projects have been opposed by a native ecology, the product of a unique worldview in which man is a part of that totality which is nature.
As in the 1910 Revolution, the Comuna of Morelos and the spirit of Emiliano Zapata are alive in the struggle of the Tepoztecos. As in prehispanic times, the firm belief persists that when the people of Tepoztlán are not respected, the god, Tepozteco, is offended and his anger is
awakened terrible winds appear, and cause great calamities.

Tepoztlán is a small place with a long historical memory which allows its people to confront a multimillion dollar firm allied to transnational corporations and to the government of the state of Morelos, an infinity of real demons, and the modernizing policies of the Mexican state, all of which intend to impose a 700 million dollar project to develop a lavish 18 hole golf club, some 600 residences, a 30 room 5 star hotel, offices, artificial lakes, a heliport, and an industrial complex, on 463 acres of illegally acquired Tepoztecan communal land which, moreover, are located within the protected wild flora and fauna habitat of the Ajusco Chichináutzin biological corridor.

The Long Struggle for Existence

Ever since the beginning of the 1910 Revolution against the modernizing policies of the porfiristas, agrarian guerrillas such as those of Genovevo de la O and of Amador Salazar have existed in the Tepoztlán area. When Zapata was named general of the combined forces of the area, De la O was his lieutenant in charge of the Tepoztlán-Chichináutzin range. With the people in arms and the Revolution in full swing, the first nationalization of lands took place and agrarian reform was initiated. As part of these struggles, Tepoztecos recovered lands which the Oacalco Hacienda had taken from them. In the central part of the municipality, other properties whose owners had fled were returned to the communal land fund.

But the fight for land has been linked to the fight for liberty. The land signified - and still signifies today - an identity based in immediate needs and political democracy. Land, as manifest in territory and in its social meaning is the primal and principal source of a distinct democracy, distant from that which is promised and never delivered by the proponents of modernization. This source of the local democracy (Coatsworth:1990) of towns and municipalities, so depreciated and even invisible to the logic of 19th century liberals and porfiristas and of neoliberals and neoporfiristas at the end of the 20th, has continued in practice as part of an underlying attitude which produces resistance in these communities. This participatory democracy is reproduced cyclically in fiestas, is expressed in the social structure of the barrios, in the cuatequitl (as communal work is called in Tepoztlán), and in the general assemblies which are the means of direct decision making.
But the life of towns and communities do not run in parallel. They exist in confrontation with the dominant nation, as the cumulative product of struggles, sometimes at great cost. Suffice it to say that the population of Tepoztlán went from 9,715 inhabitants in 1910, to 3,745 in 1921 (GEA: 1992), after the bloody violence during the Revolution of the Maderistas, of the federal army during the vicious Huerta administration, but above all of the Carrancistas, members of the so-called Constitutional Army.

In the years after the Revolution, the agrarian community and the ejido in Tepoztlán unified and were woven together through several struggles, directed by the radical Zapatistas, and through organizations devoted to defending their resources, establishing means of communication, and facilitating means of transportation. This is the case of the Charcoal Makers Cooperative, the Fraternal Union of Tepoztecan Farmers, the Ometochtli Transportation Cooperative, and the Tepoztecan Zapatista Front, the last formed to defend the constitutional control over the El Tepozteco National Park established in 1937 during the administration of Lázaro Cárdenes.
The tradition of the old guard Zapatistas was also expressed from the 40s through the 60s in their strong influence on the election of municipal authorities. Thus, the region was involved in the struggles headed by Rubén Jaramillo, who said “the people must command, not just obey” (Jaramillo y Manjarrez: 1967: 164) until 1962 when he was assassinated along with his entire family, by direct orders of President Adolfo López Mateos.

The Golf Club also has its history

As a product of the promise to make a branch of the México-Cuernavaca toll road from La Pera to Cautla, land speculation commenced and by an unconstitutional declaration some 200 hectares were removed from the communal lands of Tepoztlán and passed into private property in 1962 and again in 1995 so the great corporations could advance their plans for the construction of a golf club.

In 1962, they tell us, a movement against the construction of the Monte Castillo Golf Club was formed “when the people got together and went to tear down what had been constructed. They tore down a fence.”

It was, as now, a fight in every sense. According to some testimonies, the owners of the construction firm were accused of not being Catholics, so they brought in the Bishop to bless the golf club. But at this time, the Bishop was don Sergio Méndez Arceo and, they say, “he spoke to the people and the people said that he couldn’t go on because the they were against this project, that it was against the interests of the people, just as now. The Bishop said: “Excuse me. They invited me to bless some lands; I didn’t know that the people were against it,” because in those times they spoke to us with more respect, not like now when the Bishop talks to us condescendingly. Don Sergio congratulated them for what they were doing and the people said if he wasn’t angry with them he could give them his blessing.” and the Bishop blessed the people and the people won. Other help came from the Tepozteco: “they say he appeared to them, as was one of his habits, in the form of a little boy; he spoke to the engineers who were starting work on the golf club and told them that he was opposed to the plan, that they couldn’t build there, that they should leave.”

