24 August 2007

Adios a Guadalajara


The low-rent correspondent is becoming a little less low-rent these days. I recently accepted a senior reporting position in another part of the Republic. I'll divulge all of the details at the appropriate time.

I also left Guadalajara after nearly three years in La Perla Tapatia. Locals brand it El Rancho Grande, but the city is moving beyond its reputation as a provincial backwater. Just give it a few more years. I've only been gone a week and I already miss it.

13 August 2007

Remittance rate slows down


According to the Bank of Mexico, the rate of remittances sent home by Mexican migrants slowed down during the first six months of 2006 even though the number of migrants living in the United States increased. The Washington Post described the suspected reasons for the decline in a story last week: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/08/AR2007080802241.html

I recently went to Mezcala, Jalisco, a sad sacked town on the north shore of Lake Chapala that bleeds migrants, for the annual patron saint holiday. The saint is a pretext for hundreds of migrants to return home for two weeks every August. Most of those arriving brought money for their families and gifts for community institutions. As one person there told me, "It's tough to imagine life in Mezcala without remittances."

Remittances in Mezcala seemed to be flowing home like always.

11 August 2007

Lake Chapala improves


According to a story in today's Publico (Milenio in Guadalajara), Lake Chapala's water level jumped by 30 centimeters during the first 10 days of August - the best rate since 1992. With at least six weeks left until the end of the rainy season, the water level stands at 58 percent capacity, just shy of the high point of 59 percent reached last fall. The upstream dams are also hoarding more water than usual.

Since Lake Chapala supplies some 70 percent of Guadalajara's water needs, the news sounds good. Unfortunately, Jalisco's dam-building brigade - previously led by both former PAN governor Francisco "Paco" Ramirez Acuna and state water commissioner Enrique Dau, the former PRI mayor of Guadalajara that left office in disgrace after the 22 de abril de 1992 explosion - are still championing the Arcediano Dam on the Santiago River near Guadalajara as the solution to the city's pending water problems.

Cleaning up Lake Chapala, which is fed by the toxic Rio Lerma, instead of trapping and distributing highly-contaminated water from behind the proposed Arcediano Dam might be more logical - but logic has never driven this agenda. As an example, the Arcediano Dam is being built near the convergence of the Rio Santiago and Rio Verde. It will be much lower than Guadalajara, meaning any power generated will go toward pumping the water out of the Huentitan Canyon and presumably cleaning it too.

Additionally, the original plans called for a second dam to also be built in the Los Altos region that would supply Leon, Guanajuato, a thirsty industrial city near former president Vicente Fox's San Cristobal Ranch. The original location would have flooded out San Gaspar de los Reyes. The plans were changed in 2005, though, after locals and migrants from the town living in the San Francisco Bay area raised a fuss.

Besides cleaning up the lake and ensuring a stable supply of water in a full Lake Chapala - instead of say, depleting the lake by allowing farmers in Guanajuato to irresponsibly draw so much from the Rio Lerma in order to grow strawberries for export - SIAPA, the Guadalajara area waterworks, could try fixing its leaky pipes, although with so many customers refusing to pay their water bills - customers can't be cut off - the utility is often lacking resources to repair all it's infrastructure.