The Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) in Mexico ordered the restitution of 280 hectares of common property land to the people of Tepoztlan, a territory that a company tried to seize for 20 years to build a private golf club.
The people of Tepoztlan, a small municipality grouping several communities in central Mexico, organized itself and resisted for years against the golf course project by Piramides y Convento, as part of the tourist development plans that have affected the local population for years.
The company argued that the tenure rights were given to them by the municipality, according to documents issued during the 1960s, but the court determined that the community as a whole is the real owner of the territory, as established by a 1929 presidential decree.
The SCJN ruling returned the lands to 2,449 owners from Tepoztlan, who had been fighting for 20 years against the golf course, and established conservation measures to protect the forest.
The golf course is one of many tourist development projects brought to Tepoztlan. The main town has been declared a ‘Magical Town,’ by the Federal Government, a program aimed to promote tourism by certain standardization rules and investment aims.
Such designation brought waves of tourists into the town, attracted by its beautiful mountains and cultural heritage, rising prices and turning old modest houses into first-rate hotels and restaurants at the expense of the locals.
“In the communities there’s no sewage, roads or streetlights, but the make-up constructions are there to attract tourism, everything for the profit of hotel-owners,” says Osbelia Quiroz, a member of the Fronts in Defense of Tepoztlan (FDT).
The FDT is fighting against several development projects related to tourism, including a highway that cuts through their natural reserve, the golf course, logging and adventure tourism.
Thanks to the relentless efforts of the Zapatista-backed National Indigenous Congress (CNI) - a nation-wide network of indigenous activists and organizations that work in defense of their territories and cultures, the people of Tepoztlan can celebrate having their land back.