“But in all the fight was not easy. On May 12,1962, Professor Esteban Flores Uribe was assassinated for having opposed the construction of the golf club. He was a teacher and one of those who distinguished himself in the struggle. He was a Tepozteco and lived in Chamilpa. He had come to see his mother, passing the gas station, and walking towards the barrio of Los Reyes. This is a very isolated road, and there they killed him. That stopped the work: on one hand the assassination and on the other the people destroying what they had been built. Nothing more was heard about a golf club until now.”

It’s not hard so much as it is impenetrable.

As an old and wise Tepoztecan woman says, “ No. They hardly let us rest. No sooner are we recovering from one of their arbitrary plans and rich man’s projects than they drop another on us. First it was the golf club, then a road through our hills where the birds are, late in the 60s. The people rejected that.” In 1979, another company, with the complicity of the state governor, wanted to construct a teleferic railroad to climb to el Tepozteco’s pyramid. So a Tepoztecan Womens’ Group was organized; also on this occasion, too, “they say the riot police were going to come in and they saw nothing but kids in the front ranks opposing them. The women said, ‘How are they going to believe that we put our children out in front!’ That was [an appearance of] el Tepozteco!”

Also in 1979 the PRI tried to impose an “outsider” as a candidate to be President of the municipality. The residents organized themselves, coordinating the barrios, the colonies, and the communities of the municipality, and succeeded in preventing it. By an order of the municipal government in 1987, a local government endorsed by the people is elected, yet external pressures on it never cease: in 1991 there was an attempt at a new coalition and in 1994 there was a severe dispute between the PRI candidate, Alejandro Morales, and the PRD candidate, Dr. Adelita Bocanegra. The “neo-PRI” candidate won, backed by the candidate for governor against the old guard and especially against the Tepoztecan Womens’ Group. Some non-PRI members supported him because he fought against the train [see below]. In the federal Presidential elections, the PRD candidate, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenes, won in Tepoztlán with approximately 48% of the votes.
Other projects were halted. For example, at the beginning of the 80’s, the residents of Santa Catarina opposed the construction of a housing project on the border near CIVAC and created a colony of their own on the edge of the town to block expansion into their community from outside. As another example, in August 1987, the Coordinadora Democrática Tepozteca, one of the most important forces defending the land in the 80s, was able to restore 100 acres of land invaded by a foreign corporation which wanted to raise dairy cattle. The land was allocated to the construction of a 600 lot low income housing development called Cacalohapan (Monroy: 1995). More recently, Carlos Salinas de Gortari and his brother in law, Guillermo de Jesus Occelli, with the backing of former governor Rival Palacio and other officials, secretly took over three parcels which had been part of the ejido since 1929 and, though the ejido had been waiting 60 years for an appropriation for a well, drilled a well 600 feet deep. The ejido confronted them and charged them with theft, damages, and influence peddling.

It is not that the ejido and the community do not sell land, but they do so in such a way that they can control the process within the boundaries of the community and within the rationale of its plans for development.

The fight against the train

Before the golf club, the most important fight was the one against the train. In 1991, Tepoztecos were informed of a project to extend a railroad 14 miles to intersect with the line between San Juan Tlacotenco and Totolapan. Allied to oppose this were the Comité de Barrios, Pueblos y Colonias de Tepoztlán, together with organizations such as the Tepoztecan Womens’ Group, the Amigos de Tepoztlán, A.C. (Founded in 1977), Cetiliztli, A.C., Vecinos del Valle, A.C., the parish priest of Tepoztlán, several mayordomos officiating in the chapels of the barrios, Alejandro Morales Barragán, a member of the PRI and delegate to the Uníon de Ejidos Lázaro Cárdenes del Rio, and several journalists. The railroad did not comply with the relevant agricultural, planning, or environmental procedures required of a project of this type. The municipal government, in the face of this great mobilization, rejected the construction already started by ICA (Associated Civil Engineers); furthermore, the citizens, (who had removed the president of the communal lands association and replaced him with Abraham López Cruz) assisted by Antolin Escobar (of the PRD) got an injunction against the national railway which was awarded in July, 1992. Afterward, they met about completing an environmental impact study by the Comité de Barrios, Pueblos y Colonias to not only say No to the train but also to state the community’s own alternatives for the management of its resources (GEA: 1992). The study, which contains general proposals and very important specifications, was completed with broad participation under the guidance of Amigos de Tepoztlán and with coordination by the Grupo de Estudios Ambientales, A.C. (GEA: 1994).

