Yesterday we experienced an intense 7.4 magnitude earthquake here in Mexico, leading many to draw comparisons to the epic 8.0 earthquake of 1985. The earthquake took place in Guerrero state very close to the border with Oaxaca state, but here in Mexico City the buildings were shaking and the car alarms were sounding. Friends in Oaxaca say it was the scariest earthquake they have lived through; they thought the buildings were going to collapse around them! Thankfully it seems the earthquake only inflicted minor damage throughout Mexico, some broken windows and cracks in buildings have been reported but today everything is running as usual.
Malia Obama is currently spending spring break in Oaxaca city, visiting the tourist sights with 12 classmates. Journalists are abuzz, fueled by the White House’s attempt to kill the story and speculation over the price tag of her trip. Per usual, questions about the safety of Mexican travel are being asked by the media – and the earthquake that took place yesterday has only increased coverage of her trip.
I can tell you after countless trips to Oaxaca and the surrounding towns that it is an incredibly safe city with warm and welcoming people who are eager to share their culture with visitors. Of course there is petty crime, but the violence that mars the border is unseen in Oaxaca and is as shocking to Oaxacans as it is to Americans. I sincerely hope the media will take this opportunity to examine the security situation in Mexico and realize that blanketing the entire country as dangerous is very inaccurate.
After the earthquake, the White House announced that Malia is safe and enjoying her trip. Mexican media have been publishing photos of Malia in Oaxaca (http://www.quien.com/fotogalerias/2012/03/19/las-vacaciones-de-la-hija-de-barack-obama-en-oaxaca) and reporting on where she is staying and what she is doing there. I can report that she and her friends are staying at the Camino Real hotel, which was formerly a convent before it was converted into a hotel (beautiful spot!). The group have visited the tourist attractions in Oaxaca — the Tule tree, the archeological Zapotec sites of Monte Alban and Mitla, and San Bartolo Coyotepec (the birthplace of black pottery). I am also very excited to report that they paid a visit to our very own alebrije carving town of San Martin Tilcajete! I am keeping my eyes peeled for reports of her purchases, but I think it is safe to assume that the Obama’s are now proud owners of an alebrije or two after her trip!
On our next trip to Oaxaca in a few weeks, we will have to find out if she and her friends bought pieces from our artisans and report back to you on any local gossip surrounding her trip. Hopefully there will be a fun vignette or two that we can share with our readers!