Disaster Response Following Landslide in Mexico

Written by Plant With Purpose on October 8, 2012 in General

The New York Times posted a devastating but beautiful photo essay today titled “Weighed Down by History, a Town Slides in Mexico.” The stunning pictures and video  by Matt Black depict the utter destruction of Mitlatongo, Mexico. After massive rain and landslides, the entire town was swept away, and every person there had to relocate. What the photos don’t show is some of the hopeful moments as a community works to rebuild. Plant With Purpose Mexico has been involved in those rebuilding efforts in the Oaxaca region.  

Plant With Purpose Mexico staff worked to meet some of the most immediate needs that the local community members identified. They started by building latrines and a 70,000-liter cistern to provide clean water and hygiene, and they also worked with community members to establish family gardens as a source of nutrition.

The disaster was the direct result of deforestation. Prior to the landslide, Mitlatongo had experienced some of the worst erosion on earth. Up to five meters of its topsoil had disappeared, most of it washed away during seasonal rains. Along with the soil, the recent landslide, also took the homes and farms of the indigenous Mixteca families living in the Oaxacan town of Mitlatongo. Every one of those families were forced to relocate.


Sometimes this process, known as slumping, is relatively slow moving—about a meter downhill every day. Though not immediate, the result is still disaster: foundations torn away, houses falling apart, and farmland crumbling.

The community of Santa Cruz Mitlatongo was once a beautiful town with three-story houses and good farmland, but when the town was literally wiped away, local authorities relocated the entire community. The new location site was barren and ill- equipped for the influx of 550 people who had lost everything. The road to recovery for this community will be a long one, but Plant With Purpose is there to make sure they aren’t alone on the journey.  

For additional images of Plant With Purpose’s work in Mitlatongo, visit Development Director Doug Satre’s blog

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