And they come again...with their history of the golf club

The KS entrepreneurial group intended to build on 463 acres an 18 hole professional golf course, change the zoning to residential, tourism, and service-related, build 592 luxury homes, a club house, tennis courts, a heliport, a hotel, restaurants, and a corporate center, all of this against the will of the people of Tepoztlán who had been denigrated and attacked for the simple fact of defending their land, their culture, the water, and the plants and animals.

The project was located in the El Tepozteco National Park (created by presidential decree in 1937) and within the Ajusco-Chichináutzin Biological Corridor (created by presidential decrees on November 30, 1988).

The golf club is a project which is beyond economic logic and local politics, and its social effects would be disastrous for the community. In environmental terms, in spite of the talk to the contrary by the developers, it is an attack on resources, especially on the water and land, and a danger to wild flora and fauna.

The area where they wanted to construct the golf course is located in a transitional zone between the lower deciduous forest and a woods of pine and oak along with other native trees such as cazahuates, tascates, madroños, huizaches, llora-sangre, chirimoyas, tepozanes, guayabos, flor de tila, tepehuajes, y colorines or zompantles. Furthermore, the project is located within the El Tepozteco National Park in the buffer area of the plant and animal protected zone of the Chichináutzin Biological Corridor, the habitat of more than 21 species of vertebrate animals classified according to official Mexican norms as rare, threatened with extinction, and subject to special protection. The zoning of the soil is for agriculture, woods, and livestock. The land is communal, a good part of it suitable for agriculture and used for growing corn, beans, squash, tomatoes, avocados, chirimoyas, raspberries, and chilacayote. Technically, any golf course is considered an abiotic zone, that is, an area without life. Environmental impacts caused by golf courses include soil erosion because of clear cutting of trees, use of large quantities of water, contamination of the surface and subsurface through the use of agrochemicals eightfold greater than are used in high tech agriculture (Espacio Verde: 1995 and Mojica: 1995).

Within their consciousness about environmental problems in general, the theme of water is the one most felt by Tepoztecos, above all when it is known that on average, many families can count on obtaining water through the network for distribution of potable water only once a week whereas the golf course alone would use five times as much water as is consumed by the entire town of Tepoztlán.
In social terms, the golf club would bring with it a diametric polarization between the local population and the “inhabitants” of a club where memberships cost half a million dollars and houses a million more. The KS corporation’s offer to create 13,000 temporary jobs and 3,000 permanent ones would be, in case they should comply, a negative process from the community’s point of view since the jobs offered are for poorly paid menial work and not those which Tepoztecos seek and for which they have made great sacrifices in educating their children. As it is, they are certain that workers may come from other places and not from the municipality, creating an extreme urbanization, an increased demand for the few and poor services available, and, in general, an impoverishment of the town. The flood of millions in tax revenue and the development of public works for the municipality promised by KS and its alliance with the state government appear to be minimized in the face of these problems. Some say that the only thing this flood will accomplish is to convert the municipal government into a booty and an uncontrollable source of corruption such that the municipality’s real power will move outside its own boundaries.

The take over of the municipal offices

From the beginning of 1995, the KS group began a heavy campaign of propaganda to buy public opinion in favor of the golf club, but at the same time, in the time and space of Tepoztlán and the other towns and colonies of the municipality, wall paintings with a direct message of “No to the golf club” began to appear on the facades of the houses of those who were strong supporters of the club. Voices were being raised as was consciousness. There were accusations that the project belonged to foreign capitalists and that a No represented a defense of the town, of its resources, of its water, and finally of the nation. On March 18, the day when Mexico’s oil was expropriated and a day of national pride, in a nourishing meeting of more than 2,500 people convened by the Comité Democrático de Unidad Tepozteca (CUT), the municipal president was obliged to read the January 23 Act opposing the golf club. Among other speakers Guadalupe Rojas,the widow of professor Esteban Flores Uribe, recalled her husband’s sacrifice in the opposition to the golf club in the early 1960s and asserted that “the people don’t want the golf club.” At the end, the assembly passed an act with the endorsement of the members of the municipal government to not under any circumstances accept the KS project.

But a few months later, on August 22, 1995, Tepoztecos were betrayed by a majority of the municipal government headed by the municipal president, Alejandro Morales Barragán, the attorney general and three councilmen of the PRI and one of the PARM, pressured directly by the state government. Without public notice, as required by law, and away from the municipal offices, without the two PRD council members (in which case the vote could be unanimous), they approved a zoning change requested by KS and authorized a provisional construction license in return for which the KS firm would provide a report tallying their works in order to estimate the payment due the municipal government. (Monroy: 1995:17)

Alejandro Morales himself underestimated the force of the opposition to the golf club, saying that “the 40 who will get together won’t have much ability to stir people up.” But on the 24th of August at 5:05 in the afternoon, the bells in the Santisima Trinidad church chimed and chimed, followed by bells rung by the mayordomos in the churches of the eight Tepoztecan barrios, including that of the La Natividad monastery. At 6PM more than 4,000 inhabitants gathered in front of the municipal office. Given this betrayal by Judases, the decision to take over the building was unanimous. There was no room for other measures or positions and although confrontation with such great opponents seemed impossible, the people were convinced. Recalling and activating their historic memory, they proceeded to direct action, using their “secret weapon”: their traditions of social organization.

