“Juchitán is screwed, nobody wants to be here.”
That’s the opinion of one resident of the largely indigenous city located in the south of Oaxaca that bore the brunt of the September 7 earthquake, one of the most powerful ever recorded in Mexico.
Almost seven weeks since the devastating disaster struck, the commercial hub of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region is still a long way from economic recovery.
Data from the local branch of the state chamber of commerce (Canaco) reveals that just 10% of the city’s 1,800 businesses have reopened after the initial September 7 quake and a smaller 6.1-magnitude tremor on September 23.
Canaco press secretary Diego Toledo explained that some of the businesses were forced to close because their premises collapsed completely while others shut because of the downturn in trade. Thousands of employees have lost their jobs, most without receiving any severance pay.
Landlords, in turn, have also been affected because they have lost their rental income.
Toledo said that in the aftermath of the earthquake the economy has experienced an 85% downturn.
“We did a study in August 2017 and we documented that even with the insecurity [of] the municipality . . . on average 20 million pesos were generated [in the economy] daily but after the September earthquakes, that figure dropped to 3 million pesos per day,” he said.
One of the victims is 52-year-old former landlord Leopoldo Torres. He lost his four commercial properties on the night of the September 7 earthquake and consequently lost all his income.
The 5 de Septiembre avenue, where one of his properties was located and what was previously the center of the town’s trade, is all but abandoned.
“All of this street was full of businesses, the residents of Juchitán and neighboring towns came here to supply their businesses: hotels, paint shops, clinics, clothing stores, pharmacies . . . here you could find all kinds of businesses. Now only one or two are open, the ones that are still standing,” he said.
In a region where seismic activity has become part of everyday life — there have been over 8,000 aftershocks since the September 7 quake — entering a damaged building is seen as risky.
“Nobody wants to be in a fractured building, it’s a risk. Nor do they want to be in a place where it hasn’t stopped shaking,” Torres said.
He is concerned not only about what the future holds for Juchitán but for himself as well.
“I’m not young anymore. Who’s going to want to hire an old man?”
“What I got from my shops was my only means of support. For now, my family is staying in a hotel in the state capital but when my savings run out, what’s going to happen? Juchitán is screwed.”
It’s not just the formal economy that is facing difficulty and uncertainty in the aftermath of the disaster.
The town’s main market was also destroyed, leading about two-thirds of the 1,200 stallholders to set up shop in the street on the periphery of the town’s main square.
But Adelma Villalobos, a vegetable vendor, told Milenio that the situation is far from ideal.
“Now that we are here we suffer from everything. Apart from people not coming, our things get wet. Three days after we set up here the rain started . . . the rain goes and the wind comes. We have to cover the vegetables because with the wind our tarp flies off and fills everything with dirt. Things are getting worse and worse,” she said.
Source: Milenio (sp)