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Popotla Fishermen's statement Past projects / Popotla vs. Titanic / statement
[Note: This statement was written by Fernando Larios Zepeda, a resident of Popotla and spokesperson for the Popotla Fishermen's Association, to describe the town's interactions with the Titanic studio. The association cannot afford professional translators, but the English is quite clear and we have left it unchanged. We received this text on September 12, 1998. Contact may be made with Popotla via Rafael Muñoz Martinez.]


Popotla, is a small fishermen town  located 5 kilometers south of Rosarito  Beach, Baja California Mexico, 20 minutes south of the border with San Diego California U.S.A.
    This little town, have been there for many years, living from the sea; they fish with little boats, they do not abuse their ecology, they take only what they need, for them and to supply their small restaurants. They lived that way for 50 years; but, the properly value, went up with the years; for they, this was good news, but, they were wrong, because, this  increased value, brought bad people, who do not believe that humble fishermen, can have properties, valued in millions of dollars, and say it boldly to the press; they want that property to develop or sell it, but they do not want to buy it form their lawful owners, they just want to go and take it, helped by some corrupt Mexican government officials.
    Just in front of this little town, 300 meters into the Pacific Ocean, there was one of the most beautiful underwater gardens; with enormous kelp beds; kelp that live only in two places in the world; known as the sea Sequoia; each giant plant is home to two million and half  living creatures; where many species lived; abalone, sea urchin, lobster and many kinds of valuable fish; this garden is famous world wide, among the scuba divers, because of its beauty and fullness of underwater life, besides their uniqueness.
    These humble, but proud people, pay their taxes, they live on their own private land, they employ a lot of Mexican people, they do not want any economic help from their government, they do not try to cross the border with the United States, as many people do, they  don't need it, they, their families and their neighbors live well the way they are, they just want to be left alone; when the government told them, that they were living in National property, they immediately asked legally for it to be sold to them; they proved their possession and their work on the land, for many years more that the law asked for; because they live near the beach, they asked legally again, for the concession of the Federal Zone strip, besides the Ocean; the law says, that, when someone have already federal permits for the capture of fish as they do, the concession should be given to them, right away; today, they have been fighting 5 years to get it without results.
    One day, they found estrange people wondering in their land, they did the right thing, they went to the police, the police came and took notes, they said they would act according to the law; the fishermen confided in their government and waited and waited, but justice for them never arrived.
    A few days latter, instead of justice, many people leaded by several official patrol cars, entered violently their property, without any court of law order; everybody with guns, with huge machines, they buried or destroyed the fishermen boats, with outboard motors and all; they tried to act according to the law again, but this time, nobody wanted to listen to them, the authorities didn't even want to receive them, cowardly hiding.
    In only a few weeks, the movie studios were built, they did not gave a single job to anybody from the little town, they erected very tall walls and located armed guards on top of them.  They even put their own restaurants inside the wall, The fishermen were left powerless by the same authorities they had asked for help, who instead, protected the crime against them.
    In The Studios construction, they used explosives underwater, destroying life kilometers around; on the federal zone, they used them too; they built a giant water pool to film the Titanic; they filled this huge swimming pool with millions of liters of sea water; and, to it, they added a lot of chlorine, when they were true filming a scene, they emptied the tank directly into the Pacific Ocean, just in front of the kelp beads, adding a little human waste and solvents; they did this a couple of times a week for months; the fisherman denounced this to the authorities, but they lied, telling, that they did not had the equipment to detect what the studios were doing; the fishermen, with the press as witness, took the samples and sent them to private but faithful laboratories; they found the chlorine, solvents and human waste in very high concentrations; even with those proofs, the authorities did not want to listen.
    Seeing this with incredulity, the fishermen started to ask questions, ¿who can do this?, ¿why?, ¿with what legal rights?, ¿where where the courts of law?, ¿where where the government who supposed to protect them?, ¿who was responsible for breaking the law?, ¿why nobody bothered to even ask them?, ¿ where where the technical studies to protect the ecology?.