In the heat of the wholesale conversion of the community and their decision to transform their everyday resistance into a program for their own future, they left behind the supposedly levelheaded voices of their “allies”, “realistic politicians” like PRD deputy Antolin Escobar who asserted that it was better to accept the project which “would generate annual taxes for the municipality of 6 million pesos” (Monroy: 1995:11) and the self appointed “independent” federal deputy Adolfo Aguilar Zinzer who tried to convince his assistant, Dr. Adela Bocanegra, a CUT members and a PRD candidate for the municipal presidency, that they were going to lose and it would be more worthwhile to negotiate (Proceso magazine No. 992).

Rituals and their associated iconography appeared with astounding spontaneity. Called Judases, the six traitors, were portrayed as such and effigies of them were hung from the top of the municipal building along with an additional effigy representing one of the KS people with his pockets crammed with banknotes - false ones. Other judases were burnt and, under torchlight, it was asserted that Morales had lost his citizenship - his Tepoztecan citizenship. Citing Juárez, one orator spoke of the judases: “ Damned are those who with their words help the people and with their acts betray them; damned are those who have betrayed us.” Another took the microphone to shout “El Tepozteco is also with us”, and, invoking the legend in order to alert the gathering, said, “El Tepozteco is our ancestor, our creator, who told us that men will be bought by offering them honey and by disguising things so that they do not recognize them.”

In addition to the barrios, headed by their mayordomos, local brass bands were present and the town band announced each orator with a fanfare. The meeting was composed of people of every age who heard and lived anew their history. Some of the orators recalled that Tepoztecos are the “heirs of the lineage of Zapata: we fight for land, liberty, and justice and above all recognition that it is the people who command.” Everyone shouted “If Zapata were alive, he would be with the people!” And the dignity, largely constructed and recreated in this meeting, in a dialog of the people, was synthesized in shouts of “Tepoztlán doesn’t live on crumbs; Tepoztlán is organized now.....” “KS has money but we have dignity”, “Tepoztlán is an historic town, a sacred land where there is no room for traitors.” At the end they assigned hours for each town and barrio to stand guard and concluded by singing the national anthem (Monroy: op. Cit: 62-76).
In the same way, they organized 4,000 Tepoztecos to sign a letter to the governor asking him to disband the municipal government and urging him to name a council representing the majority interests of the community and consider as sovereign the decision making processes and channels of communication determined by the community.

The barricades to construct and defend dignity

Organization in defense of dignity multiplied and took several forms, the most notable among them the barricades. Expecting repression, the movement reinforced its guards and erected barricades at the entries to the town of Tepoztlán. As one of the young people said by way of clarification, “these are not really road blocks. That’s what the police do. Ours are barricades.” They also selected persons in each barrio to be responsible for calling together the people in any moment of danger by a system using sky rockets and the tolling of bells as signals.
Sunday the 27th of August another open assembly took place at which it was repeated that this was not a movement headed by any political party although members of the PRI and the PRD and others were participating on their own behalf. On this occasion they decided to invite the participation of the EZLN and to place information tables as points of communication in each of the various barrios and colonies. It still appeared incredible that Abraham López had authorized KS’s constructions by accepting an agreement that Tepoztlán would receive 4 million pesos in benefits, 20,000 pesos a month, and aid in resolving a boundary dispute with the people of Milpa Alta. Actually the agreement already existed because it was a prerequisite to the municipal government’s authorization of a change in the zoning of the land (idem).

With the matter of permits apparently resolved, KS began to contract people in the municipality: 300 according to some sources.

The Assembly of “Citizens”

In this context Abraham López, Diana Ortega, president of the PRI municipal committee, together with three PRI delegates, the judge and the mayor convened a town meeting on September 3. They asked for police protection and the legal assistance of a notary to certify the results. The KS corporation helped them contact the 300 already contracted carpenters and masons in order that they attend the meeting, and the state director of urban transport undertook the transportation of people from the colonies. We were told by a person who was present that they gave 80 pesos to each one of them. Between 200 and 600 (according to different versions) civil agents and uniformed police with anti riot gear arrived . There were flower growers and commercial truck drivers, contractors with some of their masons, and a “casual” filming and televising of the event began.Televisa was invited. The communal lands commissioner spoke about the pressures from the governor and said that they couldn’t do other than sign, that he was not a traitor because the lands had been sold between 1957 and 1962, at which point skyrockets and the bells of the Nativity church began to be heard.

