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    Rita  Gonzalez  Martinez     La  El  Ejida  del  Ejido  

If you  were  born  and  raised  outside  of  Mexico,  chances  are  you  grew  up  in  a   capitalistic  environment.    Not  so  for  some  of  our  fellow  Todos  Santanians.     People  here  have  a  much  different  perspective,  especially  when  it  comes  to   property  ownership.    Many  are  Ejidotarios;  members  of  the  Ejido  system.   Simply  put,  it  combines  communal  ownership  with  individual  use…  a   democratic  communism,  if  you  will.    This  has  fascinated  me  since  I  first   arrived  here,  and  I’ve  wanted  to  learn  more.    Meet  Rita  Gonzalez  Martinez,   the  current  president  of  The  Ejido  Todos  Santos.     Tell  me,  what  do  you  feel  is  the  most  common  misunderstanding  the   gringos  have  of  what  the  Ejido  really  is?   It  seems  Americans  don’t  often  trust  the  Mexicans  they  are  buying  land   from  and  they  come  in  here  asking  for  our  help.    We  are  not  mediators   between  landowners  and  buyers.   I  see.  How  many  Ejido  members  are  in  this  area?   We  have  252  here  in  Todos  Santos,  with  254  rights.  (two  members  have   two  rights  each).  Some  of  us  are  fishermen,  others  are  farmers  or  people   with  livestock.  But  we  are  all  equal  and  on  the  same  level.   What  was  the  thinking  that  created  this  system  in  the  first  place?   Was  it  basically  to  provide  land  or  livelihood  to  poor  farmers  or   fishermen?   The  people  who  worked  the  land  created  the  Ejido,  with  the  help  of   Emiliano  Zapata,  who  fought  for  the  farmers  to  own  the  land  they  were   working  on.  It’s  sort  of  like  a  union.  And  the  government  during  President   Salinas’  term,  gave  us  legal  rights.   What  is  your  internal  structure?    We  have  our  governing  body..the  comiseriado,  or  board  of  directors.  I  am   the  current  president,  and  I  have  a  vice  president,  secretary,  and   treasurer.  There  is  also  an  “oversight”  committee  made  up  of  a  president   and  two  secretaries.  We  are  elected  for  three  year  terms.  We  need  board   approval  to  do  any  transaction.    We  all  meet  and  must  agree,  according  to   rules  and  laws,  on  what  can  or  cannot  be  done.   Are  you  the  first  woman  president?  And  how  were  you  chosen?  

Yes, I  am  the  first  woman  president,  and  we  have  our  first  woman  vice   president,  too.  We  campaign  and  everyone  votes.    It’s  a  majority  decision.   Do  you  get  paid?   No.   How  often  do  you  meet?   We  meet  the  last  Sunday  of  every  month.    If  someone  isn’t  able  to  come,   they  must  send  a  representative.   Do  you  experience  internal  conflicts  amongst  yourselves?   Well,  we  have  so  many  members  and  don’t  always  agree,  but  we  are  a   family.    We  all  get  equal  profits  and  benefits,  which  makes  it  easier  to   agree.  We  have  minor  discussions  and  must  sign  off  on  each  decision.  We   have  to  agree.  We  have  to  register  everything  we  do  every  time     we  meet.   Since  the  Constitutional  reforms  were  made  in  1992  to  allow  land  to   be  converted  to  private  property,  and  also  allow  sales  and  rentals  to   foreigners,  do  you  think  this  has  benefited  Ejido  members?   Yes,  now  we  have  the  freedom  to  invest  in  properties  and  enterprises,   and  don’t  have  to  be  limited  to  being  just  farmers  or  fishermen.  We  are   more  independent  from  the  government.   Can  a  foreigner  become  an  Ejidotario?   No,  but  he  can  enter  into  a  partnership  with  one.   How  does  one  become  an  Ejidotario?   If  your  family  was  part  of  the  original  workers  who  formed  the  Ejido,  the   right  is  passed  on.    One  has  the  ability  to  sell  their  right  to  other  family   members  or  to  another  Ejidotario.       What  is  your  biggest  challenge?   We  have  a  lot  of  land  and  not  enough  water.    It’s  our  big  priority  now.     People  think  Todos  Santos  has  a  lot  of  water  and  that  it’s  being  wasted.   But  we  only  have  a  certain  amount  for  our  use,  and  it’s  not  enough.  Our   water  is  separate  from  the  city  water.     And  who  regulates  the  use  of  your  water?  

