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Angdopolis and the Vindication of Manuel Bartlett Puebla, Mexico TANGELOPOLIS Megaproject is II the brainchild of Manuel Bartlett, Puebla’s current governor, and, although the development was not publicly revealed until long after Bartlett’s February 1993 inauguration, the governor had pitched it heavily to investors and local business councils during his election campaign. The Angelopolis concept was developed by the Texas-based McKinney & Company, longtime associates of Bartlett’ sand, insiders say, was designed to clean up the governor’s tarnished public image. Manuel Bartlett, the son of a governor himself, served as both secretary of the during the presidency of Miguel De la Madrid and, more recently, as public education secretary under Carlos Salinas. Bartlett’s most celebrated moment in politics came July 6, 1988, after presidential balloting had closed, when, as Interior Secretary and titular head of the Federal Electoral Commission, he announced that the government’ s vote-tallying computers had failed. Ten days later, Salinas was declared winner of the fraud-riddled election over left-center challenger Cuauhtemoc Cardenas. Bartlett has often been tagged by the opposition with playing a nefarious hand in the manipulation of the results. The Puebla governor’s reputation has also been blemished by the repeated allegations of U.S. drug enforcement agencies that, as Interior Secretary, Bartlett collaborated with narcotics traffickers. The critical weekly Proceso conjectures that Bartlett played a role in the successful conspiracy to silence muckraking reporter Manuel Buendia in 1984. Salinas’ designation of Bartlett as governor of Puebla offered the politico an opportunity to redeem his name, observers say, pointing to the July 6, 1993 formal declaration of Angelopolis, with Carlos Salinas at his sidean event that was staged exactly five years to the day after the most memorable night in Manuel Bartlett’s long political career J.R. able in profusion at project offices off Puebla’s tree-covered zocalo. Lavish scale models of Angelopolis are on display at the project showroom, and handouts, illuminated with the project logoa capital “A” with wings, underscore that Angelopolis is the kind of investment opportunity envisioned by the North American Free Trade Agreement. Bright as the future is painted, residents of Puebla’s oldest barrios fear that they will be the big losers to Angelopolis. Since de la Luz have been shaping and firing red clay into fine cups and bowls, plates, and water jugs that are the pride of Puebla. In fact, preservation of this unique quarter of artisans was one intention of the 1987 nom .ination of Puebla de los Angeles for UNESCO “Patrimony of Humanity” designation. But city officials have long criticized the alfareros for their continuing use of open air kilns and the burning of contaminating materials, such as used tires, to feed their ovens. Now the nearby Riverwalk project has given landownersmost potters rentthe incentive to evict the alfareros, using city anti-pollution ordinances, and resell the land to the megaproject. At least 40 families are threatened, say barrio artisans. “We’re so near downtownthat’s why they want us out,” mourns Geronimo Alonso Perez, 93, who has been firing up his kilns for six decades in the courtyard be hind his crowded shop. The, Angelopolis megaproject also includes a 20-mile industrial corridor, stretching between Volkswagen’s mammoth asold city’s limits. Twenty-two surrounding Nahua Indian farming communities are threatened with expropriation of agricultural land to accommodate the project, including the ejido \(rural communal produckilometers from Puebla, and reputedly the most ancient surviving agrarian settlement on the continent. For tens of thousands of years, the Cholula region has been a natural crossing point into the populous Valley of Mexico. With abundant water, this high mountain valley under the Popcatepetl volcano was a magnet for hunter-gatherer cultures. When, in 1519, Hernan Cortez and his conquering army climbed its great pyramidtaller than Egypt’s CheopsCholula had long been a crucial corner of the Aztec-Mexican empire. The Spanish Crown divided Cholula, renaming it San Andres and San Pedro and assumed control of Indian lands, a confiscation that was not rectified until 1922 when,. in the wake of the Mexican revolution, the land was returned to the Nahuas of San Andres. Now, in 1994, the Cholulans, already victimized by government highway expropriations, have just lost 2,000 of their remaining 2,200 acres to Angelopolis. The project has designated the still-rural area for “high urban intensity” development, including what is termed low-cost housing on the drawing board but which looks suspiciously like pricey condos to Margarito Xicale, the embattled president of the San Andres Cholula ejido. “We need land on which to grow food for the cities,” Xicale laments. “How will the people who live in these houses eat?” One answer to Xicale’s question is the huge shopping center being planned to . accommodate the “Atlixcoyotl-Solidarity” urban development, a subdivision that will eventually house 15,000 employees of the transnational corporations that Angelopolis is projected to lure here. Xicale and his supporters had held out for new lands as part of the expropriation settlement, but, he explains, Governor Bartlett offered only cash, thus dividing the ejido assembly. The same policy seems to be afoot in Analco, Puebla’s founding barrio at the foot of the now paved-over San Francisco River, currently a major traffic artery. The Riverwalk will begin in Analco. One month after Bartlett and Salinas cut the Angelopolis ribbon last July, the state government expropriated 27 square blocks of the barrio, a total of 606 buildings, enclosing 5,000 businesses and 13,000 heads of families. Resistance to the decree which declared that Analco was being expropriated as a “public utility” for “social benefit”has been fierce in this historic neighborhood where the Franciscans set up shop in the first decade of the Conquest. Churches and monasteries still dominate the zone. “No To The Gringo Megaproject!” read stickers posted on every church wall, lamp post and private doorway in Analco. Ochoa Calderon’s association has obtained injunctions to bar the expropriation but private deals are being cut. Despite the very public signs of defiance, Puebla mayor Rafael Candedo, a Bartlett disciple, insists many Analco residents have quietly accepted cash payments for their propertiesand even groups like Ochoa Calderon’s seem prepared to negotiate with Angelopolis if local entrepreneurs can share in the concessions now destined for national and transnational corporations. Still, for some old-time Analco residents, the life of the barrio is not for sale. Watching a traditional “Carnaval’ dance in a plaza fronting the hermitage founded by the Franciscan Montolinia in 1560, Jesus Alvarez Soto explained why he mistrusted Angelopolis. “Aqui nos toca a vivir \(`we have retired bricklayer. “It’s the neighbors here that keep the churches openthey would close up otherwise. Hotels are not going to celebrate the saints…” THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11