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Looking Back: A review of September news from the last 50 years

In this monthly series, we republish a few of the headlines from our September editions 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 years ago.


Lake Chapala floods


Even in flood, Lake Chapala has never looked more beautiful than in these photographs by John Frost of Jocotepec. Above, the kiosko at the end of the Chapala pier seems completely unrelated to the surrounding scene and the lakefront of the city of Chapala takes on an entirely new aspect. The waters, which had stabilized about the time of the Independence celebrations last week, were again creeping upward and further flooding was expected.


Lake Chapala water not safe to drink

The water in Lake Chapala is undrinkable and dangerous for human consumption, according to a joint study of the Jalisco Department of Geography and Statistics and the Institute of Astronomy and Meteorology.

The study states that the water entering Lake Chapala from the Rio Lerma is not only bacteriologically undrinkable, but also chemically dangerous for human consumption.

The results of a study performed last month shows contamination levels far above acceptable levels in Lake Chapala

Specifically, the report shows that the Rio Lerma deposits nearly 20,000 tons of grease and oils; more than 2,000 tons of nitrogen; and more than 600 tons of phosphates into Lake Chapala which has brought contamination up to levels which make it dangerous as a water source for human use.

The maximum acceptable level of oil and fat content for drinking water is established at one milligram per liter. Lake Chapala now shows a concentration of 29 milligrams per liter.

The real danger for humans and other animals is the presence of heavy metals in the lake. The study points to high levels of mercury, which affects the nervous system, lead, which alters cellular metabolism as well as chromium and nickel, which have proven to be cancer causing agents.

Lake Chapala has been designated suitable only for recreational use. Experts say it will take years of intensive planning and concrete government action to bring the it back to acceptable levels and control contamination along the Rio Lerma.


Freak PV storm Worst for 12 years

Tropical Storm Lidia hit Puerto Vallarta September 18 and wreaked havoc in the town center but didn’t affect the hotel zone. The storm left a toll of three dead, 35 injured and ten houses destroyed.

According to Mayor Rodolfo Gomez Macias, 600 people were unable to return to their homes, power, communications lines and water supplies were disrupted 40 houses were half buried with mud and ten streets in the city center were destroyed. The five-hour storm was the worst in 12 years.

President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, who was visiting the port at the time, pledged his support while Jalisco Governor Carlos Rivera Aceves sent 1,000 blankets and 210 food baskets to affected families. Work began immediately on reconstructing damaged streets and clearing landslides of part of the Puerto Vallarta-Tomatlan highway.

The highways to Mismaloya and Barra de Navidad were also partially blocked by landslides, although traffic is able to pass. The worst affected neighborhoods in Puerto Vallarta were Coloso, Canoas, Buenos Aires, Ramblases and the area surrounding the mouth of the Cuale River. When the storm ceased, 1,500 municipal workers were mobilized to clear fallen trees and rubble from the streets. Those made homeless are being temporarily housed in a local sports stadium.


Villagers evacuatedafter volcano spews ash

Doña Alberta Altimirano had no intention of leaving her home last week when a minor eruption of the Colima Volcano spewed ash on the village she has lived in for the past 103 years.

But Mexican Army soldiers and Civil Protection personnel were able to persuade 17 families from the small community of La Yerbabuena—located two kilometers from the crater of the volcano—to be transferred to a refuge in the nearby town of Comala, Colima.

The August 28 explosion culminated a month-long period of seismic activity in the volcano, whose last major eruption was in 1913.

Altimarno, 107, has seen the volcano eject lava, steam and ash on hundreds of occasions in her lifetime—the first at the age of four—and told reporters last week that she has no fear of the so-named Colossus of Fire.

“The volcano … has never killed anyone,” she said. “We’re safe here.”

Her son told a reporter from a Spanish-language daily that the Colima government was guilty of raising false alarms about the danger from the volcano. He added that he and others in his community are under pressure from the government to relocated to La Nueva Yerbabuena, but that would mean giving up his nine hectares of land that he cultivates.

Many other families also decided to stay put after last week’s eruption. A Civil Protection spokesperson agreed that the danger was small, saying that they did not press all the villagers to leave. However, he added that in a more serious situation authorities might have to remove the inhabitants of the village by force.

According to scientists monitoring the volcano, last week’s explosion relieved pressure building up inside the dome and lessened the likelihood of a major explosion in the immediate future.


Lesbian couple make history in Guadalajara’s first same-sex union


Mexico took another step toward sexual orientation equality last week as a federal judge granted a lesbian couple from Guadalajara the right to wed.

Guadalajara’s civil registry office had refused to marry Zaira Viridiana de la O Gomez and Martha Sandoval Blanco in March, 2013, citing the Civil Code of Jalisco which defines marriage exclusively as the union between a man and a woman.

But de la O and Sandoval argued that this ruling violated a constitutional amendment from June 2011 which banned discrimination based on sexual orientation. Following the lead of Mexico’s Supreme Court, which had previously ruled in favor of same-sex couples in Oaxaca under the same legal grounds, a federal judge issued an injunction obliging the Guadalajara civil registry to permit the ceremony.

De la O and Sandoval are now set to make history by becoming the first homosexual couple to be wed in the state of Jalisco. They are also taking legal action in a bid for both to be formally recognized as the parents of their ten-month old daughter—the former’s biological child.

“We take this as a huge step forward toward ending discrimination,” de la O told CNN Mexico. “We’re not a weird stain on society, we are a family, we deserve to have our marriage recognized and to be allowed to register our daughter, because it is the only way we can have all the legal protection we need as a family.”

Gay marriage was first legalized in Mexico City in 2010, while Colima became the first state to formally introduce same-sex unions in July, 2013. The law in Colima provides homosexual couples with the same rights as married heterosexual couples, while preserving the term “marriage” as a union exclusively between a man and a woman.

Similar legislation has been proposed in Jalisco and the federal court’s ruling will provide encouragement, as well as another legal precedent, for those pushing for equality in the conservative state.

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