Last updateThu, 24 Mar 2016 1pm

The Temacapulín River Walk: Better do it before they close the gates of the Zapotillo Dam

Temacapulín – called Temaca by locals – is a pretty little town located 85 kilometers northeast of Guadalajara in Los Altos, the Jalisco Highlands.

In October 2010 it became the focus of international attention when “dam-affected” people from all over the world gathered in Temaca to support the townspeople in their struggle against a government plan to build the Zapotillo Dam on the Río Verde and flood the area.

I recently learned that an 80-year-old local man named Don Alfonso “Poncho” Íñiguez leads a hike every month into a beautiful protected bosque threatened by the flood waters, and I accepted an invitation to tag along.

We met at El Mesón Mamá Tachita, a restaurant operated by Don Poncho, who would be our guide on the hike.

We headed south out of town through a big cow pasture toward Arroyo Colorado, a tributary of the Verde River. Near a stone wall literally smothered in lichen, our attention was directed to two parallel garden hoses on the ground. 

“One of these carries our town’s water supply and the other is a backup,” said Don Poncho. “We are going to take a hike out to the spring where this water comes from.” Others in the group then explained that in most Mexican cities and towns, six out of every ten liters produced by water purification plants are lost by leakage from cracked water pipes. “Only four out of ten ever make it into people’s homes,” said researcher Miguel Angel Casillas, “but here we don’t lose a drop.”

The people of Temaca were making the point that if Mexican towns need more water, they could start by installing good water pipes, rather than by constructing dams that displace people like themselves.

The dam problem at Temacapulín began – according to my informants – in 2005 with a project that local people were never asked about. Today, at a cost of 16 billion pesos, the dam is 80 meters high, but its gates remain open due to ongoing legal suits in several courts. “When they close the gates “three towns will disappear,” I was told.

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