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As most of you are aware, on September 25th, 2015, Sayulita was declared a Pueblo Magico, and on December 4th, 2015, a ceremony took place that officially inducted Sayulita into the Federal "Pueblos Mágicos" program. Now one of 111 Pueblo Magicos throughout Mexico, Sayulita is being recognized as a place that offers people an element of magic. Marcos Scott, President of the Sayulita Pueblo Magico committee, tells El Sayulero more about Pueblo Magico, shares short and long-term goals, and so much more.
First off, what is the major difference between Pueblo Magico and Pro Sayulita? How are these two groups related and/or differentiated?
They are two totally different things. Pro Sayulita is a local, civil association, a service oriented association of local people, business owners, and residents, all working together for the benefit of Sayulita. Pueblo Magico is a program of the Secretary of Tourism of Mexico – it is a collection of towns and small cities that offer an alternative to the normal tourist offerings of Mexico. Meaning they offer more than big, international hotels, and margaritas by the pool. All of the 111 Pueblo Magico towns nationwide are recognized for a specific attraction. Many are colonial towns with beautiful architecture, and for others, the natural environment is the attraction. Sayulita's principal attraction is our waves, and we’re the only Pueblo Magico that is recognized for this reason.
What are the short and long term goals of Pueblo Magico?
Well, the long term goal and basic purpose of the Pueblo Magico program is to preserve the “magic” of whatever makes that town “magic,” in a sense. In our case, it’s a lot of things. It’s the mix of cultures, the ecotourism and the extreme sports and surf, and the incredible natural beauty of Sayulita. From that standpoint, it is the preservation of these things that is paramount. These things are easy to lose with unbridled development. The long term objective for our Pueblo Magico committee is to keep the flavor of the town as true to its origins as possible. We want to avoid things like high-rise buildings and multi-million dollar chain hotels. In terms of our short term focus, we want to keep present the vision of how development needs to go to preserve the essence of Sayulita.
What is your number one focus currently?
Our number one focus, and most important, is the waste water treatment plant. Not just keeping it running properly, but the main goal is to move it to the other side of highway 200, removing all the problems and bad effects it has on Sayulita. It’s bad for our image, bad for businesses, and bad for everyone. We need to get it up and running at capacity and get the draining system problems fixed, but even if we could get it to 100% efficiency, in three years it will exceed its capacity, which is another reason it needs to get moved. We’re working very hard on all of this now, we’ve found a spot we’d like to move the water treatment plant to, and we need money from the town to make this happen. No government program will buy property. So, we need to raise a couple of hundred thousand dollars to buy the property, and once we’ve done this, we can get this done ASAP. And the day this happens, all of our property value will jump up.
What other projects is the Pueblo Magico committee working on?
We have one project starting next week, across from River Café – where the black tarp is in front of the baseball field. We will be building an office for the delegado, Pueblo Magico, and other government services. There will also be a very nice entrance to the ball field and the food stalls will be converted into nicer retail spots. We also have a lot of short-term projects we are mulling over. For instance, putting a malecon between Don Pedro’s and Villa Amor, adding a riverside park, making a parking area below the bridge, and adding a pier for fishing boats. We’ve also been discussing how to expand our parking options around the baseball field.
To date, what changes have been brought about by Pueblo Magico?
Well, here’s the thing. People probably haven’t noticed a lot of things that have changed because the kind of things we need to do take time, and a lot of thought to move the ball forward. Most of the projects boil down to recuperation of public spaces. But, we’ve found that what is most needed here is basic infrastructure, such as paving the streets, and we’re focusing heavily on this. As a Pueblo Magico, we are communicating with three levels of government, and while it gives us a higher priority, it is a slow process of getting to know the government counterparts. We are also working with street vendors in town, our approach is to have them voluntarily agree to be relocated, and to help them actually have a better situation to sell their stuff, while also getting them off the street and crowding the pedestrian areas. So far, we’ve found the street vendors have been understanding and willing to comply.
What are some of the challenges the Pueblo Magico committee is facing?
The original problem, just getting the people to buy into the Pueblo Magico program and to understand its benefits. There’s a long history of mistrust, and people are hypersensitive to change in general, which is another reason we’ve been going slow. We want to make changes in a way so that it doesn’t disrupt, and also takes all parties into consideration. So, if you’re inpatient, like me, it can be a challenge. It has been a growth experience for me learning patience, but I found that going slow and getting input from all parties is by far the best way to do it. I’ve learned getting a “buy in” is the best way to get things done. So, it’s both a good and bad thing. But, I think you get a better product in the end and the support is essential.
Are there any local issues that are NOT the responsibility of Pueblo Magico?
The Pueblo Magico committee is not particularly responsible for getting things done– it is our responsibility to be a liaison between the three levels of government and the town of Sayulita, and to maintain the vision of what it is that makes our town special, and to hold that vision while working the levels of government. We have no budget, we do not handle any money. Projects have to be funded by either the government or privately. The Pueblo Magico program has a budget, including administration, of about 450 million pesos for all 111 Pueblo Magico programs. For certain projects, we could have grants written, but we are finding out in a lot of cases, less is more. Currently, our big, big project is the treatment plant, and for that, we won’t get any Pueblo Magico money.
How can locals/visitors help with the success of Pueblo Magico?
There are a number of projects that will be happening, but right now, people can help by getting their wallets ready to help out when we get the approval to move the treatment plant. This can even happen in the next month. Just think, if you have property, what moving the treatment plant will do to your property value. Even if you only put in $1,000 USD, you will see it reflected many times over in increased property values.
With more tourists attracted to Sayulita via Pueblo Magico, are there plans for a space for more cars, buses, and other transportation inside the town?
Obviously we are hyper aware of the parking issues. Christmas, New Years, Sayulita Days, and Semana Santa are when the parking situation is the worse. During these times the ballpark is needed for additional parking, and it has been used, and I think it will continue. I also think people will activate private parking. Also, parking spots by the river will be added. That being said, I think the parking situation will work itself out, but I do think the size of the town might limit the amount of parking. It’s a natural thing. But, there is one real problem, and that’s the focus right now, the water treatment plant.
What does Pueblo Magico mean for local family businesses?
I think it’s a positive thing. It helps to maintain a cleaner and prettier town, which brings in a higher quality of tourists that will spend money. Pueblo Magico will also get street vending under better control.For local businesses, it’s a win – win situation. It doesn’t mean we will lose the essence of who we are, we’re a multi–ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-color town, and that’s part of our magic.
Is there a space such as a public forum for locals and nationals to voice their questions and concerns regarding Pueblo Magico?
There isn’t a specific one currently, but there probably will be at some point. Come fall, the new delegation offices should be done and it will be a place for natives, locals, and foreigners, to go to voice concerns. Stay tuned.
Anything else you’d like to add?
People should know that we really are aware of all the problems, even though they think we might not know about them. We are working on them in one way or another. And people can get involved in the town by joining Pro Sayulita or JXMP. And stay tuned for more about the water treatment plant.