Earthquake Recovery in MexicoIn the wake of the 7.1 magnitude earthquake that hit Mexico City on September 19, 2017, damaging thousands of buildings and killing at least 318 people, the nation of Mexico has come together in a number of ways to recover. One of the most notable ways is the “brigadas,” or the Mexican brigades consisting of volunteers that have helped pull people from the rubble. Ordinary citizens have been a major part of the earthquake recovery in Mexico.

Much of the initial response to the earthquake was formed out of frustration toward the Mexican government, which many citizens view as corrupt and incompetent. The Mexican armed forces, who have taken over much of the recovery, have been accused of gravely mismanaging the earthquake recovery. The military has simultaneously drawn ire for bulldozing buildings suspected of still having people trapped in the rubble, as well as wasting time and resources on futile rescue attempts. One of the higher-profile examples of the latter occurred when the navy spent days searching in vain for Frida Sofia, a 12-year old girl who later turned out not to have existed at all.

Another concern is that the trucks sent by the government with much needed food and medicine will end up being siphoned by corrupt politicians and criminals, or simply sent to places that do not need the aid. This fear is not unfounded; Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto and his Institutional Revolutionary Party remain very unpopular. Many do not trust the government on any level to handle the earthquake recovery in Mexico.

In spite of this, there have been some bright spots in the recovery efforts. Young people in particular have stepped up as volunteers. Social media apps like Facebook and WhatsApp have become critical tools in coordinating the earthquake recovery in Mexico. Some young people have joined the “brigadas,” which often venture into still-unsafe buildings to find survivors. Others have collected and distributed canned food to hungry citizens. Others still have used whatever talents they have, including music and performance, to entertain children in shelters who now have no home. Many volunteers have taken time off from their lives and livelihoods to assist in what ways they can.

Activists have also taken a stand to lead the way in the recovery. One notable example is a successful online campaign that has forced the major political parties in Mexico, set to spend record sums on the 2018 election, to redirect a quarter of the $375 million of public funds, originally earmarked by the National Electoral Institute, toward the earthquake recovery in Mexico instead.

Currently, many of the streets have been cleared, and people are going back to work and attempting to rebuild their lives. It may take years to fully complete the earthquake recovery in Mexico, but in a country known for its sharp socioeconomic divide, many Mexicans have been heartened by the way the earthquake recovery in Mexico has brought people together across class lines.

Andrew Revord

Photo: Flickr

mexican slums mexico city shanty towns
It’s no secret that President Trump has some choice words associated with Mexico, “wall” being one of the most frequently used. The President’s plans to complicate American ties with Mexico could have devastating effects on Mexico’s poor. Cutting back on economic ties with our southern neighbor could mean speeding up the economic degradation of Mexico’s poorest communities, exacerbating the issue of Mexican slums.

Top 5 Facts About Mexican Slums

  1. Mexican slums become breeding grounds for drug dealing and gang activity. Despite being among the richest nations in the world, Mexico’s poorest citizens live on less than $13 a day. The economic degradation leads many who live in Mexican slums to turn to drug dealing to support themselves and their families.
  2. One of the most commonly dealt drugs in Mexican slums is methamphetamine, a highly addictive stimulant drug that produces a high when inhaled or smoked. Desperate and impoverished, many residents of Mexican slums turn to dealing meth because it is a synthetic drug that can be made cheaply and sold for a high profit. The ease with which someone could make more money dealing drugs than working a real job is a telltale symptom of the depth of poverty present.
  3. The striking difference between affluent members of Mexican society and those who live in Mexican slums is most pronounced in photographs of Mexico City. Photographer Johnny Miller’s aerial photographs of Mexico City include brand new middle-class homes built right next to a rundown “barrio.”
  4. Approximately eight million people around the world live in slums, and in Mexico, most of those people are concentrated on the outskirts of the Mexican capital. Many rural residents travel to Mexico City in search of a better life only to wind up in shanty towns bordering the capital. However, many residents still believe that they and their families stand a better chance at finding a more dignified lifestyle in Mexico City than elsewhere. Al Jazeera reports on the Garduno family, who moved into Mexico City and lived with extended family in a small hut. Now, the Gardunos have their own home and are preparing to open a taco shop.
  5. Nezo-Chalco-Itza is the world’s largest slum, with about four million impoverished people living in it. The residents of this Mexican slum account for almost 10 percent of the population of Mexico City.

Mary Grace Costa

Photo: Flickr

Education in Mexico
Education in Mexico is often criticized for its absentee teachers, rundown facilities and poor examination results. These issues must be addressed to ensure that Mexican children receive quality educations and inspiration to continue their studies.

Many schools in Mexico have initiated innovative programs to provide children with more constructive learning environments. In August, Mexico City-based newspaper Reforma published a magazine advertising many such initiatives.

According to Reforma, 24,500 schools are now taking part in the Full-Time School Program (PETC), a program emphasizing indigenous languages, English, art, sport, culture, music and what UNICEF calls “participatory learning.” This learning model encourages communication, creativity, teamwork and technology use in interactive projects.

