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Posts Tagged ‘earthquake relief’

It’s been two months since a lethal 8.2 earthquake devastated the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca.  For a brief time, this oft-neglected state had captured the attention and relief efforts of Mexico and the world.  Aware that relief supplies were desperately needed, I was informed that my friend and manager of Casa Colonial B&B, Amado Bolaños, with the blessings of the Casa’s owner Jane Robison, was driving supplies to villages in the Isthmus.  Within 24 hours of returning to Oaxaca on September 16, I filled three large trash bags with clothing, sandals, sheets, and towels for him to take.

Unfortunately, the focus soon shifted.  On September 19, a deadly 7.1 earthquake hit central Mexico and caused severe damage to several neighborhoods in Mexico City.  And then there were the hurricanes….  As a result, the damnificados (victims) of this second poorest state in Mexico continue to suffer the effects of the strongest earthquake to hit Mexico in a century.  Thus, Amado continues to carry pickup truck loads of needed items to stricken communities.

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Amado Bolaños speaking at the Casa Colonial earthquake relief fundraiser

So, last week I wasn’t surprised to receive the following email from Amado addressed to Casa Colonial friends:

It’s been a while since our last email, many good and bad things [have] been happening all this time. One of the bad things are the earthquakes in different parts of Mexico and of course in our dear Oaxaca state. Although the situation in Oaxaca city in not bad at all, things at the Isthmus of Oaxaca are not so great, many many entire families lost their homes and they are living in a horrible situation.

Personally with the help of many of you,  I have  been taking trips to these places, carrying  food, medicines tarps and other things, that my paisanos are in need of.

This is why CHEAP SEATS AND CASA COLONIAL are putting together a Benefit Concert this coming Sunday the 5th at 4pm

All the money collected would be used to get more tarps and food that the Istmeños are in need. The donation entrance fee would be $200 pesos per person and of course you can also bring the following:

• rice • beans • painkillers • powdered milk • toys • clean clothes (in good condition), for adults and many more for kids and babies • tarps • water • canned food • diapers.

If you think in anything else, bring it over, I`m sure we can figure it out.  Muchas gracias por todo…see you guys this coming Sunday….we´ll have hamburgers, hot dogs and margaritas of course

blessings
Amado Bolaños
Casa Colonial Manager

Of course, I went.  The hamburgers and margaritas were yummy and, as you can see from this brief clip, the music by the Cheap Seats was rousing and had the crowd clapping and cheering.  However, the purpose of the event was not forgotten and during intermission, Amado painted a heartfelt and revealing picture of the conditions people in the Isthmus are still having to endure.  Formal relief efforts and agencies are scarce and aftershocks continue.  One of the medicines, which he didn’t have access to but was much requested was for anxiety.  And, he told the story of a 3-year old coming to get a relief package for his family and, when asked where his mother was, he was led by the boy to what remained of his home and discovered the mom sheltered under a tarp where, with the help of another woman from the village, she had given birth to twins the night before.

If you can made a donation, please contact Amado Bolaños at Casa Colonial B&B.  You can be assured your donation will go directly to the people who are in most need, not into the coffers of some politico and his cronies.

Amado Bolaños
Phone: +52 951 516 5280
Email: oaxaca@casa-colonial.com

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In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.  — Anne Frank

Last night, I watched the pleading (and currently homeless!) mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Carmen Yulín Cruz, BEG the U.S. government for more help following Hurricane Maria, which has devastated this U.S. territory.  Power may not be restored to the island for months, hospitals are without medicines, and people are dying.  This morning I awoke to news that the U.S. president, up bright and early in the luxurious comfort of his New Jersey golf club, had taken to Twitter to personally attack San Juan’s mayor.  Why?  For doing her job!!!  I was both livid at the Twit-in-Chief and incredibly sad for Puerto Rico.  Where is the understanding?  Where is the empathy??  Where is the humanity???

And then I read my Mexico City based friend, Cristina Potters’ latest Mexico Cooks! blog post.  Cristina, thank you SO much for reaching out to and translating the words of “Al” — this is what humanity looks like.  With Cristina’s permission, here is her post:

Mexico City Earthquake :: We Interrupt Our Regular Programing…

At 11:00AM on September 19, 2017, the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, the nation as a whole took a few moments to sound its earthquake alarms as a test run for city residents to practice precautions, and as a memorial to the many, many thousands of people who lost their lives in Mexico City that day so long ago.  The earthquake alarm is arguably the most shocking sound in this city where I live.  There are 8000 alarm speakers set up, one in every neighborhood; one of them is just on the corner, only one door from my apartment building.  The horrible and unmistakeable sound–alerta sísmica alerta sísmica alerta sísmica, accompanied by unspeakable sirens–comes directly into my home office window.  As 11:00AM approached, I steeled myself and warned the cats; the alarm went off as scheduled, stopped within a minute or so, and we all breathed a sigh of relief.



