Mexican by heart, and above everything as a human being, it’s hard to express the impotence, pain and dread many of us felt after a magnitude 8.2 earthquake, strongest ever felt in more than a century, shook southern Mexico. As by now, more than 90 people were reported dead in the states of Oaxaca, Chiapas and Tabasco.* On Saturday, Government declared three days of mourning in memoriam of the victims.

Buildings collapsed and the earthquake produced extensive damage to infrastructure in some of the poorest states within the country. According to CONEVAL’s 2016 study in social development policies, almost 70% of the population in the state of Oaxaca, and 77% in Chiapas, live in moderate or extreme poverty, above national average (43.6%). CONEVAL’s poverty metrics encompass different variables such as economic welfare (income) and social rights (lag in education, access to health services and food, among others).

Now, you must be wondering: why is Arturo writing about poverty and how is this related to last Thursday’s quake in Mexico? Very well. The quality of living spaces and access to basic services are among the aforementioned variables that are taken into consideration while measuring poverty in Mexico. Numbers prove living conditions in Oaxaca and Chiapas are far from perfect. Building codes haven’t been tightened/developed enough to prevent extensive damage to infrastructure, the way it happened in Mexico City after the 1985 earthquake that killed thousands of people. Lesson’s were drawn and the city resisted the 8.2 earthquake. No major incidents were reported.

I’m not saying building codes in Mexico City cannot be perfected nor that these are THE solution to suffering harm from earthquakes. However, stronger constructions and tightened regulations could prevent buildings from collapsing like flimsy papercuts. Hence, less people would get trapped or die in debris.

Towards the 32nd anniversary of 1985 earthquake, and through this painful period of mourning, it comes a time of soul-searching, and mostly important of action, to address pending issues in southern Mexico. Living conditions must improve. Mexico, from north to south, east and west, deserves protection from harm. Our nation must always prevail. My thoughts with the families of the 8.2 earthquake’s victims, now and ever.

*Updated on Sunday, September 10th 2017 (21:00 hrs, Mexico City).

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