Two Pangas Make One Ferry

What could go wrong?
BY: CARRIE DUNCAN

Families fighting over less than an acre of land have caused four drownings and pushed 1000 people to take a boat whenever they go to town. The dispute has been going on for close to 100 years, although road access to the community of Santa María del Mar in Oxaxa has been blocked only since 2009 by citizens of Mateo del Mar, forcing the residents of the former to get to their community by water.

Following a recent accident involving a family trying to get to town, four people drowned, and authorities were stopped when they tried to transport two of the bodies by land.  “We tried to bring [the bodies] out, but the people of San Mateo opposed us. It was very difficult to bring them to Juchitán because strong wind conditions made it near impossible to travel on the water,” said Mayor Gloria Sánchez López. In the end, continued López in an interview with the newspaper El Universal, the people of Santa María risked their lives again to bring the bodies out by sea as the wind gusted to 100 miles per hour.

The dispute over.4 hectares of land between the two Ikojts communities began a century ago but in the most recent round, the people of San Mateo “invaded” their neighbors’ territory in 2009, interrupting not only land transportation to Santa María, but also the town’s power supply.

In March 2015, a state agrarian court issued a decision on the matter in favor of the people of Santa María, ordering the people of San Mateo to vacate and return the land.

But the matter has yet to be settled, as the communal authorities of San Mateo contested the court’s decision and filed an injunction. Knowing the Mexican court system, this could go on for another 100 years.