Twin earthquakes reveal Mexico’s deep inequities
It was also considerably stronger than the 7.1 magnitude earthquake, which claimed the lives of up to 200 people within Mexico’s capital on the 19th of September.
Mexico’s twin quakes. Reuters
Natural and man-made catastrophes
The latest earthquake rattled Mexico City 32 years to the day of it was the “big one.” I was just 11 when the earthquake struck, and I remember the government of President Miguel de la Madrid reacting to what can be described as criminal indifference. The first few days following the disaster, he did not allow the army to aid the victims and refused international aid.
The citizens from Mexico City, however, were out in the streets and distributed blankets, water, and food for those who were in need and helping neighbors get out of the rubble using their hand-held tools.
This time, the death toll is considerably less than in 1985. There were 78 deaths in Oaxaca, 16 deaths in Chiapas, and four deaths in Tabasco in the initial earthquake in 1985, and over 220 in this subsequent. This is in part due to changes in the regulations for building construction in the years since 1985, as well as the establishment of the Mexican Seismic Alert System as well as the National Civil Protection System.
However, the damage is overwhelming. Many structures located in Mexico City have suffered devastating destruction.
However, the states of Oaxaca and Chiapas Chiapas – Mexico’s two most impoverished states – that suffered the most severe hit. More than 2500 schools are severely damaged and more than 85,000 homes are affected – more than 17,000 beyond repair.
The effects of poverty are more severe, especially in southern regions. The average is nearly 46 percent Mexican households are living within poverty. However, 70 percent of the Oaxaca populace makes less the amount necessary to cover basic needs for families as per CONEVAL, the government’s agency for poverty reduction and 77 % of Chiapas households are in poverty.
Southern Mexico, long neglected by the federal government The state is worried that federal aid will not suffice. Reuters/Jorge Luis Plata
Both states have the most disadvantaged families earning just 37 pesos (US$2) per day, which is less than half amount of the Mexican minimal wage, which is 80.04 pesos or $4.50 each day.
The World Bank lists Mexico as the 15th-strongest economy around the globe; however, the wealth of Mexico hasn’t trickled into the states of the south.
This has left a lot of people in the field wondering if that sixteen billion Mexican pesos ($901 million) in federal disaster aid, which is available for two83 cities within Oaxaca in Mexico and 97 municipalities in Chiapas, will be able to get the place it is needed to go.
Uneven growth in Mexico is a constant problem. A recent report by the Bank of Mexico showed that in the second quarter of 2017, the Mexican economy was growing in the northern (0.9 percent) as well as the middle-north (1.2 percent) and central zones (0.7 percent), which are home to major cities like Monterrey, Guadalajara and Mexico City however, it contracted by more than 1 percent across the southern region.
If there is a silver lining in the twin earthquakes and the post-disaster reconstruction studies have given some clarity to the historic inattention to Chiapas Chiapas and Oaxaca together, which are home to nearly nine million Mexicans.
What did the earthquake reveal?
It’s not surprising that a lot of these residents are indigenous to Mexico. Upwards of 40 percent of Mexico’s indigenous peoples live in the southern states of Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Yucatan.
The fact that the majority of Mexico’s population in the south is indigenous in origin is not a coincidence. Reuters/Jorge Luis Plata
Their economic marginalization began in the colonial period. In 1813, an 1813 Chiapas religious leader, Mariano Robles Dominguez de Mazariegos, was a witness to Spain regarding what he described as ” violent humiliations” endured by indigenous people of Chiapas whom, according to him, led an existence full of ” agitation and continuous terror and distress” because they were treated with ” contempt and hatred.”
Two decades after, in 1994, on New Year’s Day 1994, the Zapatistas, whose ranks are made up mostly made up of not-so-rich Mayans from Chiapas and Chiapas used similar language to justify a rebellion by indigenous people over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that was just signed.