Two hours and fourteen minutes later, all hell broke loose.  A massive earthquake, 7.1 on the Richter scale, shallow and with a nearby epicenter, crashed into Mexico City with no warning.  Due to its proximity, there was no time to sound the alarm until the quake had already started.  As is usually the case, the neighborhood where I live and the neighborhood nearest me were hardest hit.  There are geological reasons for that, but no need to elaborate on those now.  Parts of the whole city sustained serious damage; at last count, about 50 buildings collapsed, thousands more are in danger of collapsing, more than 400 people lost their lives, and thousands more are seriously injured.



On September 24, a young Mexico City woman whom I do not know used social media to express her thoughts, feelings, and experiences as she volunteered with an earthquake relief effort day.  I contacted her and asked her permission to translate her writing into English and publish it here.  She calls herself “Al” and she asked that I not publish a photograph of her.  She says she’s not a writer, although in my opinion she most definitely is.
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“Yesterday I spent six hours helping at Ground Zero on Calle Escocia, in the Del Valle neighborhood of Mexico City. I had stayed overnight at my parents’ home, and got up at 6:30AM. My mother made breakfast for me while I was getting ready, and then I lined up to go to the place where volunteers were to gather.



Those in charge explained to us that we women were to pass empty buckets to the Mexican army, who were going to fill them with rubble and then pass them to two lines of men who were behind us, pressed up against the walls. The army was to move any metal, glass, furniture, and other more dangerous objects. They knew how inexperienced most of us volunteers were and they didn’t want us to run any risks.



In order for us to go in, they gave us equipment—helmet, gloves, vest, and face masks. They used permanent markers to write our name, a contact number, and blood type on our arms. They vaccinated us against tetanus.

And then we went into Ground Zero in silence, our cellular phones turned off. Right after a 45 minute delay due to the scare of the second earthquake [Saturday 23 September, a 6.2 aftershock from the earthquake on September 7, 2017], the army immediately put us to work. We had to wait while Civil Defense made sure that it was safe to go into the building.



My eyes could not believe what they were seeing: I had never seen a collapsed building, never thought how a structure so strong and solid could become a mountain of rubble and memories. The “line of life”, as we called it, began its work, and we put thinking aside in order to be able do our job.



While we were actively working, other volunteers continuously offered us donated water, electrolytes, candies, tamales, and hard-boiled eggs. We volunteers preferred not to eat; we just took candies and left the food for the army and the engineers. Doctors came through continuously, asking if we were feeling all right, putting drops in our eyes, and helping people out of the building if they looked over-tired.



Passing buckets, even the big paint-bucket size ones we had, seems simple, but after an hour I felt blisters on my hands and cramps in my shoulders. I knew I was not the only one tired when buckets began to drop from the hands of other volunteers. Some shouted, “Be careful! Those could break!” The men tried to make us feel better, saying we were doing great work.



Meanwhile, we tried to concentrate so as not to delay the work as we watched pieces of other people’s lives go by: shoes, photographs, chairs, clothing, blankets, pictures from their walls. Objects that they surely obtained from their own efforts and dedication, and now they are nothing. A wheelbarrow, thrown aside by the masonry workers who were removing bigger pieces of the wreckage, grabbed my attention. In the wheelbarrow was a set of brand new drinking glasses, still in their wrapped box.



As the women at the head of the ‘line of life’ withdrew, those behind them advanced. I came closer to the head of the line, and suddenly I saw a car among the ruin of the building’s parking garage: a bright-red Nissan Sentra, undamaged. Nevertheless, the garage entrance is blocked, so the car will never get out unharmed.



Nobody is taking selfies, nobody is playing music, no one talks, no one makes jokes or acts lazy. Respect is tangible. The entire area is filled with mourning. Yesterday, workers here rescued a pug dog and a cat, which tells us that there is still the possibility of life among the rubble. If we do our work efficiently, it could make the difference between life and death….”  [Please read the full article HERE — I warn you, there may be tears, but you won’t be sorry!]

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In Oaxaca city, while nerves remain on edge, life is going on as usual with only a few signs of the recent earthquakes:  Buildings years ago labeled “inmueble en mal estado” (property in a bad state) now sport yellow caution tape, as does Templo De La Virgen De Las Nieves, which has a huge crack along one of the bell towers.  And, on my block, a plywood retaining wall has been erected to contain a wall that collapsed back in 2012.

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Those atrapada (trapped) by the September 7th and September 19th earthquakes have mostly been rescued, though réplicas (aftershocks) continue daily, especially in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region — still in the 4 to 4.5 on the Richter Scale (though not felt in Oaxaca city).   Damnificados (victims) and escombros (debris) are all that remain in the hardest hit areas but tens of thousands of people are being forced to live in the streets.  To add insult to injury, they must cope with torrential downpours and flooding from this very long and destructive rainy season.

