Conditions were bad enough in San Mateo del Mar before last week’s earthquake, which left five people dead and 500 homes damaged in this municipality of 17,000 on the coast of Oaxaca.
Some residents were saying earlier this week they had been abandoned by authorities, while Juchitán, just 26 kilometers away as the crow flies, was getting all the attention.
It wasn’t until four days after Thursday’s 8.2-magnitude earthquake that authorities arrived with aid.
Resident Martín Zaragoza told the newspaper Milenio that San Mateo had been neglected by officials.
“[Authorities] say that nothing happened in San Mateo, that there were no deaths or damage, but that’s not true.”
“[Officials from] the Civil Protection agency haven’t come here. We feel like we were abandoned,” said Roberto Duplan, a teacher whose school collapsed completely during the quake.
Two bridges also collapsed, and bent utility poles dot the San Mateo landscape.
Several roads and even houses disappeared into the Kirio lagoon, such as that of Navarrete Hidalgo, who told Milenio that as water began entering his house he jumped on to his boat and rescued his children as the dwelling sank.
Like many in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of the state, Verónica Figueroa’s has been sleeping in the street. “My house is destroyed . . .” she said as she served her husband and three children a meal of rice and beans.
“The market hasn’t opened, there are no tortillas or water, as all the wells are now buried under rocks,” she said on Sunday. “What are we going to do?”
Some 400 of Figueroa’s fellow citizens in the municipality’s Barrio Nuevo neighborhood have been wondering the same. They were cut off after a bridge collapsed, closing their only access by road.
The local political situation probably has not helped matters. A special election for mayor on September 3 was marked by an armed attack on a vehicle belonging to the state’s election institute. Three people were wounded and a young girl was kidnapped.
A small convoy of aid arrived yesterday from Puerto Escondido, a city about five hours to the west, but didn’t stay long because it was unclear what might happen to the goods they were carrying because of the political dispute. The convoy carried on to distribute its aid packages in nearby Asunción Ixtaltepec instead.
According to official statistics, 51% of the people of San Mateo live in “extreme poverty.”