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Felipe Hernandez, known as Chilly Willy, and owner of Chilly Willy restaurant, was born and raised in Sayulita. His family has a long history in Sayulita, and is one of the original families that settled here. With an intense passion for environmental causes and wildlife, Chilly Willy is a very active volunteer with Profepa (which is the office of the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection) and Semarnat (an acronym for Secrataria de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales - Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources), and has been for the last five years.
First off, what are Profepa and Semarnat?
Profepa is a group of approximately 20 Mexican men that serve as vigilantes to protect the jungle, the ocean, and the wildlife in Sayulita. For example, if someone is cutting down trees illegally in the jungle (which is protected land), we find out who is doing it, and then fine them. Or if someone tells us about someone who is shooting birds, we go and check it out. Semarnat gives us (Profepa) the license to act and have the power to do so.
How did you get involved with Profepa and Semarnat?
My grandparents were hunters and I never liked it. So, I started working for organizations that opposed hunting. I also think it is important to keep and maintain our green lands, and we need to control the people to make sure that wildlife and birdlife is sustained.
How does this organization make a difference in Sayulita?
We protect the jungle and wildlife. Aside from going after people who illegally cut trees, we also go after people who take chachalacas, parrots, and iguanas. We work to keep the river and ocean clean. The problem is when people don’t care and they throw garbage in the river, and we are trying to prevent this from happening. We also work to protect the turtles and keep ATVs, motorcycles, and horses off the beach.
What motivates you to continue to try to make a positive impact in Sayulita?
I want to make sure that Sayulita has balance and harmony. I want to make sure the river has its natural flow. We have all these beautiful trees and animals around us and I want to make sure they are sustained.
What changes do you want to see brought about by this group?
I’d like to see our own office in Sayulita and for our group to be very visible. We currently have a bodega by OXXO, but it is not visible. I’d also like people to recognize what we do and our purpose. For example, if someone is doing construction and there is a tree growing under their house, I want them to know they can come and ask us about it. Can I cut the tree or can’t I cut the tree?
What role do you play?
I connect with the three levels of government, check out possible problems, and take photos. We also call the government, send photos, and ask them for help. For example, if someone is doing construction illegally the government will come in and close down the work and charge big fines. I also plant Guamuchil trees. They bring a lot of different kinds of birds. I know a lot about birds and animals, and I also take people on walks and teach them what I know.
What have you gained from your involvement with this group?
I’ve gained the satisfaction of doing something good and motivating the next generations to take care of the jungle and ocean. And it’s going to work because the future (the kids) is already learning this, and they will have the opportunity to continue our work.
What positive changes have you seen brought about by your efforts? What are you most proud of?
We have helped 80% of the jungle and turtles survive by working on beach and jungle protection. We do it all for the love of Sayulita.
How can others help?
We need signs – such as no ATVs/motorcycles on the beach in order to help protect the turtles. We need signs to protect the jungle. All the jungle is protected, but some people come to the jungle and they don’t know it. They don’t think about how old the tree is and cut trees for money or for wood. There is one tree in Sayulita that is 2,000 years old and 10 people can stretch their arms around it. We have a hard job. People have tried to bribe us / pay us to cut down trees, but we tell them no. We don’t want to be like that. We are not corrupt and we don’t want any bad fruit. We also need radios. The federal government does not offer any help. I even bought my own shirt that says Semarnat.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’d like to thank Sayulita Life for doing this interview and helping to get the word out. I want Sayulita to unite and take care of the river, the contamination of the river, the jungle, the ocean, and the wildlife. As a big group of people, we can come together and make a big difference.
If you’d like more information about Profepa and Semarnat, or would like to make a donation, please contact Chilly Willy at 322-889-7190.