Community kitchen in Juchitán. Community kitchen in Juchitán.

Matriarchs are feeding the people of Juchitán

Community kitchens feed the newly homeless in this city of the isthmus

Society in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca has long been matriarchal. Today, it is the women who have taken up the challenge of healing the soul of the people after the September 7 earthquake.

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In Juchitán de Zaragoza thousands of families have lost their homes and have to sleep in the street, but the matriarchs are keeping them fed.

Thirty-nine community kitchens are operating in Juchitán, feeding the thousands people who found themselves homeless in just seconds. It is the Zapotec women who organize the cooking and distribution of meals, without any official participation.

Instead, the latter has come in the form of citizens’ mobilization. One such citizen is painter Francisco Toledo, who left his hometown of Juchitán 30 years ago. Relief efforts spearheaded by him have been among the strongest in the aftermath of the catastrophic quake.

After Toledo heard about the women and their community kitchens he decided to fund them to keep the effort going as long as it’s needed.

Every day, staples of the kitchens of Juchitán are served in the community kitchens: chicken and rice, black corn tamales, eggs, coffee and pastries.

“The kitchens are outdoors, on the streets, under plastic and tarps. The people gather and sit on stools, chairs or even on the curb to get their meal. Rain at times soaks the charcoal used to cook, but not even that keeps us from feeding our people,” said Micaela, one of the many cooks, in an interview with the newspaper Milenio.

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Each kitchen can feed up to 200 people at a time, and although the hungry have to queue up, the wait is well worth it “because the touch of the women heads of families always heals the soul,” one of those in line said.

Although many are being fed, there are other demands — tarpaulins, for example, to keep off the exceptionally heavy rains the region has seen.

Government officials said 17,000 tarps have been distributed and more were on the way. But one obstacle to moving goods into the region is the cost of freight.

Local citizens have asked for a break on the price of fuel to reduce shipping costs. A single truckload from the city of Oaxaca can cost up to 10,000 pesos (about US $550).

Source: Milenio (sp)

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