Canadian-owned resort co-opting public land for profit in San Blas finally defeated by residents

After almost three years of struggle, residents of Jolotemba recovered their land rights at Limoncito beach, located in the municipality of San Blas, which was illegally co-opted by Limoncito Hills tourist complex, owned by the Canadian Angela Birkenbach and which is part of Grupo Abico SA de CV.

The local deputy, Mirna Encinas, announced that the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat) granted the residents the concession of the federal maritime-terrestrial zone and land reclaimed from the sea in a kilometer and a half of the beach.

“Today it is shown that the united people won, that Mexico is no longer a land of conquests,” said the legislator, who thanked the support of state and federal authorities, including the head of Semarnat, María Louise Albares.

Limoncito Hills, located at kilometer 34.5 of the coastal highway that connects San Blas with Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, is a private vacation subdivision that offers national and foreign tourists “five hectares of beach in almost 100 hectares with 12 houses, all with sea view,” according to their website.

In its advertising, it states that the place is virgin and is located in a protected area between mangroves and jungle, “wonderful” flora and fauna, with cabins on top of the hills that have Internet and a pool.

However, the Canadian company Abico, with a registered address in Monterrey, Nuevo León, and represented by Birkenbach, began – around 2019 – actions to give more “privacy” to its guests, by illegally cop-opting part of the adjoining public beach and the access road, which, according to Angela Birkenbach, was inside the property that her father, Albert Birkenbach, bought in 2003.

The conflict escalated to the arrest of the Canadian owner, in November 2020, for having driven into a demonstration with her vehicle; At the same time, several activists from the region identified with the Morena political party were denounced by her because they carried machetes in the demonstration.

Due to the fact that the owner of Limoncito Hills closed the road to the public beach and the inhabitants installed a permanent sit-in in front of the tourist complex, agreements were signed on several occasions to share access; however, they were not respected by the Canadian business owner.

The matter was no longer dealt with at the local level and the authorities took it to the federal level in order to request the concession of the federal zone to the Jolotemba people, an opinion that was granted by Semarnat.

In Mexico, all beaches are federal property and it’s a federal crime to block access or close access roads leading to federal property. No business, restaurant, hotel, or resort owns the beaches adjoining their property line and may not deny access to the beaches. Limoncito Hills is only one of many private companies between Puerto Vallarta and San Blas that is illegally co-opping public land for financial gains.

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