Temacapulín Receives International Recognition

Kate Ross
Occupation of El Zapotillo dam site
Occupation of El Zapotillo dam site
By Marco von Borstel

Temacapulín received recognition in more ways than one this week. On Monday the community of Temaca was awarded the International COAGRET Prize by the Spanish organization Coordinadora de Afectados por Grandes Embalses y Trasvases (COAGRET).

The award was given in recognition of the community's "struggle to defend their land and for their tenacity, perseverance and faith. They are a symbol of the struggle against the irrational construction of dams that destroy lives and territories and [Temaca] is now a glimmer of hope for those fighting against dams in Spain and around the world." - Premio COAGRET-Internacional

Members of COAGRET took part in Rivers for Life 3: The Third International Meeting of Dam Affected People and their Allies, which was held in Temacapulín last October. They were able to see for themselves the incredible passion of the community and the powerful beauty of the town that they are fighting to protect. On Monday COAGRET sent a video message to the community, congratulating them on the award and showing their solidarity with the fight against El Zapotillo Dam. Watch this message, in Spanish.

The award came at a particularly pertinent time for the community. The message arrived while hundreds of residents of Temaca and their allies were camped at the construction site as part of a peaceful protest to demand that illegal construction on the dam stop immediately, and for the Federal Government to open a dialogue with the affected communities.

Two legal injunctions were granted on January 31, 2011 that ordered the immediate suspension of work on El Zapotillo, yet construction continues. The dam violates a host of laws governing security, consultation, property rights, timely and informed receipt of information, and respect for the environment.

The national and international community rallied around the affected communities, sending letters to Mexican authorities, marching to the offices of the National and State Water Commission in Mexico City and Guadalajara, and joining the protest at the dam site.

The voices of the affected communities were finally recognized last Friday when the federal government agreed to sit down with the Comité Salvemos Temaca, Acasico and Palmarejo to hold three "mesas de dialogó" or discussions: the first about the legality of the project, the second about the larger implications and impacts of large dams as measured by the the World Commission on Dams Recommendations, and finally a discussion of alternative solutions.

While the outcome of these discussions remains to be seen, the fact that the government agreed to sit down with the affected communities is a success in itself and further demonstrates the tenacity and perseverance of the community, as recognized by the COAGRET prize.

In the coming week the eyes of the world will be watching Temaca very closely, demanding that the rights of the affected communities be respected and that illegal construction on El Zapotillo Dam stop. La lucha sigue, the fight goes on!

Viva Temaca!