Wave of USA expat retirees threatens indigenous peoples in Mezcala

Published:  4 Apr at 6 PM
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Tagged: USA, Canada
A massive increase in demand for properties in Mexico’s Chapala and Ajijic is now threatening the traditional home of indigenous Coca people in nearby Mexcala.

The seven thousand American and Canadian retirees already established in the region and the 10,000 or so ‘snowbird’ winter residents have taken up the majority of available housing and turned the traditional districts into what is now known as the ‘Chapala Riviera’, a city crammed with boutique hotels, stores and gated communities. Expat community leaders expect the number of arrivals to double between now and 2022.

Close by and bordering a famous lake is Mexcala township, set on the traditional land of the Coca peoples, with its crumbling homes and badly-paved roads long coveted by developers looking to take advantage of the region’s soaring popularity with expats. The community’s communal land was ceded to the Cocas as long ago as 1539, and again in a 1971 presidential decree, but developers have already encroached unsuccessfully on several occasions.

Lawsuits have been ongoing for almost 20 years and, as the popularity of the region explodes along with the prospect of fortunes for the developers, the Cocas are fearing total displacement. This time, however, they’re fighting back as an entire community for the ancestral land they’ve lived on since the 13th century.

Activist Manuel Jacobo told local media generations of his family had fought over the land with its myths and legends, adding that, should development be inevitable, it’s our own people who should take charge of it, not outsiders. He said the original inhabitants of what is now the Chapala Riviera had been forced to leave and are now living below the poverty level in the hills overlooking the lake. The Coca people, he says, want investment in healthcare, communications infrastructure and education for their children in order to prevent marginalisation and poverty.

Carillo Salvador, spokesman for another local indigenous community, believes his people are more discriminated against in their own country than they are in the Trump Administration, and Jacobo is fighting to own the progress his people need, stating the Cocas have the organisational knowledge to develop their community on the land they’ve owned for centuries. Appeals have been made for government help, but nothing has been done to date.

Source: The Guardian
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