Two years ago today, Mexico was hit by earthquakes that resulted in the loss of more than 365 lives and laid bare the precariousness and poverty of thousands of people in the country’s central and southern states. In the immediate aftermath, many Mexican and international actors scrambled to provide humanitarian relief. It was Mexican community foundations, though, who became the linchpin of the recovery efforts, acting as first responders in coordinating humanitarian relief and later as leaders in rebuilding their communities’ social fabric, infrastructure, and economy.
In November 2017, two months after the earthquake, the Inter-American Foundation stepped in to support community foundations and strengthen their local leadership. Together with the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, we launched the Partnership to Support Post-Earthquake Recovery in Mexico and were joined by four other U.S. foundations: the El Paso Community Foundation, International Community Foundation, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
Our goal was simple: to unlock Mexican national and community resources to address long-term reconstruction and resilience in the affected areas. With our combined commitments, we mobilized nearly three-quarters of a million USD, which was then matched at a ratio of more than 1:1 by local Mexican resources. To date, we have funded four foundations: Fundación Comunitaria Malinalco (Mexico State), Fundación Comunidad (Morelos), Fundación Comunitaria Oaxaca, and Fundación Comunitaria Puebla.
A project in San Simón el Alto, Mexico state, exemplifies the value of the partnership at the community level. With money from the partnership, Fundación Comunitaria Malinalco granted $3,100 to Mezcladora, a grassroots organization partnering with psychologists from a local university to help students process trauma from the earthquake. Mezcladora also involved students and community members in designing a new library, creating a space where students can rededicate themselves to their education both symbolically and practically.
The post-earthquake partnership has offered important advantages for all involved. Donors, by channeling their resources through the IAF, have processed, monitored, and evaluated their grants more efficiently. Mexican community foundation grantees, by only reporting to one donor, have freed up time for their staff to carry out programmatic work, not administrative tasks.
On the eve of the second anniversary of the quakes, community foundations and others involved in the partnership reflected together on the lessons they had learned from working together. Said Luís Ruiz of Fundación Comunitaria Oaxaca, “All of the sudden we were thrust into the limelight. [Mexican] community foundations became relevant actors for civil society, the Mexican government, and business and corporate foundations… This partnership has allowed us to address the long-term effects of this type of natural disaster after everyone else moved on.”
Since the IAF started the original post-earthquake partnership, we have also collaborated with Levantemos Mexico, an initiative launched by Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna, and Documental Ambulante that is supporting community-led recovery and reconstruction efforts and documenting them through photography and film. In honor of the second anniversary of the earthquakes, they have launched Reconstrucciones (Reconstructions), an Internet platform and interactive map that shares stories of how communities have recovered and rebuilt.
The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened pre-existing inequalities experienced by vulnerable groups. Our grantee partners have found that increasing access to technology helps address these issues, connecting people to jobs, education, and social support.
In the wake of COVID-19, we have broadened our alliances with current partners to help at-risk communities adapt and recover. We have also identified promising new private sector partners and funding opportunities to scale our efforts even further.