Mexico is Drowning – Let’s Get Some Perspective…and Learn Some Lessons

By: Lisa Coleman

In the state of Tabasco, in the beautiful city of Villahermosa, Mexico is drowning. In case you’ve not heard about it in one of the thirty second gratuitous spots given to the disaster on the local U.S. news, or skimmed across it in a blurb page on the Internet, there was a massive flood in Mexico the last week in October. It is a life changing and horrible event for almost a million people.

The disaster began with torrential rains throughout the state and by October 31st, the rivers overflowed producing the worst flooding in 50 years. They report 900,000 people displaced and awaiting rescue or shelter. Governor Andres Granier reported that eighty percent of the state is under water, 100 percent of its crops have been destroyed and most of the state’s populations of two million are affected in a substantial way. In addition, 150 hospitals and medical centers have been flooded and are closed.

However, the good old American press doesn’t seem to find it important enough to warrant any considerable coverage. The media is happy to let you know that Christina Aguilera is pregnant and that Britney Spears is back in court battling KFed, but make it something devastating for some Mexicans and no one seems to find the time. That’s probably an exaggeration, but it sure hasn’t felt that way through this. Now I don’t want to get up on my soapbox again, but it seems odd to me that our news media can find time to do an extensive cover story on an offensive Halloween costume worn to the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s party, yet when it’s tragedy happening south of the border, it seems you have to dig for news.

As a journalist myself, I find it disturbing to see what has become of “news.” We are a celebrity obsessed, sensationalistic society that has lost track of what is real and what is important. Just so we are clear… People suffering and fighting for their lives in a flood in Mexico…. Important.  A mother sleeping with her daughter’s 13 year old pal, or a Hollywood writer’s strike…. Not important.

For another dose of perspective, TIME published an article today that, to me, is of considerable interest. Apparently, the U.S. could learn a thing or two from Mexico when it comes to disaster:

“Images of filthy water engulfing Mexico’s southern city as residents clung to the rooftops were reminiscent of the flooding that devastated New Orleans in 2005. But in the desolation of Villahermosa, there has been no widespread breakdown in law and order or four-figure death tolls. On the contrary, observers here say that Mexico’s rapid response to its worst flooding in recent history was a factor in averting a catastrophe on the level of Katrina.

Amid heavy rains, President Felipe Calderon ordered in thousands of soldiers, marines, pilots and federal police on Oct. 29, two days before the most damaging flooding hit. When the riverbanks finally burst, inundating some 70% of the city on Oct. 31, there were more than 60 helicopters buzzing through the skies carrying out nonstop rescue and relief missions. Calderon and half his cabinet then touched down in Villahermosa three times in five days, giving televised updates on everything from how to use satellite phones in shelters to the drop points of millions of bottles of water. “The reaction has been very impressive. If there were not such a fast and wide-scale response, the human cost of this tragedy would have been much higher,” said Helena Ranchal, regional head of the European Commission’s emergency relief fund.

There have been three confirmed dead in Villahermosa, although there are still dozens of people missing and many more have died in landslides unleashed by the rains in the nearby mountains of Chiapas. While some looters broke into Villahermosa’s stores and houses, the robbery was on a relatively small scale as police handed out food, water and medical packages and contingents of rifle-wielding soldiers stood on every corner. Navy and marine boats also took rapid control of the waterways that sprung up on the engulfed streets that were infested by dog carcasses. “You never felt that the government had totally disappeared even though our homes and city had been destroyed. You saw that officials were here and some help was coming in,” said Javier Mendoza, 43, who fled his house with his family of eight on a navy boat.”

It’s not all been perfect, that’s for sure. It never is in these situations, but they are making a hell of an effort. In addition, in the aftermath of the flooding, Calderon announced the entire state of Tabasco would have free electricity until February to help alleviate their problems. There are people in need, and unlike some governments, Mexico’s is stepping up and getting it done. So, please, take the time to read more about this tragic disaster and let people know there are plenty of ways to help. You may have to dig past all the celebrity babble and ridiculous Jerry Springer type stories, but there are people in a town you probably never heard of that need your care.

I have searched some sites and found that a blog spot on a site called Root Coffee has a very detailed and extensive list of places to help. Take a look at their site and read some of the blogs from those who have friends and family there. This is one of those important things so let’s get some perspective and see what we can do to help.