lunes, 24 de marzo de 2008


Picture, if you will, three communities: Los Frailes, La Canada and El
Mirador, on the outskirts of San Miguel de Allende. In contrast to el
centro, the homes here are newer with larger lots and there is an air
of suburban tranquility among bougainvilleas which abound in
profusion. Again in contrast, when the fireworks go off all night in
el centro, here they might only begin to keep you awake at five in the
morning! Located overlooking the Presa Allende, there are
magnificent views of this large body of water, views of corn fields
and of alfalfa fields. Many homes in Los Frailes are owned by DF'ers
who will commute to spend a quiet week-end "far from the madding
crowds' ignoble strife". El Mirador only recently was still
classified as a campestre, a semi-agricultural community, with many
hectare-sized lots. It boasts three horse riding rings, an unusual
Gaudi house, and a green space or parque of almost two hectares - very
unusual for its size!

A single railroad track runs through one side of these idyllic
communities. Now picture some dramatic changes!

Some six weeks ago a resident discovered that a second train track was
being built. There followed community organizing and representatives
met with Ecologia and Desarollo Urbano, where both directors confirmed
right away that there were no permits applied for or issued. An
interview of residents by the local TV, was supportive of the
community effort.

Next, residents of these three communities were surprised to discover
simultaneous work being started at three locations in order to double
the train tracks and build a (supposedly 13 Km) train marshalling yard
in their midst. Acting quickly, several residents stood in the way to
block activity. Community representatives met with the Mayor of San
Miguel who sent a Police contingent (estimated to be some 30 strong)
with riot gear and helmets. A TV news station and a radio reporter
also arrived. Work stopped - obra suspendido!

At a subsequent meeting at the Presidencia, officials from KCS Mexico
who were based based in Queretaro, then confirmed that there had been
no permits applied for (or issued) at the Municipal level or at the
Federal level !

So all this was taking place under the radar! If local residents had
not blocked the bulldozers, a railway shunting yard in residential San
Miguel would have been a fait accompli ... in a few scant weeks! A
proposed World Heritage site, now also a major railroad shunting yard!

The building of a marshalling yard would likely prove to be just the
first step. Next would likely come repair facilities on an industrial
scale. Then warehouses and freight handling facilities, with trucks
rumbling through residential neighborhoods of San Miguel.

There is no mistaking that there are powerful business interests at
work here. KCS is a holding company for four railroads operated as
subsidiaries, with plans to link Pacific shipping ports in Mexico with
mid-America, and through interchange, with Canada. They describe
themselves as NAFTA-driven. But with a huge customs warehouse and
freight redistribution center located near Kansas City, MO, while they
may be easing congestion at US ports, the significant thrust of this
project is to avoiding all dealings with established trade unions.
Since establishing the plans and rail routes through Mexico, where
shipping containers would be offloaded directly onto railtrucks and
the sealed rail freight shipped directly to inland US Customs
warehouses, the stock listing of KSU has gone from 50c to around $37
per share.

In a public relations effort mounted by KCS, a local TV station (Canal
4) then carried commentary critical of the residents of these
communities for holding up progress in Mexico! While local
residents are naturally concerned about many deleterious effects of a
railroad shunting/parking yard right in the midst of their tranquil
community, greater San Miguel should also be concerned! Is the
cultural character of San Miguel to be changed to an industrial one?

Reading between the lines, it would appear that somebody stuck a pin
on a map of Mexico, looking for another central location with the
intention, in time, to duplicate in central Mexico, the humungous
warehouse facilities located in mid-America. They hit San Miguel,
considered the jewel of Mexico, and decided to make their start on
this project with a doubled tracks right next to a huge body of water
which is an important reservoir.

And this freight train shunting yard, this hazardous eye-sore, is to
be located right on the shores of the Presa Allende! Just across the
way is the original San Miguel Viejo. This change in character of the
San Miguel neighborhood was to take place without consultation with
residents or at any level of government!

Further, KCS has a track record which documents spills and resulting
lawsuits and also includes a negligence case resulting from a train
hitting a bus in Monterrey. We should also bear in mind that safety
regulations are far less rigorous in Mexico than in the US.

Railroads carry toxic cargo amongst other goods, and as such, the
shores of a lake make for a poor choice for a shunting yard and a rail
parking facility! Any spillage of something like oil, gasoline, or an
industrial solvent like toluene for example, would immediately drain
into the Presa Allende! This man-made lake is an important water
supply, not only for San Miguel, but for communities further
downstream and major cities like Celaya. Indeed, the overflow from
the the Presa Allende feeds all the way to Lake Chapala. Patently, a
very large geographical area would be affected by any potential

Not only would a spill impact many human lives, but wildlife and flora
would also be impacted. There are many birds, including flocks of
black wing Pelicans, fresh water birds which make their resting place
on this lake, returning nightly and leaving in the early morning sun,
dramatically flecked against the sky with white brilliance and black
under-wing markings. A toxic spill would be a major ecological disaster!

Are the interests of the historical community of San Miguel de Allende
well-served by the location of a railway shunting yard in the midst of
dwellings and an elementary school? Could Kansas City Railways
Southern, Mexico, not find another location without jeopardizing the
water supply of an important reservoir like Presa de Allende on which
many communities and waterfowl depend, for their very existence?

With powerful business interests at work, permissions may well be
granted at the Federal level, leaving the San Miguelenses helpless to
stop this business juggernaut! We need your help!

From newspaper reports, it appears that KCS has also run into protests
and problems building train marshalling yards in urban areas around
Monterrey, San Luis Potosi and Morelia. The protests in these areas
have resulted in the yards being removed from the immediate vicinity
of urban areas.

But as one resident put it: "This is not Monterrey or San Luis Potosi.
This is a suburban/rural neighborhood of one of Mexico's most
historic treasures, and should not be treated by any industrial
developer as though industrial development here is in the interest of
all Mexicans. That is outrageous!"

"Any development in this line will be detrimental to the special
nature of San Miguel de Allende, precious to all Mexicans and a
prospective World Heritage Site."

The President, no-less, of Kansas City Southern Railroads, Mexico (a
separate division of the US parent holding company), a certain Sr.Jose
Zozaya, has agreed to meet with the representatives of three
communities most directly affected, on Wednesday March 19th at 11:30
am. The meeting will take place at the Hotel Mision los Angeles
located at the entrance to Los Frailes.

We need you there at 12 noon to peacefully protest and make sure the
President of the railroad company gets our message! If you are
concerned about changing the character of San Miguel, if you are
concerned about possible toxic spillage into the Presa Allende, bring
your placards! Spread the word! Let's make KCS understand that if
they persist in blighting our community, they will be taking on a
public relations nightmare!

NO to Railroad and Freight yards in the historic and cultural city of
San Miguel !

NO to Toxic Freight cars parked on the shores of the Presa Allende !

Pierre Nel, reporting on behalf of
"Union de Residentes del Fraccionamiento Villa de los fariles, A.C." and
"Asociation de Colonos y Residentes del Fraccionamiento El Mirador, A. C."

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