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After Years of Boycotting, ‘Mexicali Resiste’ Stops Constellation Brands From Opening Brewery in Mexico…For Now

2:26 PM PDT on March 24, 2020

l agua no se vende. El agua se defiende.” 

Water is not for sale. Water is to be defended.

For more than three years, those powerful words were chanted in marches, encampments, protests, and at times violence in the name of stopping brewing monolith Constellation Brands from opening a brewery in Mexicali. 

And yesterday, during a press conference, Mexico’s President officially canceled the company’s construction permits and water rights over Baja California’s northernmost desert region. This contentious decision comes after the majority of people of Mexicali voted against the construction of the brewery while economists argue that the city of more than 1 million would benefit immensely from the investment.

The $1.5 billion brewery was originally slated to open in Mexicali by 2023 and brew upwards of 264 million gallons of beer a year. Economists praised the multinational investment for the hundreds of jobs it would create in the region and the opportunity for investor confidence and slammed the president’s decision in the age of COVID-19, especially as the peso continues to rapidly devaluate at an alarming rate. While Mexicali natives who make up the activist group Mexicali Resiste argued it was going to further deplete the already scarce water supply in the northern Mexican desert. Constellation Brands confirmed they would use 3.5 liters of water from strained local wells to produce one liter of beer, amounting to 1.8 billion gallons of water being depleted from the soil a year, according to a report by NPR. 

The momentous move was a victory for the grassroots activism campaign and caused Constellation Brands’ stock to plummet 11 percent.  Critics of the president's move say it wasn't a fair representation of Mexicali since less than 5 percent of residents there actually voted.  

The boycott picked up steam in 2018 when a video of the bloody clashes between Mexicali-based activists and police made the rounds on social media. In Los Angeles, many younger Latinos in the anti-gentrification space such as Defend Boyle Heights stood in solidarity with Mexicali. In that same year, the boycott forced the local all-female DJ collective Chulita Vinyl Club to release a statement—the only group to do so—taking full responsibility for breaking the boycott by way of playing Tropicalia Fest, which was sponsored by Constellation Brands that year. (That was the only year it was sponsored by Constellation Brands since our sources indicate that the festival also moved away from the company in support of the boycott.) 

For now, Mexicali Resiste may claim this as a small victory. However, Mexicali Resiste informs everyone that the boycott is still on until further notice as Constellation Brands has released a public statement saying they are not backing down and looking at ways to make AMLO change his mind.

A handful of bartenders and restaurants in Los Angeles participated in the boycott by choosing to not serve Modelo, Pacifico, Corona, and at the time Ballast Point products. But the boycott took on another level for Jennifer Feltham and Teo Diaz, co-owners of L.A.’s ambassador for Sonoran culture and cuisine, Sonoratown. Since Diaz grew up in Mexicali’s neighboring bordertown, San Luis Rio Colorado, about an hour away. “The boycott is why we never served any Constellation Brands products in the restaurant,” Diaz shares with L.A. Taco. Diaz and Feltham are one of the few restauranteurs who are willing to go on record with their decision to participate in the boycott.

“They were standing up for water, which is something so basic, we should all be supporting that.” He admits that the campaign didn’t get as popular here in the United States, but confirms that the boycott was honored by many in Mexicali. “It was hard at times when you’re with family and that’s the only beer they have,” Diaz starts. Feltham finishing his sentence: “In those situations, not to be a Debbie Downer, but we would inform people about what is going on. Most people were happy to have a conversation about this.”

“I’m happy that Constellation Brands is not getting away with this shit, especially in a system designed to give corporations power over the people,” Feltham says. 

For now, Mexicali Resiste may claim this as a small victory. However, Mexicali Resiste informs everyone that the boycott is still on until further notice as Constellation Brands has released a public statement saying they are not backing down and looking at ways to make AMLO change his mind. 

“Esperemos…” Mexicali Resiste tells L.A. Taco.

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