Along several streets, like ants, more than a thousand Tepoztecos rose up armed with sticks and clearly mixed in with them were young people. They first encountered the President of the PRI and Saucedo, the governor of the state, and then taking on the riot police in their first encounter with them, they made them flee. People attending the meeting also fled or else joined with the Tepoztecos. The result was that they detained five officials and the local president of the PRI. By this chance event, permanent meetings in front of the municipal office were initiated and throughout that day, many promises of aid were received from former workers of the Emiliano Zapata sugar mill, from workers at the Xochimilco campus of the National University, and from neighbors in Milpa Alta and Yautepec.

In the night, the guards learned that a taxi driver had been assassinated near Huehuecóyotl and that the perpetrator had been captured. People had beaten him until some youths had prevented him from being lynched. He was finally delivered to the minister of justice in Yautepec. Two days later a state policeman had similar luck when he was detained for pulling a gun on one of the security force’s night watchmen and shooting into the air. In these cases, as in others, in spite of normal tension and the existence of a climate of intolerance, the assembly has always resolved problems with serenity and yet with firmness and justice.

On the morning of September 5, in front of a negotiating commission composed of a multiparty group of state deputies, there were negotiations about the withdrawal of power from the municipal government, the community’s concerns regarding their opposition to the golf club, concerns about the government attacking movement leaders, and about the release of movement members who were under arrest. The Tepoztlán Unity Committee (CUT) received a fax permitting them to select a municipal president for an indefinite time, and the community complied with its part of the arrangement. Nevertheless, the state government retained the jailed deputies, forced Morales not to enact the permission he had received, and commenced a strong and costly campaign of disinformation directed against the members of the CUT, trying to politicize the movement and casting the blame on the PRD party. With the clear intention of driving a wedge between businessmen and movement members and of isolating Tepoztlán, they used local newspapers to warn the population that they could be out of favor with the government if they sided with the community.

The movement - fiestas of power

In the face of the government’s aggression and pressure from the KS corporation, guard duty was doubled, not just by decision of the leadership, but also by means of a flood of initiatives from the community itself. The campaign against the CUT was taken to be an attack on the community, which responded by becoming increasingly organized. Guard duties were organized by the mayordomos and, as an act of solidarity, different constituencies in the community provided meals for the guards. Among the guards and volunteer watchmen making the rounds of the town, the town’s myths and legends were reconstructed and the distinct generations became reacquainted.
Another distinctive pattern is that Tepoztlán is a fiesta town. There are said to be 56 fiestas every year. In these, and especially during the pre-Lenten fiesta of Carnaval, established patterns are dispensed with, new ones are reborn and everyone pokes fun at the powerful - even those in power poke fun at themselves. Everyone is equal for a moment and a “for real” solidarity is the norm. In this fashion, the movement made itself a fiesta, or the fiesta took over power and became a return to origins, in a questioning mode, irreverent towards established power, a base for self-generated ways of doing things and, furthermore, a fiesta which had no need of, and for security prohibited, the use of alcohol.

El Tepozteco, on the side of the community

Among the daily fiestas came that of el Tepozteco and, as a woman in the community put it, “when they went to the countryside to pray, he appeared to a woman from Tierra Blanca, but she was ashamed to say anything about it because she thought they would say she was crazy, but she did tell her aunt, who told me; I told them she would have to tell the CUT about it. El Tepozteco asked for food and said she had to bring it to him. Other people form Santa Clara said he was present in the form of a breeze that you could feel on your face and which enveloped us. You don’t see him. They say that he becomes present, this one who was a child of the wind, who was conceived by the wind, which impregnated his virgin mother while she bathed, watched over by her handmaidens. And when he was born, they threw him on an ant hill, but the ants cared for and fed him, and they threw him onto a maguey plant, which also fed him, and they threw him into the river where he was found by an elderly couple, and so on until he met with the monster which ate old people and which ate him.”
As a result, each barrio of Tepoztlán represents one of the ancient calpullis, which are the places el Tepozteco passed through: the metzalcuanimes (maguey worms) of the barrio Los Reyes, the tlacualtzinzin (tlacuaches) of barrio San Pedro; the xinacatemes (scorpions) of barrio San Sebastian; the tepemeaxtlames (foxes or cacomixtles - little wild cats) of barrio Santa Cruz; the tzicames (ants) of barrio La Santisima; the techihehicames (lizards) of barrio San Miguel; the cacames (frogs) of barrio Santo Domingo, and the totomaxtlemes (corn stalks) of barrio San José.

El Tepozteco revealed to that woman his support of the community and his anger at the KS corporation which wants to baptize their golf club with his name. Among other stories, they say that on that same day, a light plane which was supposed to drop anti-CUT pamphlets almost crashed and that el Tepozteco blew the folders far away from the community. Also, that morning Professor Miguel Angel Robles prayed with his followers that the enemies of the Tepoztecan community might understand the harm that the construction of their golf club would cause and precisely - they say - at noon a bank of white clouds rapidly took shape; all of nature was energized, whereupon Robles exclaimed “We have received a sign, compañeros. We must take the fight to its very end: (quoted by Monroy: 148).

