The Day Tenacatita was Returned to the People

(Editor’s note: Reprinted in full with the kind permission of Juan Frost. Original post can be read in English at Cyberpueblo.)

For those of you who don’t have the basic details of the gross injustices of August 4th in Tenacatita, I recommend these two videos.

broken in this story since I last wrote it, and I had promised to update my readers.

Video 2

That should get you somewhat up to speed. There is a committee to save Tenacatita and we have been collecting funds to help the people of Rebalsito survive without their livelihoods and to fight this grave injustice. I have had a hard time with the whole thing because I have been coming to Tenacatita all my life and the people in Rebalsito are my friends. I used all the pages of my Cyberpueblo network to try to get the word out. I also ran Google searches for “tenacatita” in the past 24 hours and would comment on all stories that allowed comments in the Mexican news. There are so many irregularities in this situation that I can’t imagine a scenario where at least the state government isn’t involved.

After the spat with the diputados at the gate subsided, we began to experience “the great silence” which many on the committee considered a very bad omen since time and silence are good for the oppressors and bad for us. The more they can normalize their outrageous and illegal grab, the better it is for them. The committee decided it was in our best interest to stir things up and so they sent me down to Tenacatita for the Christmas break to see what I could do in person.

I didn’t really consider coming in through the gate as I didn’t think it was a good move when the diputados did it. Instead, I wanted to come in through the ocean and land on federal land where they would look terrible in the media if they resisted our landing. I talked it over with the committee who was in favor and then I took it to the town leaders who brought it to the people in Rebalsito who ended up supporting the plan.

There is a hard working arm of the Committee to Save Tenacatita that lives in Rebalsito. From Dobie’s house there, they plan and execute food distribution and other tasks critical to returning justice to the area. Members are invited to town meetings and are held in high regard by the townspeople. We have been very careful not to take anything over and though we have suggested courses of action they have always been and will always be lawful approaches.

My plan to take Tenacatita for a day was a flashy attempt to inform all the townspeople of Rebalsito about what their legal rights were in regards to landing at the beach and the estuary and also a way to get the media back on this story. By Mexican law, any Mexican can land on any beach and can be 20 meters above the high tide line. My plan before the day of the picnic was to go on a dangerous personal foray with a hidden camera to document police reaction to insisting my rights. I knew that chances were high that they would behave themselves on the day of the picnic because we would have several Mexican representatives (diputados) and a horde of media including television. We needed to get the truth out to the world and to the human rights commission that would be investigating this case in early January.

All of us were very busy in the days before the picnic. The committee delivered Christmas chickens to all the families in Rebalsito who wanted one. My friend Dick and I got together with Chito, a restaurant owner who lost his restaurant in Tenacatita and has opened another one just this side of “the gate.” He had taken heavy machinery and carved a road to the estuary which people could use to launch their boats since Rodenas wouldn’t even let fisherman use the beach to launch fishing boats.

On December 24, Chito, his worker, Dick and I went to the estuary, boarded Chito’s panga, and drove it around the “Coloradas” (The red bluffs) to Tenacatita. We came up the beach and I took photos of the remaining structures with my telephoto lens. We arrived over where the restaurants were before Rodenas bulldozed most of them and I carefully turned on a camera hidden in a pair of sunglasses and jumped into the shallows. What follows is video taken with that camera that shows that the government of Jalisco is there (not all private guards) that they are not neutral here like they are saying and that they are spinning that the beach is open when it isn’t. As soon as I land I am detained. In Mexico as it is in the US, if the police blare a siren at you and don’t leave it means you are detained. Why would the police detain me on public property when I am clearly unarmed and nowhere near their property?

This second video shows what they tell me at the door. Basically no camping, very restricted hours, you have to walk in, and other requirements that make it useless.

