Quake-damaged pizzería: who needs a roof? Quake-damaged pizzería: who needs a roof?

‘Not a great hotel but service from the heart’

Business owners rally and rise from the rubble in Juchítan

Through innovation and perseverance some people making the best of a bad situation in Juchitán, Oaxaca, where thousands were left homeless and jobless by the September 7 earthquake.

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Among businesses that have refused to be deterred by the disaster is El Gratín, a popular local pizzería that lost the entire roof of its dining area. Somehow, its kitchen remained intact.

Faced with the necessity of getting back to work, the owners decided to reopen the restaurant despite its state of disrepair and now serve their pizzas to hungry customers who dine al fresco.

One of the owners, Enrique Morales, explained to the newspaper Milenio that the families of 10 workers depend on the pizza shop for their survival, adding that he was considering maintaining its current incarnation given its popularity with the clientele.

Some repairs, however, are needed and Enrique complained that the premises had not been included in the official damage census, meaning that the cost will likely need to be covered by the owners.

Another business that has risen again from the rubble is the Xcaanda Hotel.

When guests ran terrified from their rooms shortly before midnight the night of the quake, the husband-and-wife team that owns the hotel was not only concerned about everyone’s safety but also the ongoing viability of the business.

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“We had a 60% guest [occupancy rate] but the next day everybody left, we were without electricity, we lost bathroom fixtures . . . everything that enabled us to offer better service came down,” Victor Toledo said.

But by improvising, Victor and his wife Carmen managed to reopen just two days after the disaster.

Victor Toledo explained that he has been completely honest with new guests who have arrived, explaining that he could offer them rooms that had been ruled safe by local authorities but which still had recently repaired cracks, unpainted walls and were without hot water.

“That’s how we were able to reopen in 36 hours, without the swimming pool, without a lot of things, by telling them that we are in the process of repairs, that it’s not a great hotel but what we are giving them is from the heart and they’re [still] going to get the classic tortilla chips, shrimp and cheese,” he said.

Cruz Pineda is another quake victim whose livelihood was adversely affected but through perseverance and hard work, has managed to slowly restart her business.

Her home doubled as her workplace but was severely damaged in the earthquake, leaving her with nowhere to prepare the home-cooked meals that she delivered to homes around Juchitán.

Despite the setback, her customers didn’t abandon her and now, alongside her husband, she has returned to making meals in an improvised space that functions as a kitchen by day and a bedroom by night.

Losing her stove in the quake — and without the means to buy a new one — means that she now cooks over charcoal but, according to her customers, the food tastes better than ever.

More than two months after the incident, Pineda said that she and her family are slowly starting to turn things around but, with the rebuilding of their home still some way off, being patient, she maintained, comes before everything else.

Economic activity in Juchitán plummeted by 85% in the aftermath of the earthquake and rebuilding and recovery across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region is likely to take some time yet, meaning that the patience prioritized by Luz Pineda will indeed be a virtue.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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