National Escala exam reports reveal that children enrolled in PETC schools obtain better results than do their peers, according to one PETC school headmistress. When implemented correctly, PETC has the potential to improve education in Mexico.

For a long time, education in Mexico focused exclusively on academic subjects without promoting the development of other skills. Schools today, however, have started expanding their curricula to give children new opportunities.

The Modern American School in Mexico City, for example, collaborated with the Cultural Center of Spain in Mexico to design an eight-month radio, newspaper and television production course. The course allows student to think creatively and learn new and exciting skills.

Other schools in Mexico City have incorporated dance into their curricula to promote physical fitness, creative expression and self-esteem. Dance programs also allow students more non-classroom time during the school day, reducing burnout and enhancing learning ability.

Private schools that have added dance, sports, music and art to their curricula have often experienced the best results. Mexico’s task now is to make sure public schools have the same opportunities for improvement. The country must also ensure that it has the necessary infrastructure, technology and personnel to support its efforts.

Christina Egerstrom

Photo: Flickr

Freedom from Hunger is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that is dedicated to ending world hunger as a means to end poverty. It is an internationally renowned organization that recently opened an office in Mexico City, Mexico. They focus on working with developing areas in the world that have a high prevalence of chronic hunger.

There are 24 countries that the organization currently works in: Bénin, Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Haití, Honduras, India, Madagascar, Mali, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, South Africa, Togo, Uruguay and Vietnam. The organization utilizes local organizations in the areas where they assist the poor to collectively organize methods that are efficient and effective in addressing chronic hunger in each specific location.

It is an organization dedicated to training in life skills and health education as a proactive method to reach out into the poor, especially those in the rural areas. The principles of the organization stem from the idea that ending hunger in the world is attainable through strategic and collaborative efforts. The key activities focused on are self help, collaboration, sustainability, innovation and research.

The organization was one of the first microfinance organizations to utilize research and evaluation techniques to illuminate the rate of success and program success. Freedom from Hunger has a plethora of types of research that it utilizes, both qualitative and quantitative. Freedom from Hunger relies on research regarding the quality and sustainability of development.

The types of research conducted range from randomized controlled trials to focus group interviews. The organization prides itself on honoring the results from all of their research and sharing them among their partners, the microfinance community and local partners.

In selection of local partners, Freedom from Hunger ascertains local knowledge and insight that provide relevant cultural, economic and social understanding of chronic hunger and poverty. Together with local organizations, it allows the organization to further asses the current challenges in providing services. It allows for realistic setting of goals and steps to combat these challenges.

The organization uses training and technical assistance as a method to support local organizations and to increase the amount of people they can reach. In addition, the education provided creates a continuous cycle of learning by ensuring the programs are locally owned and focused. Freedom from Hunger shares its information as a method to continue positive influence with local partners and nurture expansion by emphasis by adding value through microfinance.

Freedom from Hunger is an organization that encompasses the Millennium Goal number one, to help end extreme poverty and hunger. It is also an organization that demonstrates the seventh Goal of having global partnerships.

– Erika Wright

Sources: Freedom from Hunger, U.N. Millennium Project
Photo: Bag Standz

Poverty in Mexico
Although Mexico has the 13th largest economy in the world, poverty in Mexico City remains commons.

According to an article by The Huffington Post, poor people in Mexico make up half of the country’s population. “While the number of people living in extreme poverty fell… many more Mexicans are now worse off than they were when former President Felipe Calderon entered the last two years of a six-year term in which poverty swelled by nearly 3 percent”, the article states.

On the other hand, despite Mexico City being home to historical monuments and rich neighborhoods, another reality exists in which almost half of the city’s inhabitants are poor. Another article published by the BBC in 2006 argues that 40 percent of the city’s population lives below the line of poverty.

“This is a place of homeless street kids, piracy, pollution, crime, and 100,000 street vendors. At the same time, the rich live in a world of gated communities, rooftop swimming pools, and commuting by helicopter,” stated the author.

It is estimated that approximately 15,000 children live on the streets of Mexico City. Many children prefer such a lifestyle due to family disintegration and physical abuse, which are symptoms of poverty itself. Poverty in Mexico City causes devastation at home and cause arguments. But, sometimes these arguments become violent.

To make some pesos here and there, children would dress like clowns and entertain traffic at stoplights.

If drivers were impressed they would give them some money. Most of the time, however, drivers tend to ignore these children. With 15,000 children living in the streets, the working class in Mexico City has probably become desensitized to such an image.

On the national level, the number of Mexican children living in poverty is more absurd. According to a report by Fusion, the United Nations Children’s Fund “estimates that more than 20 million children and adolescents live in poverty in Mexico with more than five million living in extreme poverty.”

Whether people live in the streets or not, the BBC states, “at least 40% of the economy in the city is informal – people who do not pay taxes, and who make a living based on selling small amounts of things, from children’s books to luminous stars.”

These articles combined serve to show that despite Mexico’s progress throughout history, poverty is one of the many social issues that the country struggles to defeat. They also suggest that the poverty in Mexico City is bad, but not as bad as the poverty on the national level.

Juan Campos

Sources: BBC, The Huffington Post
Photo: Nick Rain