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The Town That Refuses to Drown
The Mexican village of Temaca has become a beacon in the global movement to democratize water and energy management.
By Tracy L. Barnett Posted in Megadams, Mexico, Water, Water, Territory and Resistance on December 3, 2019
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Temacapulín, the tiny colonial village that has managed to hold off a multimillion-dollar megadam for more than a decade and shift the national debate towards the democratization of water in Mexico. (Tracy L. Barnett photo)

From Earth Island Journal, Winter 2020

IT’S 9 A.M. AND A GREY CLOUD that had been shrouding one of four mountains surrounding Temacapulín, in the highlands of western Mexico, has begun to lift. “SINCE THE SIXTH CENTURY, TEMACAPULÍN WELCOMES YOU.” The bold white letters emblazoned on the side of one of the mountains, Cerro de la Cruz, emerge through the mist, Hollywood-style, as the town’s inhabitants scurry to live up to the promise. It’s the first day of the Tenth Annual Chile de Arból Fair and a steady rain has been threatening to flood the town’s two-day festival of resistance against a mega-dam project nearby. But the townsfolk aren’t about to let a little water get in their way.

This article is part of a series on the impacts of megadams in the Americas. Read more here.

Just a few minutes earlier, when the clouds still seemed impenetrable, Beatriz (Bety) and Gabriel Espinoza stood in the doorway of Cielito Lindo, the little community space and occasional café in front of the colonial town’s historic plaza, looking out at the downpour.

“We’ll just have aguachile,” joked Bety, a play on words referring to a popular Mexican dish.

“We’ve overcome much worse than this,” Gabriel reminded his sister.

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And indeed they have. It has been five years since Gabriel — Padre Gabriel, or just “Padre,” as the mariachi-singing, marathon-running, organic-farming former priest is known in these parts — hung up his cassock, making the difficult choice to give up his priesthood and dedicate himself to the fight to save his hometown.

El Zapotillo Dam threatens to flood Temaca and two other villages.

Read the cover story in the Winter 2020 edition of Earth Island Journal.
This article is part of a series on the impacts of megadams in the Americas. Read more here.

Iconic Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata weighs in on the debate in one of Temaca’s many murals of “resistencia:” “If there is no justice for the people, may there be no peace for the government.” (Tracy L. Barnett)

democratization of water El Zapotillo Dam Hydroelectric Dams integrated water management Megadams Padre Gabriel Temaca Temacapulin water revolution

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