As the owner of PVDN, I do not write this column lightly. I am very sensitive about PVDN being mistaken as a tourism website and not serious news. I am red-faced with each email I receive about how PVDN accurately reporting news is bad for tourism. So before I tell you why you should plan a vacation in Puerto Vallarta (or anywhere in Mexico), let me tell you about my earthquake experience over the last two weeks in Mexico.
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I was in Oaxaca on the night of September 7, 2017. It was a stormy evening with lightening and thunder for a couple of hours. Just before midnight I was preparing for bed when I felt the house shaking. Everything happens in a split second. My first thought was ‘that’s the thunder shaking the house’, but then quickly I understood the reality as the shaking intensified, this was a massive 8.1 earthquake.
I have lived in Mexico for the last decade and I travel about 8 months of the year throughout Mexico. I am no stranger to earthquakes. No matter how many times you have gone over the ‘do’s and dont’s’ of earthquakes, it all is forgotten in that moment. My first reaction was to run outside. I opened my front door and just stood in the door-frame watching the 10-foot concrete wall around my home shake. I thought about going to the street, but I would need to cross under a concrete covered carport that I was afraid would collapse on top of me.
I grew up in the U.S. in a place where tornadoes are common. They always tell you that a tornado sounds like a train coming towards you, but I never experienced that with tornadoes. I did experience it with the earthquake. It was deafening. The sound of the ground, trees, cars, houses, fences, and windows all violently shaking throughout an entire city simultaneously. Every dog in the neighborhood was barking at the trembling ground. I could hear people in the streets screaming and crying, but my large privacy wall prevented me from seeing them.
I did not sleep that night. I made coffee and stayed awake chatting with my mom on Facebook. She had just retired in Mexico in February and lives in Oaxaca. It was her first earthquake, and to be honest, she wasn’t the only one scared. In fact for the next four nights I slept on the sofa next to my front door, fully clothed with a backpack with important items and documents next to me.
Life kind of went back to normal, as much as it can. I still stopped what I was doing every time a loud truck or motorcycle went roaring by my house. My neighbor is a door slammer, so I still jumped every time she was coming or going from her house. I did finally return to sleeping in the bed, but never all night. If I heard dogs barking I woke up to see if the ground was shaking.
I decided that my energy could be better used by heading further south in Oaxaca to help some of the hardest-hit areas of the state. Three friends and I departed Oaxaca City and headed to Juchitan after Hurricane Max had passed, yet another disaster that went without notice after the earthquake.
We continued volunteer work for several days, returning to Oaxaca City with plans to travel to Mexico City on September 19 to meet my PVDN co-owner. At about 1:00 p.m. on September 19, 2017, as I was preparing my travel bags, the house started to shake violently again. This time not as strong as the previous, but it lasted much longer. Within moments my co-owner in Mexico City was sending me video of destruction and smoke filling the skies over the capital. My heart sunk, all the anxiety that I had experienced after the first earthquake had returned.
My co-owner recommended I wait one week before coming to Mexico City, so I stayed in Oaxaca City, back to being fearful of sleep and jumping at every noise.
Finally, Friday I felt safe to return to sleeping in my bedroom. Saturday morning at a few minutes before 8 a.m. I was awoken by the 6.1 earthquake in Oaxaca. The third massive earthquake in Mexico that shook my home in ways that I could not have imagined until September 7.
All of my friends and family are safe and I would never wish this experience on anyone, which leads me to the purpose of this column.
Want to help Mexico? Plan a Vacation!
I would never put anyone’s life or health in jeopardy just to promote tourism to Puerto Vallarta. If I thought there was any risk I would scream from the top of the Mirador. If I thought for a moment that there was a risk of suffering the anxiety I have for the past two weeks, I would do everything to stop you from going though what I have been through.
More than ever, Mexico needs tourism. The tourism industry is the third largest revenue for the country, revenue that is needed to rebuild and help people recover from these tragedies.
Plan a trip to Puerto Vallarta, Guadalajara, Guanajuato, or San Miguel. Areas north of Mexico City have not been affected by the recent earthquakes, and places in the Yucatan are great choices as well. Mexico is a much larger country than many people realize. Of the 31 states of Mexico, where have the quakes caused damage? Mexico City, State of Mexico, Puebla, Morelos, Oaxaca, Chiapas. But even these states are worthy of a vacation. I am in Oaxaca City now and things are operating normally. Raspados and live music in the Zocalo.
Your tourism dollars generate federal funds for relief and help boost the economy of the country, all factors that will help the people of Mexico recover. And all you need to do is visit Mexico and have a great time.
If you are more adventurous, plan a volunteer vacation and head to places like Mexico City, Puebla, Morelos, Oaxaca, or Chiapas. These places were the hardest hit in Mexico.
By planning a relaxing vacation or volunteer vacation, not only do you contribute to the economy, but you help us move back to ‘normality’, which is something we desperately need.
The earthquakes were felt by 50 million people in Mexico, many of whom were personally affected. There is no doubt wherever you vacation in Mexico, perhaps that waiter or local shopkeeper is using the money that you spend to send back to their family members who have lost everything. We all know someone personally. So even going out to dinner and tipping your waiter can be life changing to someone in the quake zone.
So don’t cancel your Mexico vacation, and if you have been thinking about planning a vacation, consider Mexico. Your visit will be appreciated and it will show!