Patrimonio is the story of a secluded fishing village on the Pacific Coast fighting for the land that is a part of their heritage against an American land developer and the Mexican government. It premiered at the DOC NYC festival on Tuesday, Nov. 13.
In our “have to have it now” world, where the news cycle runs 24-7 and 365 days a year, we hear the talking heads discussing the environmental concerns that humans pose on fragility of our home. Just recently, there were condemnations leveled at the responsible agencies in California for the fires that ravaged dry areas outside of L.A. and in Northern California. We hear arguments about whether we can reduce pollution fast enough to bring about sustainability to correct the damage we’re causing.
For Punta Lobos, a small fishing village on the Mexican Baja Sur peninsula, a large land developer with deep pockets is poised to take away the very thing that these villagers have always known and to irreparably alter the idyllic seaside community in the name of progress. The fishermen whose livelihood is dependent on the fishing rise up and fight for what is rightfully theirs in the brilliant, eye-opening documentary Patrimonio, which recently premiered at DOC NYC.
Patrimonio is much more than the story of a large, multi-use development called Tres Santos and its backers, Black Creek based in Colorado and their subsidiary Mira. It is about the people, whose heritage has been built on the fishermen and their families who have called this little secluded beach area their home.
Co-directors Lisa F. Jackson and Sarah Teale spent two and a half years following Rosario Salvatierra, a local fisherman who realized that their land rights and the access to the ocean was being systematically cut off by Mira’s efforts at the governmental level, which went all the way up to the President of Mexico. Those land rights, are a part of their heritage or patrimony, a literal translation from Patrimonio. Salvatierra knew that something wasn’t right and started a grass roots effort to take on the government.
Helping them in their efforts is lawyer John Moreno, whose family was also affected. He was their link to the government and the corruption which has seen other fishing villages along the Pacific coast being developed in to tourist destinations while at the same time, altering the ecosystem.
What was interesting about the story is how isolated these villagers were from the rest of the world. They didn’t have internet, they were barely literate enough to know how to combat the government.
Yet, they were acutely aware of the fact that their rights were being usurped and they stood up to do something about it. The documentary paints the harsh realities of the damage that development can do to the environment. It makes you think about how we treat our planet and how we treat others whose economic situations are dictated on heritage rather than money.
The documentary shows the life that the villagers lead. They are all about the importance of family. Religion is a very big part of their lives too. The documentary also shows how encumbered the Mexican political process is to get something accomplished. Numerous walls were put up once the fishermen decided to blockade the construction crews from accessing the worksite.
After a blockcade forced the developers hand, the villagers fierceness is what captivates you to want to follow their story and is what impressed me the most. Ms. Jackson and Ms. Teale, who in an interview with us indicated that the villagers were dug-in for the long haul. This is exemplified during an argument between the MIRA CEO and the villagers. The CEO wants to continue the dialogue, but on his own terms. The villagers are relentless forcing him to walk away.
When the government does respond, the villagers discover that their cooperative directors signed an agreement with the developer, which complicates their efforts, but emboldens them even more to fight for their rights.
Patrimonio is a stunning example of people reaffirming their rights and standing up to monetary interests as well as protecting what’s theirs. The risk that these villagers and their lawyer take is something to be admired.
Patrimonio which screened this week at the DOC NYC festival has not been rated by the MPAA.