Weaving new social networks

Other vital experiences were interwoven with the acts of the popular assemblies which were the primary way of making decisions and proposing new forms of organization. For example, they proposed that the real power of the municipality should be devoted to public service. Stemming from this perspective, there were groups to collect garbage and the town was never so clean; there were groups to provide water and this has been very effective; and there are groups to exercise vigilance over fires and over delinquency, and these problems have decreased in importance.

Clearly visible in the historic organization which the anti-golf club movement developed has been the definitive role exercised in their own special way by women. Their role has reinforced the community and established less authoritarian and patriarchal family relationships, thus freeing the consciousness of other sectors of the community.

In crucial moments, women closed their ranks and maintained the initiative, as on the November 3 when over a thousand Tepoztecan women, dressed in white with red neckerchiefs marched to the governor’s office in Cuernavaca to demand the definitive cancellation of the golf club and an end to harassing the CUT.

In the broadened horizon which the Tepoztecos have gained, an important role has also been played by the active presence of other towns and municipalities within Morelos and other states of the republic, and from outside Mexico. With support from the State Promoters of the Consultation for Peace and Democracy and of the State Democratic Convention, there was a meeting-fiesta on the 10th of September which drew over 8,000 participants from all over the country and from other countries, among them intellectuals, journalists, and artists like Carlos Monsivais and Ofelia Medina who mixed in with the people of Tepoztlán. Others who couldn’t be physically present were there in spirit, like the Juchitecan painter Francisco Toledo who wrote in support and said about the golf club that “they keep thinking of megaprojects which rather than alleviating the terrible conditions of the life of people in the communities where they are to be constructed create greater problems in short, medium, and long term through the disorganization they produce.” An act of the Teacher’s Coordinating Council called a work stoppage on September 12 in support of Tepoztlán to which were added demands from others, among them, calling for the freeing of Mauricio Franco of Santa Catarina in the municipality of Tepoztlán who had been in prison since 1994 for opposing the sale of lands in Acolapa, accused of participating in the burning of surveying equipment during the fight against the Twentieth Century highway which would have joined Morelos and Puebla (idem: 152-154).

Greetings sent by the Zapatista commanders had a special spot in this memorable meeting: “We salute your willingness to stand guard and be ready to fight to defend land, our culture and our dignity. If TepoZtLáN is in brotherhood with the EZLN in Zapatism and even to its very name, we want to say that your struggle is our struggle and that the senselessness and deafness of the mis-government of the powerful mustn’t detain the impetus with which dignity is defended along with the impulse of the Mexican people to construct a more just, free, and democratic Mexico.”

A short time later, the Tepoztecos were invited to be consultants to the Zapatista’s negotiating table about Indian autonomy in Chiapas. It was a rich interchange according to the delegates who brought back a marvelous anecdote: during an interview the Zapatista commanders offered them all their support in the struggle against the golf club....but at the end they asked them “and what is a golf club?” This question brings to mind the answer that one of the leaders of the Tepoztecan movement gave to a reporter about why the community wouldn’t accept the golf club: “Because golf is a game about which we know nothing. We have never had anything to do with this sport. And I don’t believe the club is going to be a place where Tepoztecos can go to play it.”

In an activism that seemed almost impossible, on the 12th of September, the Tepoztecos participated in the ongoing strike of the school teachers; the 14th of September some 6,000 Tepoztecos and hundreds more from various organizations from the state filled the plaza in front of the state capitol in Cuernavaca and, in an additional symbolic act, turned their backs on the governor. They exceeded in number and in consequence a previous demonstration by PRI supporters of the governor, as was noted by the local press and TV. On the 16th of September there was a new march of a contingent of more than 2,000 persons, counting within it hundreds of kids with sticks and red kerchiefs on their faces.

The municipal council elections

Demonstrating once again their capacity for organization and democratic vision, on the 13th of September, in the face of pressure from the government, the PRI and the PAN - the general assembly decided to install a new municipal government based on the original spirit of articles 39 and 115 of the Mexican Constitution which establish that power comes from the people. On Sunday the 17th of September and on the days following, the 8 barrios, 10 colonies, and 7 towns of the municipality, in assemblies and by direct vote, nominated their candidates for a provisional municipal government.

The state government stepped up its campaign to divide the towns of the municipality and to label as illegal the Tepoztecos’ democratic force, returning to the well worn accusation that the PRD was manipulating them.

