Things That Matter

Mexico City Is Quickly Running Out Of Water And Residents Are Stealing Water Trucks To Get Water

One of the world’s largest cities, Mexico City is home to about 21 million people – rising to 27 million if you include the surrounding areas. About 20% of Mexico’s population lives there. And it could run out of water in as little as 30 years.

For years, there have been doomsday stories about the city’s impending water crisis. But how does a city with a six-months-long rainy season that sees abundant rainfall face such a severe crisis?

Despite flooding events and heavy rainfall, the city is facing a water shortage.

Credit: omgitsjustintime / Instagram

Given Mexico City’s original geography, its lack of water may seem strange. The city was built on an island surrounded by a large natural lake basin. But when the Spanish colonised Mexico in the 1500s, they dried out the lake to build a bigger city. This means that deep underground, Mexico City has fresh water reservoirs – which the city still depends on for about 40% of its water. In theory these natural aquifers should be replenished by rainfall. It can seep through water containment holes like these pictured here in this deforested patch of land.

But the shortage of water in the city means these natural water reserves are being emptied at a rate faster than they can be filled, especially during months of prolonged drought in the dry season.

“We are exploiting our local aquifers at a very high rate,” says Kramer. “At the same time, we haven’t invested enough resources to have a robust monitoring system. So there’s a lot of uncertainty how the local aquifers work.”

His team suggests that the aquifers could be depleted in 30 to 50 years, if current exploitation trends continue.

Much of this is because of the inefficient and ageing infrastructure of Mexico City’s water networks: some 40% of the water is lost.

Credit: Karrie Khan / NPR

One of the primary forms of mismanagement plaguing water distribution in Mexico City is a gargantuan amount of wastage. According to data from 2010, the city’s water system has an efficiency rate of 56.8%, meaning that a shocking 43.2% of water is lost across leakages or stolen.

In the same report, the government estimated that about 85% of water inefficiencies arose from leakages. It was exactly these leakages that the November megacorte sought to address. And CONAGUA has a plan in place to continue to make improvements to the city’s aqueduct system over the next five to ten years, with the hopes that transportation efficiencies can be substantially improved.

And like most crises, the poorest and most vulnerable residents are affected the most.

Credit: Karrie Khan / NPR

Indeed, throughout Latin America and the developing world, it’s the poor who pay the highest price for water scarcity and mismanagement. Low-income, especially rural families, are the least likely to have regular access to public water systems, meaning they sometimes pay 10 to 20 times more for water in absolute terms than their rich counterparts, according to the UN.

Some are not connected to the city’s water network and must rely on buying it per litre. This is the most expensive way to access water, explains Arnoldo Matus Kramer, the city’s chief resilience officer. “Therefore, we need to revise [how people get water] and understand that access to water is a human right.”

For instance, the Xochimilco community in the city’s southernmost district gets new water twice a week from water trucks. Donkeys then carry it the rest of the way to their homes.

Even farmers no longer have adequate access to the water they need to grow and wash crops. Intense droughts have dried up the water holes and wells they once used.

Much of the city’s water supply is delivered by trucks and these are at risk of cartel intervention.

Delivering water often puts drivers and workers at the wrong end of a gun barrel. Sometimes when the taps run dry in some of the city’s more dangerous neighborhoods, which are often at the heart of Mexico City’s water crisis, desperate residents — or thieves on the make — reroute tanker trucks at gunpoint to meet their needs.

Others illegally tap wells outside the city and fill unregulated tankers themselves. Stolen water of dubious quality can serve neighborhoods in need or be sold at a premium to meet demand, especially during a drought or when the city’s system is under repair.

The water that does reach poor communities is often untreated or of low quality, driving the health problems that make poverty that much more difficult to overcome.

Regionwide, waterborne illness impacts thousands of people every year. In Mexico, tainted water is the number one killer of children between ages 1 and 5.

