San Gregorio Atlapulco demands community library be handed over to the people


Community of San Gregorio Atlapulco demands community library be handed over to the people.

November 17, 2023. Written by Karen Castillo at Somos El Medio, translated by Chico Phat-fingers.

October 28, the Permanent General Assembly of San Gregorio Atlapulco began a protest camp in front of the entrance of the community library in order to demand that the authorities of Xochimilco and Mexico City hand over the building to the assembly so that it can become a space of the people and for the benefit of the community.

The decision to begin the protest camp came about because the community of San Gregorio Atlapulco learned the Xochimilco Mayor’s Office planned to start a tourist corridor through Xochimilco that includes the Community Library as a stop; according to this project, the library would be transformed into a “Casita de la Ciencia” (Little House of Science). The project was never consulted with the community.

The neighbors of San Gregorio Atlapulco also denounce that this tourism project constitutes one more form of dispossession of community land and natural resources for the benefit of private companies and political parties:

“The mayor’s office promotes this space as if it were theirs and hide it when by agreement it should be given to the people of Atlapulco. The administration of Mayor Jose Carlos Acosta uses this space as a hall for private events and for years the general population has not been able to access the facility that historically has been managed by Atlapulquenses.”

The community library is located at the top of the hill of Moyotepec and according to testimonies of several neighbors, the land was won by an agrarian struggle led by Santiago Ibarra Nieto in the 60’s for the benefit of the people of Atlapulco.

The town was divided as a result of internal struggles that led to violence, deaths and imprisonment. Once this period was over, with resources from the town itself and efforts of some neighbors, the town library was built on the top of the hill. The lands are communal property and therefore the future of the library must be consulted with the people at all times.

However, after the 2017 earthquake, the Mayor’s Office of Xochimilco closed the facilities saying the building had suffered structural damage. The remodeling process began and in its place, a luxurious structure was built and the space was never opened to the public. The neighbors denounce that the Mayor of Xochimilco, José Carlos Acosta, used the facilities as a private space to organize parties and events.

Access to the hill, previously open to the public, has been gradually restricted through the construction of wire fences and gates surrounding the library, preventing the community from using the facilities.

The neighbors, mostly adults and senior citizens, remember the hill in their childhood as place where everyone used to play after school, but now few children know the history of this space.

The community of San Gregorio has a clear demand: that the library be handed over to the General Assembly of Atlapulco so that it can once again be a space for the enjoyment of children and all people who live in the town. On December 9, 2022, the now governor of Mexico City, Martí Batres, signed an agreement with the Permanent Assembly of San Gregorio in which he committed to hand over the library.

These agreements were signed as a result of the repression suffered by residents on December 2, 2022 by a thousand riot police who encapsulated and assaulted the demonstrators that day, most of whom were elderly women.

To this day, the agreement has been unfulfilled; the tourism project was supposed to be open to visitors at the end of October, showing the authorities’ disdain for the agreements established in 2022. The People of San Gregorio Atlapulco, being an Indigenous community within Mexico City, have the right to free self-determination and to make decisions about the future of their territory through traditional forms of organization such as assemblies.

According to the permanent General Assembly of San Gregorio Atlapulco, an internal consultation was initiated to define the fate of the library in which 57% of the neighbors believe that it should be a multicultural space.

On Thursday, November 9, the community passed out leaflets in the surrounding neighborhoods in order to inform the community about the situation of the library. During the day there were also puppet shows presented by a family from San Gregorio called “Mariposa Panteonera”; during the day neighbors visited the encampment and discussed the future of the library, all agreeing that the space should be returned to the people of the Atlapulco.