Devastating Earthquake Hits Oaxaca
Last Thursday night, Oaxaca experienced an 8.2 magnitude earthquake with an epicenter off the coast of Oaxaca and Chiapas. While it was a frightening event for Puente staff and communities, the 30 communities we serve in the Central Valleys and Mixteca Alta as well as Oaxaca City were relatively unaffected with relatively minor structural damages. Unfortunately, over 40 communities in the regions of the Istmus of Tehuantepec and Sierra Mixe were devastated by the earthquake. Casualties are currently estimated around 100 people as a result of collapsing houses, hospitals, schools, buildings and infrastructure. Our hearts go out to all of those affected in the Istmo and Sierra Mixe.
In response to this tragedy, tens of thousands of Mexicans have come together to donate supplies, food, medicine, and funds to deliver directly to communities in need in the Istmo and Sierra Mixe. It has been inspiring to see the strong response of Oaxacans, Mexicans, and the international community, working late into the night and leaving work and other responsibilities behind to focus on the relief effort.
Puente recognizes the complexity of humanitarian aid efforts and importance of working to strengthen grassroots organizations that have a continuous, on the ground presence and relationship with communities as they rebuild. In 2011, the community of Tlahuitoltepec suffered a destructive mudslide. As Puente worked in Tlahui at the time, we dedicated a year to raising funds and direct relief efforts in conjunction with local stakeholders, grassroots NGOs, and international aid organizations. Based on this experience, we emphasize the importance of supporting trustworthy local organizations with a community presence.
As ecently published in the New York Times and widely discussed in local circles, the humanitarian efforts in the Istmus will likely become politicized and there is widespread distrust of the efficacy and transparency of government-led aid efforts. We therefore strongly recommend supporting grassroots and civil society aid efforts, and would recommend giving directly to the following aid efforts if you are interested in making a contribution:
- Instituto de Artes Gráficas (IAGO) - a grassroots relief effort led by Francisco Toledo, a famous artist who is from the Istmo, coordinated directly with friends and allies in Juchitán.
- Fundación Comunitaria Oaxaca - the Oaxaca Community Foundation has created a special fund to assist with continuous aid efforts in the Istmo, promising to coordinate with civil society and government.
- Ser Mixe - an NGO supporting relief efforts in the Mixe region.
- Indigenous Professionals Association for Support, Defense, and Translation - an NGO that works in human rights in indigenous communities.
Thank you kindly for your support and well wishes for Oaxaca. We will plan to continue our work with rural Oaxacan communities to strengthen local economies and resilience. We stand in solidarity with the affected communities of the Istmo and Sierra Mixe, and will continue working to strengthen grassroots efforts for immediate aid and longer-term rebuilding.
Con fuerza y solidaridad,