A proposal to build a shopping center at Punta Colorada was announced by government officials on Thursday. The announcement was made during a meeting at a local hotel after a week in which Punta Colorada was a hot topic among activist groups, local community members, and on social media.
There was also confusion about development plans after a video appeared in which the mayor of San Pedro Mixtepec said that the land at Colorada had to be sold in order to pay for infrastructure improvements in Puerto. The mayor also said the expansion of the airport would entail using some of the land that makes up Colorada. Later in the week, the mayor backtracked and said his comments were taken out of context.
With the confusion over the mayor’s statements and the government’s talks of developing the area, local activist organizations fighting for the sustainable development of Puerto Escondido went on high alert.
Punta Colorado has always been a point of interest for the government and private investors. Almendra Gomezleyva, the coordinator for Salvemos Colorada, noted the temptation that Colorada has always evoked: “Every governor since the 90s has wanted to develop this part [of Puerto]. One thing that’s helped is that many people are fighting legally. As long as Colorada isn’t a natural reserve protected by the law, this will always happen. Everyone has wanted to develop Colorada.”
Salvemos Colorada is an organization whose goal is to have the 111 hectares that make up Punta Colorada declared a protected nature reserve. Initially started in 2011, the group has been intermittently fighting off development threats. Now, with the rapid development of Puerto, many are fighting to save Colorada, referred to as “the last lung of Puerto Escondido.” Gomezleyva voices the sentiments of many. “It’s the only 111 hectares that we have left. Everything else has been sold or developed.“
The news of a shopping center being constructed the area comes after months of demands from local residents for government officials to take action on the sanitary issues facing the city. Storm drains and sewage being dumped directly into the ocean have been problems facing the city for years, but were recently placed in the spotlight with a federal agency’s declaration that two of Puerto’s beaches were among the dirtiest in Mexico.
In recent days, videos have clearly revealed sewage on Zicatela Beach.
No official plans of action or solutions to these infrastructural issues have been announced by the government. Gomezleyva says, “The government is saying it will need 600 million pesos for sanitation. It’s really not that much money for a government . . . First, there needs to be sanitation, then [we can] continue developing [sustainably].”
A petition started in 2021 by Salvemos Colorada calling for Punta Colorada to be declared a nature reserve has been circulating again this week and gaining renewed attention as construction in the area appears more likely. It had over 7,600 signatures as of Friday. “The petition is a concrete way for [the government] to see how many people are against it.”
This week’s declaration of plans for construction was just what environmentalists feared. “We’re in a health crisis. Mass tourism cannot be put ahead of public health. Right now is not the time to think about investment to expand. It is time to provide a solution to the wastewater in all of Puerto Escondido — Colotopec and San Pedro Mixtepec. This is urgent . . .” Gomezleyva said.
A demonstration against the development plans is scheduled for Saturday at 4 pm in front of Agencia Municipal.
“We’re now many different fronts uniting for this cause,” said Gomezleyva, who acknowledged the power that a united community can have and warned that now is the time to take action and get involved.
El Sol de Puerto