If you’re wondering why the Chapala government is sinking three million pesos into remodeling the median strip in front of city hall, you have to get inside the head of Mayor Javier Degollado.
He is determined to get Chapala incorporated in the Pueblos Mágicos (Magic Towns) program and views the Avenida Madero makeover as a transformational project that will showcase the downtown area’s historic architectural gems, helping the city qualify for juicy funding from the federal Secretariat of Tourism (Sectur) to recover its lost status as a prime tourist destination.
Sectur launched the Pueblos Mágicos initiative in 2001 with the aim of diversifying the country’s offering of tourist attractions by promoting unique villages and towns that offer visitors a “magical” experience by virtue of their natural beauty, cultural riches, or historical relevance. A total of 111 places located across the country now boast the Pueblo Mágico brand, with 28 new spots just added to the list this year.
Each locale will receive a budget of 400 million pesos in 2016 to improve its appeal to visitors. Sectur estimates that by 2018 four billion pesos will be channeled to Pueblos Mágicos through the National Development Program.
Seven Jalisco towns that have already earned the distinction are Lagos de Moreno, Mascota, Mazamitla, San Sebastián del Oeste, Talpa de Allende, Tapalpa, and Tequila.
Will Chapala be next to get in on the deal? Skeptics suggest that the city is decidedly short on the magical qualities that would make it a viable candidate. But Degollado is convinced that it will make the grade, following a well-crafted plan of action.
Creation of the candidacy proposal is already in the hands of the municipality’s Urban Development Director José Barajas Gómez. He tells the Reporter that officials at the state Ministry of Tourism assure him that Chapala has all the natural, historical and cultural attributes needed to earn the designation.
The town’s history as a vacation playground for President Porfirio Díaz and his political cronies, the sacred grounds of the Huichol culture located on the Isla de Alacranes and Lake Chapala itself are all considered plus factors.
Barajas explains that the Pueblo Mágico scheme will be applied only to a specific polygon within the city limits encompassing the grand waterfront vacation homes and emblematic Railway Station built during Chapala’s golden era. Jalisco’s Ministry of Culture is now assisting in the putting together a catalog of buildings that make up the city’s architectural heritage.
A principal aim of local government public works projects will be to enhance the appearance of the historic center and evoke a sense of the Porfirian glory days.
Major obstacles the Degollado administration will have to overcome include getting a handle on managing detriments such as chaotic traffic and unsightly informal commerce. Those problems alone are daunting tasks that will test the leadership skills of the mayor and his staff.