    Nobody answered them, but they started to find them one way or the other:
    Mr. Torres Torrija, A cousin of the city’s mayor, Hugo Torres Chavert, was the one, who sold the land to the movie studios, where they were filming “The Titanic”; being in Rosarito Beach, they sold a lot in Ensenada, more than a 100 kilometers south; the operation was a fraud, but the Baja California governor told the studios, there were not and will not be any problems; he was present at the studio’s inauguration.
    The construction permits, that usually take 7 months to obtain from the city, were given to them in 2 days; without any ecological study; they only promised to do the studies later; it is like throwing a chemical bomb in to the jungle and then going in to study the damage; this is why they came to Rosarito, because to do this in the U.S.A. would have taken years of studies and even then, they would have had to install very costly equipment, to control the ecological damage; here in Baja California, they were able to do it without any delay and without any concern for the ecology; they had Hugo Torres Chavert, a known corrupt official, acting as city mayor; only acting, because he was never elected, he was put there by the governor’s people.
    They denounced the illegal use of explosives underwater and on the Federal zone, but nobody listened to them; only the army, denied that any permit was given to the movie studios, to detonate explosives, and, that, under the law, there were No permits to detonate underwater or on the Federal zone, but nobody did nothing.
    Later they learned that the Federal Zone concession, was given to the Studios in a few weeks, ignoring theirs, even when they have asked first, 5 years sooner; their official papers were lost several times.
    Then, the police came again, to take another piece of their land, accusing them of invading the studios land; their small boats were destroyed in the process again; curiously, the public attorney who took care of this, was the same one, who had taken note of their original complain, but he said, he did not remembered; again everybody from the state government, ignored them and refused to give them audience.
    To protest the tall walls, they permitted and helped a group of international artist to decorate those ugly walls, that now, blocked the ocean view; and, a work of art was created.
    They have been talking to the studio lawyers, but their only offer, is to rent them a piece of their own land.
    Curiously, the only help for them, have been from the “Rosarito’s Coast residents Binacional counsel civil association” a group of U.S.A. and Mexican citizens, the U.S. consulate in Tijuana helped a little trying to conciliate; from their authorities, the Mexican officials, they only hear corruption and more corruption.
    The fishermen, do not have any problem with progress, they do not want to stop it, but, they want to be respected and for everybody to respect the law; their biggest claim, is for everybody to respect the ecology, from where they live; since the studios operate, the production of sea urchin have drooped from 10 tons a year to 6 and then to almost none; most of the valuable fishes, have emigrated, because of the chlorine and noise; What use to be a beautiful underwater jungle is almost dead; where they use to have a beautiful ocean view, there is only the beauty created by the artists on the walls; The Mexican authorities still put a deaf hear to their claims, but, the law is going to be respected sooner or later, even if they have to go all the way to the Mexican supreme court or even to the international courts.
    They do not want to destroy what is already a thriving business, but they want it to comply with ecological laws, like in any other part of the civilized world; they want everybody to respect the ecology over economical gain, because, the only way to have economical gain in the future, is respecting the ecology now.
    They have confidence in Mexican law, they know there is corruption, but they are going to fight it; they only want what is theirs under the law and they are going to fight all the way trough the courts of law.
    In a time of technological advances, where there are ways to protect the ecology, still, there are people who prefer to destroy it, just to obtain a few more dollars; but those dollars are dirty and future generations will judge harshly.
    The whole Mexican Press have ignored all of this problem, with the one and only exemption of “ABC weekly newspaper” from Tijuana, even having proofs given to them by the fishermen, even the “San Diego Union” ignored it; but, a few international publications have started to listen and to publicize their story.
    We only hope, that Mexican law will be respected, that money dirty from destruction of the ecology will not be able to buy justice, and, that prosperity can go hand in hand with equality for everybody, humble fishermen or not.
    The ecology is not a Mexican issue, it is a global problem, and, art, is the true international language.

Fernando Larios Zepeda
Technical commissioner for the Popotla Fishermen association.

Rafael Muñoz Martinez
President of the “Rosarito’s Coast Residents Binacional Counsel Civil Association”
C.E.O. ABC weekly newspaper.

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