Filling a glass from his garden faucet, Juan Ramírez held the swirling water up to the intense Mexican sun. Satisfied with its purity, he touched his glass gently against my own. “Your health,” he toasted, before drinking it down in one gulp.
Mexico City’s reservoirs consistently rank amongst the most contaminated supplies to any world capital. Drinking from the tap here is simply not recommended. Ramírez’s water, however, comes directly from a volcanic spring in San Bartolo Ameyalco, an otherwise impoverished town on the hilly southwestern outskirts of Mexico City, in the borough called Alvaro Obregon.
“My grandfather drank from our town’s spring, and his grandfather before him,” Ramírez told me when I visited the town this weekend. “Now the government wants to pipe our town’s water directly into rich households and leave us with its contaminated filth. We are not going to let that happen.”
Ramírez is leader of a group in San Bartolo Ameyalco intent on keeping their water supply local. Last Wednesday, Ramírez along with approximately two thousand other residents of Ameyalco attacked a police force of fifteen hundred riot officers who were guarding the final construction stage of a pipeline that will connect the town’s volcanic spring to Santa Fe, one of the most affluent districts of the Mexican capital.
In videos posted online, San Bartolo residents are seen violently pummeling an officer in riot gear who had fallen to the ground.
The residents beat back both police and pipeline engineers, leaving at least 100 police officers injured, 20 seriously. Residents said dozens were injured on their side, and authorities arrested five people. Mexico City’s government warned that more arrests would come.
While the battle of the morning of May 21 was won by the residents of San Bartolo Ameyalco, what the locals now popularly call the ‘Water War’ is sure to be long and tense.
“The people are united,” said María Chávez, one of the leaders of the town’s resistance, which has based itself in the public library. The municipal building is papered with messages of support from other towns in the region. A banner proclaimed: “Our water is not for sale.”
“When the local government’s plans to extend our pipelines further afield were drawn up last year, the authorities refused to negotiate with us. Leonel Luna [the borough delegate] told us the water would be going to help other communities in the region,” she told VICE News. “It’s only now that we have put up a fight that they want to talk things over.”
Mexico City’s government sees the international business-aimed satellite city of Santa Fe, a high-end urbanization zone rapidly built upon a dumping ground with no prior water infrastructure, as a pillar of the local and even national economy. Although the details of the plan remain murky, San Bartolo Ameyalco residents are rightly suspicious of any scheme to divert their pure water to the international corporate offices nearby.
FINISH READING THE ENTIRE ARTICLE HERE: A Bloody War for Water in Mexico | VICE News.