The public tanker service that provides many residents in Iztapalapa with water to shower, wash dishes and prepare food is offered free of charge. But families that rely on it conserve and reuse much more than their share. While rich neighborhoods in Mexico City consume between 800 and 1,000 liters of water per person per day, poor neighborhoods use just 28 liters, according to a report from the city’s human rights commission.

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Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul Is Celebrating Her 113th Birthday With A Week Full Of Digital Events

Culture

Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul Is Celebrating Her 113th Birthday With A Week Full Of Digital Events

Museo Frida Kahlo / Getty Images

Happy Birthday Frida! Were the iconic Mexican artist alive today, she would be celebrating her 113th birthday. Few artists have captured the imagination of the world as Frida Kahlo did – both in life and in death.

The iconic Mexican artist lived a unique life full of success and heartache, which has truly helped create a strong fan base around the world. These days, Frida is still hailed as a feminist, LGBTQ+, and Chicano icon, the beloved artist continues to live on in the hearts of those who love her.

Frida Kahlo’s 113th birthday is full of free events that will help you remember her iconic legacy.

People in Mexico and around the world have shown an enormous interest in learning about the life and work of Frida Kahlo – the iconic Mexican artist. People are eager to learn more about the house where she lived, and which today is the Casa Azul; hear about her diary and how she painted despite her health problems, and learn more about her marriage to the muralist Diego Rivera and their unique relationship.

Well, if Frida Kahlo is also one of your favorite artists – you’re in luck! Her former home, the Casa Azul, has prepared a calendar of events and special activities that you’ll be able to attend from the comfort and safety of your own home.

The events will run from July 6-16 and thousands have already logged on to enjoy workshops, readings, and concerts – all free and online. Through the museum’s Facebook and YouTube profiles, this party can be closely followed along with acts by the Mexican tenor Benito Rodríguez, the soprano Olivia Gorra, the flute player Horacio Franco, the Pasatono orchestra and the Opera Studio Beckmann.

Frida’s Casa Azul will be hosting the events, where she called home for much of her life.

Credit: thatgaygringo / Instagram

Frida Kahlo was born Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo Calderón on July 6, 1907 and died on July 13, 1954. She spent much of her life at Casa Azul, in Mexico City’s Coyoacán neighborhood, so it’s no surprise that the museum has decided to celebrate the big day. In fact, it’s between those walls she was born and died.

Obviously, with the continued threat of Covid-19, the museum has decided to host all events online. In an interview with Milenio, museum director Hilda Trujillo said “Culture and art are an indispensable part of the life of society, as has been demonstrated during the Coronavirus pandemic. For this reason, we designed the program ‘Go for Frida!’ in which the Frida Kahlo Museum goes online to request the support of society, so that they can support us with donations to continue creating content for the whole world and continue to highlight Mexico’s art and culture.”

The series of events started on July 6 but will run through July 16 – here’s all the details you need to know about.

Credit: Casa Azul

The program kicked off on July 6 (Frida’s actual birthday) with a concert streamed on the museum’s YouTube channel. But over the ten-day period, the museum will also host various workshops, a reading of Frida Kahlo’s personal diaries, and a drawing contest.

Along with these activities, Casa Azul launched an online donation campaign. This is to help the cultural institution, which closed its doors on March 21 because of the Coronavirus and isn’t expected to reopen until September.

And don’t forget: the Frida Kahlo Museum also has a virtual tour. You can even view the museum’s collection through Google Arts & Culture. So you have no excuses to not celebrate Frida Kahlo birthday and rediscover her legacy.

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This Is What Mexico Looks Like As It Reopens During A Global Pandemic

Things That Matter

This Is What Mexico Looks Like As It Reopens During A Global Pandemic

Hector Vivas / Getty Images

Step outside into Mexico’s capital (home to more than 20 million people) and you’d be forgiven for not realizing we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic that’s killed more than half a million people.

