Who Cares About Oaxaca?

26 Sep

Could it be you? How about you? I do! I do!

Just a quick update on behalf of my beloved adopted state of Oaxaca, in the ongoing horrors of earthquake aftermath. On September 7, there was an earthquake that registered as an 8.2 off the coast of Oaxaca and Chiapas in the Pacific. It was the strongest that had happened in 100 years, and it killed dozens of people, although you may not have heard about it.

I wasn’t there; I was actually busy getting ready to evacuate for Hurricane Irma here in Savannah. Conan and much of our family and friends were there, of course, and they were all lucky enough to be safe and to continue to have intact housing. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for many.

In the Isthmus region of Oaxaca, there was death and destruction. It’s nothing like the quake that happened days later, which still has the center of Mexico reeling. The numbers are not as horrific. The images are not all over the news like the flooding in Houston caused by the hurricane. This has not been a dramatic or much-publicized natural disaster, in the presence of so many “super” disasters in the world this season. I know there’s so much going on. There’s so much to care about and worry about. There are so many worthwhile organizations asking for money, because, let’s face it, good people are struggling and suffering all the time. Everyone deserves a chance to live decently and safely. So why care about Oaxaca?

<On the map, above Salina Cruz, you can see the towns of Tehuantepec and Juchitán, which were very hard hit. In that same area is San Mateo del Mar, where the volunteers in the video below have been spending so much time. >geo-mexico-oaxacastatemap2


Y’all probably already know all the reasons why I care about Oaxaca. But on top of that, let me just say, *&$%##! WHY? Why is it so expensive to be poor? Why do the most marginalized folks always get screwed so much harder? (Nevermind, my non-rhetorical answers are an entire other blog post. I’ll get back to that.) Oaxaca and Chiapas are two of the poorest states in Mexico. They are also home to the largest and most diverse populations of indigenous peoples in Mexico, with Oaxaca beating Chiapas in languages spoken and ethnicities in existence. Oaxaca is an amazing place, with wonderful, generous, and interesting people. (Did I mention it’s my adopted land? And that is has so much in common with my birthplace, Kentucky?) The thing is, Oaxaca is always getting screwed.  Oaxaca in general was already trapped in a cycle of poverty, and this disaster has brought total devastation to parts of the state. And there’s no help on the way.

Well, there’s no real government help at least. There are people working hard to come together and take care of business, but they need more help. There’s certainly even less chance of official help now that the other giant earthquake happened in Mexico. But here’s the reality: People (entire towns) who survive on well water now have sewage-contaminated well water. Folks who previously had homes of some sort now have nothing, and there’s no insurance coming through to rebuild. It’s still the rainy season, and some of the “lucky” families are those who have a tarp to sleep under outside in some places. In general, things are on the level of bad that most folks in the US are blissfully unfamiliar with. Here’s a brief and more concise video that explains and shows much better than I can.

One of the people featured in the video, Dr. Anja Widmann, is my children’s pediatrician in Puerto Escondido, who we very much love, respect, and trust. She has been working countless hours of uncompensated overtime to organize goods and funding, and additionally is volunteering her services as a doctor in desperate communities.

I know that many folks in the US are stretched thin economically, and many folks are already trying to band together and donate to other causes. There are so many worthwhile organizations to give to, and so many disasters- natural and otherwise- reeking havoc on our world these days. I get it. I’m stretched pretty thin myself. But just a few dollars can do so much for these hard-hit communities in Oaxaca. Help them get pipes for clean water. Help a family get a blanket or a tarp. Help a kid get treatment for the now-imminent outbreaks of diarrhea. Everyone in the world is worthy of basic health and safety, and there are so many things preventing that for so many people around the globe. I get it that maybe you’re already donating to too many causes. But half my heart is in Oaxaca and it seems like nobody is talking about or doing much about disaster relief there, besides a small local crowd in the state. The poor and indigenous in Oaxaca have been forgotten yet again. Please help change that if you can. If you donate to these kind volunteers, ALL of your donation will go to affected people in this region. Five or ten bucks might not make a big dent in your budget, but it might make a world of difference to someone in San Mateo del Mar.

“Although little by little this will cease to be news, the reality of the people will continue without returning to normal anytime soon” -Denise Lechner, cultural anthropologist in Oaxaca

The paypal account that you can donate to is:

P.S. Here’s a fun blog post by someone else that has some quick, interesting facts about Oaxaca if you don’t know much about this wondrous state yet.

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