Lake Chapala Reporter: The main street in Ajijic, Colón, is closed now between the highway and Hidalgo, by the plaza. Can you tell me a little more about that?
España: Let me give you a little background on that issue. I am the legal administrator of Ajijic. But I was only notified about the street maintenance one hour before it was going to begin. That wasn’t enough time, of course, to socialize (publicize) it to the businesses, the neighbors, or the community. They did talk to me months before about it, and I thought we had agreed that when they had all the plans in place, they would notify me in advance so I could socialize it to the town.
The purpose of the street maintenance is to upgrade the sewer and the water lines, which is good. But, a discussion started right away about the way they were going to surface the street. They wanted to use cobblestones set in cement. That breaks a tradition of decades, where our streets are made of cobblestones set in sand. Many people had ecological concerns about the effect on the water and the temperature. It would change everything.
The other problem was the timing of the repairs. It would be two weeks before October 31st, which is one of the biggest religious traditions here – La Virgen de Rosario. That’s the lady who owns the community here – the chapel on the plaza is for her. We do a parade and a party on the plaza. It’s very nice. The repairs on Calle Marcos Castellanos and Parroquia were going to last until November 19th. Everyone was afraid they might not finish by then because on November 20th through November 30th, we celebrate our community parties. My own position was against the construction because they didn’t let me know in advance. But the workers were already here, and they wanted to proceed. They needed the money. Several days passed for the discussions between the groups. So finally, I changed my position to say we should go ahead because other people were getting hurt, like business owners and suppliers, tourist, and the whole community, really. They’re finished now with the first part (Castellanos and Parroquia), and have started the second part (Colón). That will be finished with cobblestones set in cement. And, of course, the sewer and water lines will be upgraded.
Are there any plans to repair the southern end of Colón, the part that goes from Hidalgo down to the malecón?
No, not that I know of.
Some of the business owners on Colon (The Lake Chapala Reporter is one of them) think that it might be good idea to close the street to vehicle traffic, and to make it a pedestrian street. What do you think of that?
It’s a nice idea, but it has some problems. I won’t say it’s impossible, but it’s going to be tough because some people are against it. Some businesses were hurt because of the lack of traffic during the construction, for instance. Some people know how to drive alternate routes through the town when streets close, but others don’t, so they give up and go somewhere else to do business and to shop.
To proceed with the idea, though, there is a legal procedure. They would need to start at city hall. Transito/movilidad would need to get involved with the planning, and so would Obras Publicas (public works) and the cultura people. So, it is not something I could approve alone. The people who want it should come up with a good plan. I would be happy to look at it. But there are people here who say, how can you think of closing the heart of Ajijic after hundreds of years? That is what I hear from some people. So, it will not be easy.
Actually, I am proposing a plan for this weekend to help all the local business owners. On Friday afternoon (Dec. 19th), all day Saturday, and all day Sunday, downtown businesses can bring a table to the plaza and sell their merchandise there. I hope that will help to make up for some loss of business caused by the construction. Everybody knows how to get to the plaza. All the businesses have to do is let me know they’re interested, and I’ll give them a permit. I will have big tents there, so just a small donation for tent rental is all I ask. Maybe 100 pesos each. Please spread the word through the business community here.
Is there still a committee of expats working with you on various projects? I’m not sure if that was in the past or if that is still active.
It is still very much active. It’s called the Expats Delegado Committee, and they work with me. Aside from doing events like barbeques, we have constructed around 50 wheelchair-accessible ramps on our sidewalks, 80 meters of new sidewalks, new trash cans, we fixed cobblestone roads in the cemetery, we built a fountain by the lake, and built the International Garden down there, too. Recently, we inaugurated a military band. The tecnologico school donated the instruments, and our delegado committee donated the uniforms.
And, we’re starting something very special tomorrow (Wednesday, December 17th). At noon tomorrow, we’re going to inaugurate (including a ribbon-cutting ceremony) a dental clinic at the health center at Six Corners (Seis Esquinas). We’ll talk about what services will be available, what hours it will be open, and so on. My committee raised some money, and I raised some money, too, for all the equipment. And so did the mother of the governor. She will be there, too. And then at 1 o’clock, I’m going to treat everyone to lunch on the malecón. Free for the community. So, please be there.
Do you have to be a member of Seguro Popular? That’s the clinic, right?
That is the building, yes. It’s near the corner of Ocampo and Obregon here in Ajijic. But you don’t have to be a member of Seguro Popular to be treated at our new dental clinic there. We don’t work for just one sector of the community. We’re working for the poor people, for the expats – for anyone who needs help. The dentist will not charge a peso. The health center will not charge a peso. I’m currently working with a dental lab to offer reduced rates for crowns of different materials for our clinic. And we will continue to raise money for the clinic. The money, incidentally, doesn’t come through me. It comes through the treasurer, Harry Bublin. So, it is all accounted for.
But, please help us celebrate the new dental clinic at 12:00 tomorrow, and come and have lunch with me on the malecón to celebrate at 1:00. We will have a mariachi band there, too. Everyone is welcome!