Chiapas Communities Reject Adventure Tourist Project
** Foresee construction of lodging on the lakeshore
** For the indigenous, the current management of visitors is self-sufficient, they say
By: Hermann Bellinghausen
Laguna (Lake) Miramar, Chiapas, May 26, 2012
The large and beautiful lake (above) that marks a boundary of the Montes Azules is the new goal for tourism investors. Approved by the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources and by the Environment, Natural Resources and Fishing Commission of the Senate, the Miramar Live Nature Stays (Estancias Vivas Natura Miramar) project contemplates the construction of “dwellings” for lodging tourists on the banks of a body of water, a hotel that the authorities call “alternative tourism.”
Only the Emiliano Zapata ejido has been considered in the official plan; 11 double rooms and four suites, a restaurant, bar, offices, laundry and an “employees’ zone” would be built on its lands. Not all are in agreement; many have not been consulted. For years, a regular tourist flow has existed here, never abundant, but which does not seem to alter the life of the village. It (the project) has a major impact here, and worse on the neighboring San Quintín ejido, the large military base, just a few kilometers from the lake.
Emiliano Zapata, Benito Juárez, Nueva Galilea and Tierra y Libertad are the towns around Lake Miramar, although only the first one is “legal;” its residents consider themselves guardians of the lake, although others may also be, as in their fashion are the Zapatistas of Nueva Galilea that defend it without government “supports” or tourist investments, more and more private every day.
At a spot inside the lake with little islets, a hand-painted sign on wooden boards expresses their rejection: “We don’t want adventure tourism, because the government is creating the tourism of adventures from hell. This plan is full of rats and traps. It is a counterinsurgency campaign and low-intensity war. Here we want justice, liberty and democracy. Here the people govern and the government obeys. EZLN.”
Zapatista bases of support live at a corner of the lake and say they care of the last boundary, the current border between the jungle of man and one which has done without humanity through centuries of change. Seen from here, it represents the last refuge of the Desert of Solitude (Desierto de la Soledad), as the first conquistadors called it; today the Integral Reserve of the Biosphere or, colloquially, the Montes Azules “Biosphere,” which is not saying if they are mountains, and if they are blue. In the classic Maya period there were cities and communities of farmers in the heart of this jungle, now “reserved,” like Tzendales (a notable unexplored archaeological vestige, near the Río Negro), Miramar and, for sure, Bonampak in the extreme north.
Investors’ promises put the sun, the moon and the stars to the indigenous in the form of infrastructure for “nature tourism.” Here where there already are the sun, moon and stars, the best water and the biggest sky in the Lacandón Jungle, what more can hotel owners, restaurant owners, construction companies, contractors, environmental and agrarian officials meddling in tourism, senators, governors, candidates, television networks, soft drink companies and banks offer? What could be better than this?
Some communities are –and all of them should be– guardians of the jungle, the water, the territory and what it contains and nourishes, what each morning they receive from the land, called Mother in the four Mayan languages that are spoken in this principal summit of the canyons, also a convergence of the roads to Las Margaritas and Ocosingo, they even achieve looking like highways. It is the summit where the boisterous Río Perla is suddenly added to the calm and mannerly, finally navigable Jataté, a large robust basin en route to becoming the Lacantún and finally the Usumacinta, far away from that little overrun waterfall in Corralito, in los Altos, between Oxchuc and Ocosingo.
Emiliano Zapata, although majority Chol, is one of the few jungle communities where Tzeltals, Tojolabals and Tzotzils also live, one of the most “cosmopolitan.” The ejido members (not all are in Zapata) tend to disqualify the neighboring villages, which lack property titles, and particularly accuse those from Benito Juárez of destroying forests and contaminating the lake. Benito Juárez’ boat, a huge launch, is accustomed to using a motor, but it is no longer permitted. Now they have to row from there to cross to Zapata, which is the exit for residents of the lakeshore. Or it was, because the road that comes from Amatitlán, Lacantún below, already reached Chuncerro, inside of the Montes Azules.
According to César, a young Chol that guides the envoys from La Jornada around the lake, the current management of visitors is rational, sufficient and self-sufficient to a certain point, no need for a private hotel. “He who wants to come to Miramar, from anywhere, comes. Just a few days ago 20 visitors came from Comitán and Tuxtla Gutiérrez, families. They came in trucks and camped for three days, so peaceful. The Gringos and French arrive in waves. In vacation time up to 50 people camp or hang hammocks at the beach,” a modest tourism, presumably ecological (more than a hotel), sufficient for a community that eats from the land and lives surrounded by water, between two large rivers and a portentous lake.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
English Translation: Chiapas Support Committee
Sunday, May 27, 2012