Photo: Ernesto J. Torres, Casa 12

1967: When the Army Came to Puerto and Founded Colonia Lázaro Cárdenas

By Gretell de Gala. Photos: Ernesto J. Torres, Casa 12

Our Lady of the Poor<br />Photo: Ernesto J. Torres, Casa 12
Our Lady of the Poor
Photo: Ernesto J. Torres, Casa 12

In 1967, when the cadet Gilberto Juárez Jiménez, (native of Ayuquesco de Aldama, Zimatlán), came to Puerto Escondido as part of military campaign to protect the citizenry from the violence that was common at that time, the 54th Batallion, on what is now highway 200, was still under construction. (According to census figures, Puerto’s population almost quintupled between 1960 to 1970 — growing from 764 inhabitants to 3,428.)

Vista with Papalotes
Vista with Papalotes school on the right.
Photo: Ernesto J. Torres, Casa 12

In those days, he says, there was no colonia, just wilderness, one small cottage, and some cows. The cadets lived in cardboard shacks that were being built at the same time as the Batallion, without electricity, water, or even where to eat.

His wife, Agueda Josefina García Méndez, recalls that she had to walk an hour to get to the town center above what is now the Adoquin to grind corn and shop at the two stalls that sold chile, tomatoes, and onions.

Shops. Photo: Ernesto J. Torres, Casa 12
Shops. Photo: Ernesto J. Torres, Casa 12

By April 2, 1968, when the cadets Cecilio Guzmán Cano (Totoltepec Villa de Morelos, Mixe) and Juan Germán López, López (Heroica Ciudad de Tlaxiaco, Mixteca) arrived as part of a contingent of 200 troops, the Batallion’s installations were almost complete. But there were only barracks, not houses. Everyone participated in the construction of the dirt roads, the soccer field and the plazas.

Hilltop houses<br />Photo: Ernesto J. Torres, Casa 12
Hilltop houses
Photo: Ernesto J. Torres, Casa 12

The soldiers with families made their homes randomly on the land around the base, until the authorities ordered them off. At that point, the commander, Daniel Gutiérrez Santos was able to get the rights to build on the adjascent land. The year was 1970, president Lázaro Cárdenas, died on October 17, and the new colonia was named in his honor.

At first, the land was reserved for members of the batallion. The 250-m2 lots were free for the married men who had their wives with them, the others paid $340 old pesos. These lots all came with titles (escrituras públicas) from San Pedro Mixtepec. The colonia quickly grew with the addition of non-military households whose properties belong to the Bienes Comunales of Colotepec. So it is that today some properties have clear titles and pay taxes to San Pedro and others have Actas de Posesión from Colotepec.

Typical house<br />Photo: Ernesto J. Torres, Casa 12
Typical house
Photo: Ernesto J. Torres, Casa 12

Lázaro Cárdenas has a population of around 5,000. It borders on the north with the 54th Batallion and to the south with the road to La Bomba; it extends to the east to El Porvenir and to Highway 200 and colonia Marinero to the west.

The colonia includes a Catholic church — la Virgin de los Pobres —, a kindergarten, an elementary school and a secondary school. January 15 is the feast day of Our Lady of the Poor, and the colonia celebrates with a week of dances, jaripeo rodeos, and elaborate fireworks.

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