The covert video operation was a huge success. We could now move on to the picnic, secure in the fact that we could counter Rodenas clams about how friendly they were. Previous lies on their part have included stating that you can go to Tenacatita by going around Tomatl├ín which is not possible. They have also sent people to the end of the ocean beach past the cemetary. Water there is so rough that swimming would be impossible. The latest lies in “La Jornada”, a Jalisco newspaper, have Rodenas benignly saying that he has no problem with Rebalsito fisherman taking tourists in the boats on the estuary. The only problem with that is that there are no tourists because there is no camping and the guards have beaten at least one man attempting to land from the estuary which is on public land per the rules of the Mexican constitution.

On the night before the picnic I was feeling very discouraged. The diputados would not be arriving until around two in the afternoon and we were set to leave around ten in the morning. I was worried that if we waited too long that there was a possibility of having to cross the estuary in the dark which I did not want to do. We ended up leaving as best we could, some of us crossing the estuary and walking by foot across the jungle and others coming through the estuary and out to the ocean and around by panga while others came by boat from La Manzanilla.

When the diputados arrived, instead of going around, they simply went to the gate and demanded to be let in, a wish that was granted. They also asked that other people and their vehicles be let in and Rodenas, in the spirit of not wanting to rock the boat, granted vehicle access for the first time since this all started.

We all landed on the beach with great fanfare. The committee bought a hundred Mexican flags which we had doled out to people and we also brought the band who played the Mexican National Anthem first in honor of the request the police had made of me on the 24. People took over what was once Lola’s and Cato’s restaurant and there was food an music and we danced and had a good time while the police looked on sullenly.

I met the diputados but have to admit not being very impressed. They don’t seem to be at all interested in what others are doing to save the beach and really did nothing to dispel criticism that their interest in Tenacatita is political. The media were equally unimpressive. I tried to give my materials to the TV stations there and nobody even had a thumb drive. Only one reporter arrived before the event and was the only person who seemed interested in reporting. She did have a thumb drive and left with hundreds of high resolution photos and several videos including the hidden ones. It feels like the media take turns writing something that the others then pick up because when I search Tenacatita in the headlines it is practically the same exact story, often with the exact title. I was a bit dismayed that I would be writing the most in depth coverage in spite of the fact that I am a complete amateur. The Guadalajara Reporter had a couple of good early stories but their coverage here was thin and two dimensional.

I was able to film the huge pile of logs from all the palapas they demolished and on a whim, ended up jumping in back of a pickup truck leaving for Rebalsito. I asked the guy to go slow and was able to film much of the carnage that they don’t want people to photograph. This is the video I took.

Meanwhile back at the beach. The cleanup crew in the palapa found a bag full of turtle eggs the the Rodenas folk had collected to eat. Here is a photo of them. I have to say, you really couldn’t find better villains. During my time in Tenacatita, I often felt I was part of some B movie because the villains were so stereotypical.

The Mexican Human Rights Commission is meeting today to review evidence of human rights abuses. We were able to add the beach landing to the mountain of evidence that there is something very rotten going on here. Some of the Wikileaks reports on Mexico show a federal government that is trying to clean up the perception that they are very weak on human rights. With all the evidence at Tenacatita, it will be interesting to see if they really mean it.

Please help us by donating to the Tenacatita fund.

(Editor’s note: There are 3 lovely photo slide shows in the original I had not the technology to reproduce – you really should go to the link and view them!)

For those of you that wish to help the people in Tenacatita and Rebalsito you can donate using paypal on this website. Just click on the DONATE button.You can use a credit card or a bank account. Any amount will help. If you want your money earmarked for a certain family or use, make that comment on your donation. We will keep receipts for everything. If you want to contact me about a donation send to

To pay by check/ Para pagar con cheque:

Richard Hammond–

308 Alpert Ave.

Fort Collins,Co, 80525


    • Diane G on January 5, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    in this story since I last wrote it, and I had promised to update my readers.

    This past couple weeks have been incredibly busy here, and I just have not had time to write it comprehensively.  Mikes last round of chemo has been absolutely brutal, and I have been trying to prepare for Noam, as well as working extra hours to pay bills.

    So when I got the email from them, I asked to use this. John was nice enough to let me reprint his update, and it covers all the back story as well.

    • Xanthe on January 5, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    have to check your first diary as well.  Thanks for the info.  

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