The Associated Students of Colorado State University sent five representatives to Todos Santos, Mexico to speak with community members and assess firsthand what is happening in a town polarized by a housing development and an activist group.
Housing developer MIRA donated land in Todos Santos to CSU and has since sent various student and faculty groups down for educational and research-based purposes.
However, as the Collegian has reported in past articles, the University’s relationship with MIRA has been scrutinized by activists in the town who are opposed to MIRA’s planned development, Tres Santos, which could drastically change the small town both environmentally and economically.
The ASCSU members were in Todos Santos for five days during spring break and will release a report on what they gathered from the trip with possible recommendations.
The Collegian spoke with one of the members who went down, ASCSU President Jason Sydoriak, about his experience and his opinions on the University’s presence. Some quotes were edited for clarity.
What prompted the trip down to Mexico?
The more I looked into it from either side, whether it’s faculty (or) Truth Santos, the more I was like, “Okay, I’m not going to get a clear picture without going.” So I thought it was the responsibility of ASCSU, being the representing student body, that they should go and get their own perspective rather than the students who are benefited through the programs and services or the faculty that benefit from it. Let’s have someone go down there that is not benefiting from it at all.
What were your goals for when you were down there?
My mission was sort of twofold: One was to see how can we expand some of the exchange programs that we have through CSU and also enhance the relationships across Baja California Sur, and then the other mission was determining the level of responsibility that CSU has in this dynamic happening in Todos Santos between Tres Santos, expats — what have you. Should CSU have no responsibility or full responsibility? That will come out in the report on what we believe the level of responsibility should be.
Why a report?
There is one thing that ASCSU doesn’t do very well, and it’s creating institutional memory. Transitioning from (former ASCSU President) Sam Guinn’s administration, I think she did some great things … (but) we pretty much had to pick up from the beginning, not where she left off. We wanted to do a report so future administration that were interested in engaging in Todos Santos would be able to have a baseline to work off of. And then, also, we can submit that to any other stakeholders that are interested.
What was it like interacting with the housing developer, MIRA?
We actually had, I would say, a two-hour grilling fest with Tres Santos. We just were asking them questions about the development, about water, about what their vision was for the town — so on and so forth. It helped give us context, especially moving forward. I didn’t expect to get anything completely concrete from them, because obviously they are going to be more reserved. It gave us context of where they are coming from and better understanding of the project because we only know so much.
What other people did you speak to?
Probably one of the more significant meetings we had — and I don’t know yet whether we should reveal their name, they own a company, a tourist company — and she just really understands the town, is deeply connected and she just brought a lot of context that we wouldn’t have had normally. I think they really helped us gain a better understanding of CSU’s role in the town.
What do you now see as CSU’s role in Todos Santos?
I think CSU should be there, and I’ll put this in my report. I think CSU should be doing what educational institutions have been doing since their existence, and that’s holding other institutions accountable, that’s bringing a certain perspective that you wouldn’t necessarily have without educational institutions, that’s impartiality — those are facts and integrity. And I think they have a responsibility in keeping the development honest and then also integrating with the community because the trajectory of our world is a much more globalized world, and we are not going to accomplish that unless we actually reach out. We need to do it in a very delicate way so it doesn’t look like colonialism, but we certainly need to do it in a collaborative way. The people of Todos Santos, they are thirsty for accountability and transparency, and they are not necessarily getting that with Tres Santos, and I think CSU does have a role on applying some leverage to get that.
Collegian Executive Editor Skyler Leonard can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Skyler_Leonard.