We have  a  concession  for  the  water  and  a  special  group  regulates  it.  Each   parcel  gets  a  designated  amount  according  to  the  needs.   How  is  that  controlled?     Well,  right  now,  everyone  does  whatever  he  wants,  but  that  is  going  to   change.     Oh,  so  is  that  why  all  the  canals  are  piped  with  control  valves  now?   Yes…and  it  was  just  decided  that  there  will  be  a  person  in  charge  of  the   valves,  which  will  be  padlocked.    There  will  be  a  schedule  and  everyone   will  be  informed  and  get  the  amount  of  water  needed  for  their  property,  if   the  property  has  deeded  rights  to  it.   I  have  a  feeling  this  is  not  free  anymore?   True…the  concession  is  called  Superficial  Water,  and  there  will  be  a  one   time  charge  of  $2,000  pesos  per  hectare,  and  a  monthly  fee  of  $100  pesos   for  the  valve  control  person.   And  how  will  each  property’s  needs  be  determined?   It  will  be  the  responsibility  of  the  property  owners  to  come  to  our  office   to  discuss  their  needs  and  request  an  assessment.  If  you  need  six  or  seven   hours  of  water,  we  will  give  it  to  you.   That  sounds  fair  enough,  I  suppose.    So,  back  to  piping  the  canals…  a   lot  of  people  are  upset  about  so  many  old  palm  and  mango  trees   dying  and  shrimp  disappearing  from  the  free  flow  of  water   throughout  the  canal  system.  It  seems  to  have  gotten  worse  since  the   pipes  were  installed.    What  about  that?   Piping  the  canals  is  not  why  trees  have  died.    Water  was  being  wasted  in   the  canals…  in  fact  the  trees  were  getting  too  much  water.    Also  the  palms   were  drying  up  from  a  plague,  called  Pucudo  de  la  Palma.    No  foreigners   helped  us  fight  this  plague.  We  saved  many  trees  and  nobody  is  talking   about  that!  It  costs  us  a  lot  of  money  to  continue  to  do  this.    We  have  ten   people  working  every  day  on  it,  and  we  have  been  working  with  the   University  of  La  Paz.    Lots  of  those  dying  trees  are  green  again.     It  sounds  as  though  there  is  a  great  need  for  more  communication   between  all  of  us,  then.  

Oh yes.    It’s  a  shame  that  most  foreigners  don’t  know  what  the  Ejido  is   doing,  and  they  don’t  understand  what  they  are  seeing.  It  would  be  nice  if   they  came  and  talked  to  us  to  better  understand.  It’s  easy  to  point  fingers.     Maybe  this  will  help,  then.   I  am  glad  you  are  doing  this  because  it  is  needed.  The  people  who  were   concerned  about  specific  trees  on  their  properties  came  and  asked  to   install  faucets  in  the  pipes  for  them.    Lots  of  people  never  showed  up  to   make  those  requests,  and  it  is  not  our  responsibility  to  save  people’s  trees   on  private  property.    The  canals  were  in  very  bad  shape.  The  pipes   actually  make  it  easier  to  get  water  quicker.   I  see.    What  about  all  the  talk  about  diverting  water  to  the  larger   farms?   We  have  thirty-­‐three  members  who  are  starting  to  do  organic  farming,   called  Group  33.  Another  group,  Canada  Honda,  is  already  working  south   of  La  Pastora.    They  need  water  and  we  are  trying  to  send  it  to  that  area.     The  schedule  will  allow  for  everyone  to  get  their  designated  water  and   the  faucets  which  were  installed  will  make  that  possible.   Who  funds  the  capital  for  equipment,  maintenance,  and  labor?   The  president  and  the  treasurer  raise  the  funds.    For  any  enterprise  we   start,  each  person  pays  something  and  shares  in  the  profits.  Everyone   gets  paid  something  every  month…  could  be  $15,000  pesos  one  month,   $10,000  another.  When  we  decide  to  start  a  new  enterprise,  like  the  new   gas  station,  a  percentage  of  any  property  sold  goes  to  the  person  and  the   rest  to  the  Ejido,  to  fund  the  project.    It’s  worked  out  on  a  sliding  scale.   Which  brings  up  another  sore  subject.    That  gas  station!    How  did  it   happen  it  was  placed  directly  over  the  aquafer?  Wasn’t  anyone   concerned  about  polluting  the  town’s  water  supply?   Oh,  that’s  been  a  big  problem  for  us.    That  project  has  been  delayed  eight   months  because  of  all  the  protests,  which  has  greatly  increased  our  costs.   What  people  don’t  know  is  that  we  have  permits,  based  on  many   environmental  studies.    That  location  was  chosen  because  it  never  floods,   and  it  is  close  to  town.     So  how  is  this  going  to  get  resolved?  