In spite of various provocations, on Sunday the 24th of September, the elections took place with a secret ballot and direct voting by all the inhabitants of the municipality. Organization of this was left in the hands of the 96 teachers in Tepoztlán, this being one more illustration that this event was a school for everybody, and groups of school boys and school girls carried out the procedure. Alianza Cívica printed the ballots and sent 90 observers, as did other organizations - among them the Group of One Hundred - who worked in complete freedom. Meals were provided for the more than 600 people who participated in the organization.

Beneath a banner which read “Command.....Obeying” the results were presented: almost 6,000 voters and heading the list of those elected, Lazaro Rodriguez Castañeda, a representative from barrio Santo Domingo, a farmer and craftsman who had dedicated the last ten years to the protection of the wild lands, ravines, rivers, and woods, heading a group of young Tepoztecos called Los Tejones [Badgers]. Others elected were Pablo Vargas, a retired teacher, Humberto Ayala, an industrial technician, Javier Rivera who earned a law degree from the state university, Crecencio Conde, a farmer and construction worker, and Ricardo Castillo, a farmer and ecologist.
On September 30, the church bells once again began to peal with festive chimes. It was the birthday of José Maria Morelos y Pavón [a hero of the Mexican Revolution] and also the date for seating The Peoples’ First Constitutional and Free Municipal Government, a new date which joins history with the making of history in the present. In the church courtyard of barrio Santo Domingo, the home barrio of the People’s President, a group of mariachis played ballads of the Mexican Revolution, especially ballads about the Zapatistas. A little before 5 in the afternoon, the elders of the community surrounded and protected Lázaro, who looks very much like Emiliano Zapata and is almost the same age as Zapata was when he was assassinated in 1919. “Get up and walk, Lázaro” - shouted a voice, “and Lázaro stood up and walked...” replied a second, to the amusement of those present. A woman shouted, “Zapata lives on”, and the chorus answered ”the struggle continues.” (Ruz:1995). On the esplanade in front of the city hall, the master of ceremonies introduced “the ancestral figure who made the history of our community, sustained by the tradition practiced by each one of us, the legendary man of wind who is going to be present in this place and at this time to deliver authority to the man who the will of the people brought to the front in order to carry out the destiny of our community”. Applause greeted el Tepozteco who in his left hand carried the ax which symbolizes the authority to govern. His passage was accompanied by the sound of the teponaztle [Aztec slit drum] and conch shell. He declared “I have come here to govern my people. One day my father, Ehecatl [the Aztec wind god] sent me to this place to bring the wisdom of good government....I, the Tepozteco, have appeared on a day which is historical. I am completing the history which I have made.”

After saluting the flag, and administering the oath of office to members of the new government who raised their fists in the air, came the ceremony of transferring the ax which is a badge of office from the hand of el Tepozteco, the king, to Lázaro: a rite in the Nahuatl language which, among other things, says “Don’t attempt to mess up our district by allowing yourself to be betrayed by lights which are not stars. Don’t allow the introduction of anything that is not of this people, for if you permit that, it will be this very people who will demand your heart as a sacrifice to calm the anger of our gods, the always revered Ometochtli, Ehecatl, Huitzilopochtli, and Tonatiu” (Monroy: 173-176).

As told by some of those who were present, the message, the historic communion, gained a greater force because the real Tepozteco appeared: “A breeze was felt in the esplanade which wasn’t felt in the town square, something like a wave. It meant that one must have faith that el Tepozteco is aiding the movement and that it is not necessary to give in to the golf club.

In this way, the folk history of Mexico, Morelos, Zapata, the glorious prehispanic past, with the music of the teponaztle and the contrasting sounds of the mariachi, were condensed into one. It had been more or less 30 years since this ceremony in Nahuatl of the transmission of power had taken place.

On the 6th of October, by decision of the Assembly, the doors of the municipal office were opened. Costumed locksmiths opened the padlocks. In front of more than 5,000 an act of the Assembly was passed authorizing Lázaro Rodriguez and his partners to work inside the building. Assistants from the towns and the mayordomos of the barrios were present.

Where are things going?: Between negotiation and repression

On Wednesday, the 27th of September, the members of the CUT and the municipal government were contacted by officials of the state government, supposedly as a first step in political negotiation, but on arrival at the meeting they found Guillermo Malo, from the government of the state of Morelos and Juan Burgos Pinto, judicial director of the Secretariat of Government, long time faithful collaborators of governor Carrillo Olea.

The Tepoztecos decided, in their tireless campaign, to go to Mexico City. At the seat of government they listened to the offers made to their delegates and ended up concluding that it was inadvisable to trust them. The federal government, just as much as the state government, had a real obsession with the removal of the barricades. At times it seemed to be the only thing that interested them. Some thought it was because they realized that the fight was a matter of symbols; others thought their position was the result of the emptiness of the administration and that all that remained to them was their sense of “authority”, or, better said, their sense of authoritarianism. The people, in their way - because of this, the politicians couldn’t understand them - were more convinced each time, more committed to the fight, and to not deviate from their goal, a definitive no to the golf club.

