The Chapala government’s initiation of street repairs in Ajijic last week sparked a spirited controversy over appropriate materials, with some inhabitants opposing any use of concrete that alters the town’s rustic appearance and others praising the introduction smoother and more durable surfacing that benefits pedestrians and vehicular traffic.
As announced by Chapala Mayor Moisés Anaya in early May, the projects selected by taxpayer votes include the rehabilitation of the cobblestone stretch of Calle Ocampo-Constitución between the intersection at Álvaro Obregón at Seis Esquinas and Revolución at the east end of Ajijic. The government apparently threw in the “bonus” of constructing user-friendly crosswalks at 16 points in the center of town.
When work finally got underway at the first of last week, the repair crew started by digging up the corner of Ocampo and Aquiles Serdán to build a four-way crosswalk made out of embossed concrete with a bright yellow tint. Villagers reacted immediately on social media, with many objecting to both the choice of materials and the esthetics. A number of foreign residents took the opposite view, and some even suggested the village would be better off with a lot more concrete.
Advocates for preserving Ajijic’s traditional cobblestone streets did more than yap on Facebook. They organized a meeting with Ajijic Delegado Juan Ramón Flores, held Wednesday, June 19, to reach common ground and draw up a petition addressed to the mayor asking for a time-out on the work to consider public opinion on an alternative crosswalk design. Suggestions include employing thick cuts of flat laja stones that amenable for disabled and elderly pedestrians and fixing them in place with a type of dark earth known for a high clay content, rather than loose yellow river sand or pumice. The petitioners were adamant in rejecting any use of cement in street building and repairs that hinders infiltration of rainwater to the ground below.
The petition appears to have struck a chord with the mayor. According to Flores, first thing Thursday morning workers were instructed to suspend labors on a second crosswalk at Ocampo and Júarez while the Public Works Department develops a new model. Repair of the cobblestones continues in that area.