State police officers have ejected around 20 private security guards from the Tenacatita beach zone in southern Jalisco, opening the way for total public access to the popular beach for the first time in more than five years.
Visitors to the beach, however, will not be able to splurge on seafood and beer, as they have in years gone by.
“We have made an agreement with the municipality of La Huerta to maintain an open beach, to which anyone can enter and leave, but there will be no concessions, for alcohol or restaurants or any other kind of business,” said Jalisco Government Secretary Roberto Lara Lara.
In August 2010, a Guadalajara real estate developer who claimed title to 42 acres of disputed land adjoining the beach persuaded then state governor Emilio Gonzalez to allow state police officers to forcibly evict dozens of families inhabiting the zone.
The developer, Andres Villalobos, argued that a definitive court ruling entitled him to evict the “squatters” from the local farmers’ cooperative (ejido), who for several decades had eked out a living in the Tenacatita beach zone, opening restaurants, modest hotels and other businesses. He claimed ejido leaders who sold off plots of land, including to foreign buyers, had acted illegally, even though some purchasers had obtained legal escrituras (title deeds) issued by public notaries.
After the 2010 evictions, Villalobos sent in private security guards to police the only road leading to the beach, erected a fence around the disputed area and tore down the palapa restaurants and fixed structures locals had put up. He eventually relented and instructed his guards to allow tourists access to the beach but locals were not allowed in.
His actions angered many residents in the coastal area, who repeatedly pointed out how the situation blatantly violated the Mexican Constitution, which determines all beaches to be the property of the nation and open to the public.
After his security guards were ejected this week, Villalobos issued a press release referring to the state government’s latest move as “illegal.”
“We have been deprived of out rightful land for 30 years with the compliance of authorities,” he stated. “We will always allow holiday makers to park on our land and use bathrooms we have provided.”
Governor Aristoteles Sandoval of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) had vowed to reopen the beach during his 2013 campaign and won a high proportion of the votes cast in the Costalegre area.
Lara Lara said this week that the governor would not interfere in the legal battle between Villalobos and the ejido, which may still have a long way to run in the courts, even after three decades of litigation. If the owners of the land can prove they have legal possession, they are entitled to employ private guards to protect it, Lara Lara said. But they cannot enter federal zones and anyone who tries to prevent access to the beach will be arrested and punished, he vowed.