— Christopher Reynolds
Posted March 18 2007
To many in town, Jose Enrique del Valle is best known as the coordinator of Techos de Mexico. Started in 1996, inspired by the work of Habitat for Humanity and largely bankrolled by donations from the north, it’s a construction-loan program to connect villagers with tourists and their dollars.
So far, the program has built four houses and expanded three others, spending $4,000 to $9,800 on each project, splitting revenues between landlords and the loan fund. Three landlords have already paid off their loans, including Concha Velazquez, who told me that her family had been dependent on her husband’s uncertain income as a fish merchant. They opened Casa Concha in 2001, paid off their loan three years later and have expanded to three rental rooms.
The only real downside, says Jose Enrique del Valle, now 50, is that “it’s a lot of work. I’m exhausted.”
But as the renovated schools and the library near the middle of town demonstrate, more activists have arrived in the Del Valles’ wake. One is Susana Escobido, who runs the Mauna Kea Cafe with her husband Poncie, rents out a few rooms by the month, sells homes in the Marina Chacala development and is co-founder of Cambiando Vidas (Changing Lives; http://www.chacala.org/), which spends about $40,000 yearly (much of it raised among U.S. Rotarians) to boost local schools, underwrite a learning center and fund scholarships. Twenty-seven local youths are studying on scholarships right now, from eighth-graders to college students.
“The Nayarit coast is just exploding, whether we’re ready for it or not,” Escobido says. “We want to make Chacala a community of entrepreneurs.”