Embattled residents’ demand: A teacher

Frontera NorteSur

Residents of an embattled Ciudad Juárez neighborhood insist that a teacher be sent to a school they constructed. To press their demand, residents of upper Lomas de Poleo continue a protest this week at the local offices of the Chihuahua state education department.

Lomas de Poleo parents object to a decision by state education authorities to not send a teacher to the Alfredo Nava Sahagun Elementary School because of insufficient enrollment.

Jose Espino, Lomas de Poleo resident, acknowledged that only eight children were ready to attend the school but insisted the number of potential pupils would at least double if authorities reopened the school and allowed free access to it.

The Alfredo Nava Sahagun school is located in a zone that is the object of a lingering and bitter land dispute between longtime residents and members of the Zaragoza family, one of the most of influential families in Ciudad Juarez and the state of Chihuahua.

Though both sides lay claim to the land located on the northwestern outskirts of Ciudad Juarez, residents hold Pedro Zaragoza responsible for enclosing the school and nearby homes within a fence and posting armed guards.

Several violent incidents, which residents blame on Zaragoza’s guards, have contributed to a tense atmosphere. Most of upper Lomas de Poleo’s residents have since left the disputed zone but several families continue to resist in the courts and the streets.

Reportedly, Chihuahua state education officials are urging Lomas de Poleo’s children to attend a nearby school that has been linked to the Zaragozas.

Over the years, the conflict has drawn the attention of Amnesty International, the Las Cruces City Council and other international institutions and groups. Still, no solution has resulted.

Once an isolated area perched on a lonely desert mesa, the land in question is increasingly a strategic parcel of real estate that’s near a planned border crossing between Mexico and the US at Anapra/Sunland Park.

At this week’s protest, school-age children spent their time studying in the hallways of education department offices and making protest signs that read “We Want Our Alfredo Nava Sahagun School.”  Pictures of the sign-making were posted on Facebook.

Agustina Contreras Martinez, president of the Lomas de Poleo parents’ group participating in the protest, said authorities should justify in writing the section of law that obliges the children to attend another school.

Additional source: El Diario de Juarez, September 7, 2011

Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico

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