Fundraising events are being held and centros de acopio (collection centers) have been set up to gather donations, with countless volunteers traversing damaged and dangerous mountain roads to deliver supplies.  The need is massive!

HOW YOU CAN HELP:

Como Ayudar – A large international list of information and links regarding assistance and distribution of goods to help those affected by the most recent earthquakes in Mexico.

How To Help The Earthquake Victims In Mexico City, Morelos, Puebla & Oaxaca – List of organizations collecting monetary donations, compiled by Mexico City based food writer, Nicholas Gilman

In addition, a couple of friends have asked me to publicize small organizations they are working with:

Help to San Mateo del Mar, Oaxaca, Earthquake Victims – Norma Schaefer, of Oaxaca Cultural Navigator, is getting the word out on the earthquake relief efforts of cultural anthropologist Denise Lechner and medical doctor Anja Widman.

SER Mixe – An indigenous organization serving the Mixe people in the Mixe region of Oaxaca; recommended by Margaret Macsems, general manager of Khadi Oaxaca.

*** Words in red type have become hardwired in my brain — new Spanish vocabulary I wish I didn’t have to learn under these circumstances.

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A skein of yarn waiting to be woven…

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Agave blossoms reaching for the sky…

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Ceramic sculpture of a Tehuana by Fran Garcia Vásquez.

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Ooops, a broken arm!  It seems appropriate that my only casualty from the 8.2 earthquake depicts a woman from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec — the region where some of the most severe damage in the state of Oaxaca occurred.  However, like the people she represents, she is strong, proud, and healing will happen.

If you want to help the victims of the September 7 earthquake, please see my previous post.  If you do, reward yourself by watching last night’s benefit at the Guelaguetza Auditorium, Oaxaca Corazón.  And, if you don’t, perhaps this spectacular concert will encourage you to donate to earthquake relief.

This all-star event, organized in less than a week by Lila Downs and Susana Harp, will have tears falling — I guarantee it!

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Late on the night of September 7, 2017, in the mountains of Telluride, Colorado, my phone dinged — a message from a friend in Oaxaca concerned about my 91 year old neighbor.  That was my first news of the largest earthquake to hit Mexico in a century last week.  Needless to say, I spent half the night monitoring news sites, emailing, messaging, and checking status updates by friends and neighbors on Facebook.  Thankfully, all friends and neighbors came away relatively unscathed — save for severely frayed nerves.

The epicenter of the 8.1 (8.2 according to Mexican authorities) earthquake was off the coast of Chiapas.  Given its geography, the state of Oaxaca has been hard hit.  The red bullets on the map below show some of areas in the state most severely affected.

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As of yesterday, the death toll was up to 91.  According to reports from Oaxaca’s governor, more than 800,000 people in the state potentially lost everything and in Juchitán de Zaragoza, in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region, 5,000 homes were destroyed.  The earthquake also devastated the mountain communities of the Mixe.

Oaxaca and Chiapas are two of the poorest states in Mexico and help is urgently needed.  Maestro Francisco Toledo, who is from Juchitán, is collecting funds through his non-profit, Amigos del Instituto de Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca y del Centro Fotográfico.  For details see below:

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Oaxaca earthquake relief is also being solicited by the following organizations and individuals:

CADENA (Comite de Ayuda a Desastres y Emergencias Nacionales A.C.)
BANAMEX
Sucursal: 7009
CUENTA: 189458
CLABE: 002180700901894588
https://cadena.ngo/dona

The Harp Helu Foundation will match 1 X 1 for any contributions directly to:
Citibanamex
Cuenta 23, Sucursal 100
CLABE: 002 180 010 000 000 235
Formento Social Banamex, A.C.

The government agency, DIF Oaxaca is taking donations:
• Voluntariado DIF Oaxaca, Avenida Juarez 914, Col. Centro
• Hangar del Gobierno de Oaxaca, Aeropuerto Internacional, Santa Cruz Xoxocotlan
• Gimnasio Ricardo Flores Magon, Derechos Humanos s/n Col. America Sur
• Oficianas Centrales DIF Oaxaca, Vicente Guerrero 114, Col. Miguel Aleman

Casa de Esperanza House of Hope Anabaptist Community Church is receiving donations in any form (groceries, baby food, money, etc.) to be sent to the coast where many have lost their homes or family members. Please bring your donations to: Casa de Esperanza— Camino Nacional 929-3 Ixcotel Oaxaca Oax Te l 9 5 1 1 7 6 3 1 5 3

Omar Alonso of Oaxacking has set up a YouCaring crowd funding site to aid in relief efforts in Juchitan.

Flor Cervantes, who founded, Mujeres de 8 de Marzo in Juchitan, is collecting funds for the refuge.  For more information call her in Oaxaca at:  951 125 02 48

And, the Oaxaca Lending Library is working on collecting and sending supplies and money to the areas in Oaxaca most affected.

If you aren’t dealing with hurricanes Harvey and Irma destruction, PLEASE HELP Oaxaca!!!

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