Thursday, September 28, 2017

offering a hand

In Mañana Forever?, Jorge Castañeda bemoaned the lack of civic associations in Mexico. Mexicans join charitable, educational, religious, and communitarian associations at a far lower rate than other Latin American nations.

Mexicans may not be joiners, but what 
Castañeda ignores is that Mexicans are more than willing to lend a helping hand to their neighbors in time of crisis.

The 1985 Mexico City earthquake is a perfect example. With a good portion of the city in ruins, the government slipped into denial and withheld the services of the army, the police, and firemen in rescue efforts. The police were eventually employed -- but to hold back the throngs of volunteers who thronged to help their neighbors.

Ironically, the rescue efforts were led by groups formed out of the 1968 student revolt. Along with unrelated individuals, they joined forces to help salvage what could have been a far worse tragedy.

We saw that same humanitarian expression again this month. When Mexico City and the surrounding area suffered another large earthquake, the first people on the scene were neighbors and passersby who ran to clear rubble and save survivors.

Barra de Navidad is 560 miles from Mexico City. But our little community organized to help the earthquake victims. Our local message boards have been filled with people offering assistance.

Last night, a group of Mexicans, expatriates, and tourists gathered to do even more. The gathering place was one of our more popular eateries -- Se
ñor Froy's. (Yes. Yes. I know. You intellectual property experts can just calm down.)

Froy offered up his restaurant to provide food for the mob that gathered and to provide a portion of his proceeds to the pot that was quickly filling up. The big event was a silent auction where the usual fare of restaurant certificates and lodging were on offer.

In the spirit of the evening, people also brought in personal items to auction. Paintings. Jewelry. Dinnerware. Beauty products. Baked goods. Anything that could be sold to raise funds. I saw a taxi arriving filled with bags of clothing to be shipped to Mexico City.

We will not know the total amount raised until later in the week. Money is still flowing in from up north -- and locally.

Some people are averse to these public displays of charity. I must confess that I prefer a more subtle approach.

But my preference for more anonymity ignores a crucial point. One that was inherent in Castañeda's criticism of the lack of civic associations in Mexico.

There is something powerful when people gather and act as a group to help others who have suffered a disaster. Last night's gathering was certainly stronger than each of us as individuals. It was the equivalent of an old-fashioned barn-raising. And I was happy to feel all that empathy.

The total amount raised will be an interesting piece of data. But it is probably the least important aspect of the evening.

The more important result is that a group of strangers saw their fellow humans in distress and joined together to do something about it.

And that is miracle enough for me on this fine morning in Mexico.


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