As seen in the October 2017 edition of Eco Latino (Ottawa)
Mother Nature hasn’t been good to the Caribbean and Mexico these last few weeks. Hurricanes in the former and earthquakes in the latter have created worry.
The clean-ups will be long and costly. However, in these hard times, I find relief in Mexico.
To be clear: the Mexican earthquakes have been tragic. Anywhere where an earthquake destroys buildings and kills hundreds is a place that deserves a spot in any news cycle.
But at these times, it’s important to pause and see Mexico for the country it is. Mexico is better equipped to deal with these tragedies than other Latin American or Caribbean countries—by international measures, Mexico is better developed (Mexico is one of two Latin American countries in the OECD. The other is Chile.) and has made moves in recent decades which may have saved thousands of lives leading up to the 2017 earthquakes.
Earthquakes aren’t new to Mexico. For instance, the 8.0 Richter scale earthquake that shook Mexico City in 1985 killed thousands of Mexicans (estimates range from 5,000 to 45,000) and resulted in the collapse of over 400 buildings.
After that quake, new codes were implemented to strengthen buildings: buildings are now required to have reinforced concrete as well as better load distribution. One Mexican engineer told the Agence France-Press that these regulations likely saved thousands of lives during the most recent quake.
He may have a point. The damage in the 1985 quake is arguably much worse than that of the September 19, 2017 quake, which (at the time I write this) has so far claimed 308 lives and 44 buildings—far less than the thousands of lost lives and hundreds of lost buildings in the 1985 earthquake.
These codes are a sign that Mexico has learned from its past, and it’s a sign that Mexico can rebuild. Leave no doubt: the latest quake is a tragedy, but it’s one the country can overcome.