We had  to  make  costly  compromises  to  solve  the  situation.  The  solution   was  to  not  put  the  tanks  underground.  We  will  be  using  brand  new   technology  to  build  concrete  “coffins”  or  tanks,  above-­‐ground.  They  are   costing  us  $1,500,000  pesos!     And  that  has  satisfied  the  environmentalists?   We  think  so.    It  has  been  very  difficult  for  us.    Pemex  only  gives  you  a   certain  amount  of  time  to  create  and  build  a  station.    If  you  don’t  do  it   within  the  time  frame,  you  have  to  pay  another  $250,000  pesos.    And   Pemex  is  really  picky.       Do  you  ever  feel  pressured  by  members  to  do  or  not  do  a  particular   thing?   I  feel  as  long  as  I  don’t  hurt  my  community,  all  decisions  are  to  make   things  better.   Do  you  like  this  system  and  feel  it  is  still  necessary?   Yes…  we  have  our  own  criteria  and  can  present  new  ideas  and  have  new   projects.   Having  grown  up  here,  how  do  you  feel  about  all  the  changes   happening  in  Todos  Santos?   Until  now  it  was  pretty  quiet  and  calm.  We  are  lucky  with  the  changes   happening  here…not  like  in  Cabo  San  Lucas,  which  is  a  mess.  Compared  to   other  Ejidos,  we  have  very  little  land,  but  what  we  have  is  much  better   quality.  The  people  who  have  moved  here  seem  to  want  to  maintain  the   integrity  of  the  town.   Do  you  think  some  Ejido  members  regret  selling  their  land?   Only  the  ones  who  don’t  have  the  money  anymore.  I  don’t  hear  many   complaints.    Besides,  we  are  getting  more  property.  We  have  lots  more   territory  to  give,  but  won’t  do  that  until  the  water  resources  are  plentiful   and  people  can  work  with  the  land.   Is  there  anything  more  you  would  like  to  say  to  our  readers?   I  don’t  want  people  to  be  afraid  to  come  talk  to  us  because  of  what  they   hear.    We  are  not  all  the  same.  We  need  more  communication  between  us.   I  want  our  members  to  be  informed  more  about  what  the  foreigners  are   doing.    And  I  want  to  encourage  more  people  to  support  the  Red  Cross,  

the Fire  Department,  and  children’s  sports    Also,  make  sure  when  you   donate  that  it  goes  directly  to  the  cause…  not  through  someone  else’s   hands.    I  want  people  to  know  that  if  I  live  here  it’s  because  I  love  it  and   want  to  make  it  better.   Well,  Rita,  it’s  been  very  interesting  talking  to  you.  I’ve  learned  a  lot.   Sounds  like  we  all  should  have  a  great  big  barbeque  sometime  and   get  to  know  each  other  better,  to  bridge  some  of  the  communication   gap.     We  would  love  that!    Let’s  plan  it.    We  have  the  room!    

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