It is obvious that the legal path followed the political one and that the main issue was not going to take place in legal territory. Nevertheless, it is worth recalling that the work of KS was temporarily suspended by the Federal Attorney General for Protection of the Environment (PROFEPA) on the 8th of September because the corporation had not filed a permit for the change of land use - for lack of the signatures of some members of the municipal government - and because the Attorney General’s inspectors found that some of the work started was damaging part of the northern zone in which the National Ecological Institute (INE) had forbidden construction. For having treated it as an accomplished fact, the district supreme court denied the petition supported by the KS group against closing down work on the golf club, as ordered by PROFEPA (La Jornada: October 26, 1995). In terms of the environmental issue, it was in violation of the Bureau of Environment and Natural Resources as well as of the INE.

The agrarian question was more complex. The plan was to get an order halting the 1962 and 1963 orders which excluded from communal land the lands now in the hands of KS, arguing that presidential decrees take precedence over and can annul a judgement authorizing exclusion.

As for criminal matters, Anastasio Solis of the CUT and Lázaro Rodriguez and Javier de la Mora faced eleven accusations, fabricated by the state government, of sedition, rebellion, rabble rousing, and transportation of prohibited firearms. Furthermore, 400 Tepoztecos went on October 25, to the offices of the Attorney General of the state of Morelos, Carlos Peredo Merlo, to learn about an inquiry made by Juan Carlos Lara, a substitute municipal president who had been appointed by the state government which accused the CUT and the people’s government of usurpation of official positions, dispossession, robbery, sedition, criminal association, and abuse of authority.

In a display of their organization, the Tepoztecos presented the attorney general with a pair of scoundrels whose arrest had been ordered several times and who were captured by one of the Tepoztecan people’s own security patrols.

The users of communal lands and of ejido lands together filed suit at a national level against the KS group and its 52 shareholders for dispossion of their lands and for damages, and against Jorge Carillo Olea for influence peddling, abuse of authority, and intimidation, and against the head of Semamap, Julia Carabias, for unauthorized use of its powers and functions and abusive exercise of her authority.
Negotiations continue, but it is not clear in which direction the federal and state governments want to go.

First there was a “dialog” which failed in the face of the government’s lack of cooperation; later a completely rigged “consultation” to the people of Tepoztlán which addressed only the government’s perception of the “community”, and later a negotiation for the gradual removal of the road blocks and restoration of the services of the civil registry, military service, and payment of taxes, all of this with the idea that delaying decisions would play out in favor of the government.

One might suppose that the movement would enter a phase of attrition, accentuated by the efforts of the state government to create divisiveness between some communities, such as between San Juan and the municipality’s principal town, Tepoztlán. Further, the period during which extraordinary elections could be convened was due to expire in a few days, giving the governor a chance to appoint a “bipartisan” municipal council with half being the governor’s people and the other half people from the community.

Once again the strategies were distinct because for the Tepoztecos a definitive closing down of the golf club project was first and foremost, not the issue of municipal power, since they had already achieved a proper exercise of power through rules and channels which were an alternative to those which were formally recognized. The people of Tepoztlán had not forgotten in their fight that the government intends to derail their original objectives.

This dialog, like others in the nation, lacked a means of translation. It deals with two discourses, from two civilizations and from alternative modernities: the issue is that a definitive no to the golf club is a definitive no to neoliberal policies.

The government’s temptation to make a quick exit was also in play. The governor, Brigadier General Jorge Carillo Olea worked towards this with special eagerness, defending not only the abstract interests of neoliberalism but also his own interest group. As an example, an attempt to establish a municipal government in exile in the town of Santa Catarina provoked the confrontation on October 26 between nearly 3000 Tepoztecos armed with sticks and stones and 400 riot police.

The first result, in addition to two Tepoztecos with gunshot wounds, was that the people of Santa Catarina turned heavily against the golf club and the government’s divisive efforts. The second was one more evidence of the role that Bishop Luis Reynoso Cervantes has played as a golf club supporter who surely was going to bless the installation of the new mayor when he encountered, as he calls them, “the ones who are dead from hunger”.

What also should not fall through the cracks is the strong and lasting campaign to create a lynch mob atmosphere through accusations that the CUT is linked to drug traffickers, the PRD, and the EZLN.

Meanwhile, the fight is spreading throughout the “Comuna de Morelos”, living on in activities and demands of towns and communities such as Xoxocotla, Tlaltizapán, Ykautepec, Axochiapan and Tepalcingo.

1. This investigation of the political problematic of Tepoztlán was submitted at the end of December last year and thus does not document the events that took place during the months of January and February.
2. Coordinator of the Master’s program in Rural Law, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Unidad Xochimilco and Tepoztlán resident.


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