As of this week, several Mexican states have entered the initial phase of reopening and Mexicans are taking full advantage of the newly found sense of ‘freedom’ – visiting restaurants, cafés and shops in droves. However, experts warn that Mexico will likely follow the dangerous path of the United States – which opened prematurely and is now having to shut down businesses once again as cases reach record levels.

Here’s an inside look into the daily reality of Chilangos (as residents of Mexico City are called) and what the future holds for the country amid Coronavirus.

Mexico City – along with 17 other states – have entered the first phase of a gradual reopening.

Despite being home to the largest number of active cases across Mexico, the capital joined 17 other states in a phased reopening this week. Mexico City lowered its contagion risk from a level red (the most extreme) to level orange, which permits some businesses to reopen.

However, Mexico City – on the day of the reopening – saw a record 5,432 new cases and 638 confirmed deaths. Mayor Sheinbaum said that the switch to orange was possible because hospital occupancy levels are at 59% and trending downwards. But to many, the government is prioritizing the economy over public safety and health. Several government officials insisted that it was safe to proceed to the reduced warning level but health experts disagreed.

The mayor stressed that if hospital occupancy levels go above 65% again, red light restrictions will be reinstated. She urged residents to continue to take precautions to reduce the risk of infection. People should continue to stay at home as much as possible and the use of face masks in public places remains mandatory.

Along with Mexico City, 17 other states moved into the orange phase of reopening – including tourist hotspots of Jalisco, Veracruz, Quintana Roo, and Yucatan.

The federal government instituted a traffic light system to simplify the risk management of Covid-19

Credit: omgitsjustintime/ Instagram

Shortly after the Coronavirus outbreak began, the federal government instituted a color-coded risk management system to simplify its messaging. With red being the highest risk level and green being the lowest, every state until June 15th was still in the red level.

As of July 1, 18 states are now in the orange level. This means that restaurants, cafés, and shops can begin to reopen with reduced capacity. Hotels and markets will also be allowed to resume service, meaning that tourism will likely begin to pick up again very soon.

President AMLO has been eager to get the economy reopened after it was reported that at least one million formal jobs have been lost and the country’s economy is expected to shrink by 8.8% this year.

On the first day of reopening, shops in Mexico City’s historic center were jammed full of shoppers.

Credit: Raul Hidalgo / Getty Images

The city’s historical center is a hub of economic activity. You can literally find pretty much anything you could ever want in these cobblestones streets. The district is home to more than 27,000 businesses and as of this week they’re now permitted to open once again. And resident wasted no time in hitting the shops.

Long lines formed outside shops with few people wearing masks and most stores not truly enforcing social distancing requirements. Some offered antibacterial gel and took people’s temperatures before allowing them to enter.

Officially, shops and businesses with an odd street number are permitted to open three days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, whereas even-numbered shops can open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

In order to prevent crowds from accumulating and promote social distancing, 31 streets were converted into pedestrian-only zones.

Restaurants, cafés, and shopping centers are all open for business – with some protective measurements in place.

Credit: omgitsjustintime/ Instagram

Even before the official change to semáforo naranja, several restaurants and cafés were already offering dine-in service. But now restaurants are officially allowed to operate at limited capacity, while staff are required to wear masks and shields, and restaurants are’s allowed to play music or issue reusable menus.

Street markets, known as tianguis, will also be allowed to restart which will help many of the city’s informal workers. And the following week, department stores and shopping malls will also be allowed to reopen at 30% capacity and with limited hours.

Mexico is hardly finished with the Coronavirus threat – in fact, cases have been reaching record levels.

Credit: Covid.gob.mx

Although not yet at the levels seen in the U.S. or Brazil, Mexico has been struggling with its response to the Coronavirus pandemic. As of July 1, the country has had more than 225,000 confirmed cases and almost 28,000 deaths, with Mexico City being the epicenter of the nation’s outbreak.

And the worst doesn’t appear to be over. In a Covid-19 situation report published Monday, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security noted that Mexico had reported a decreasing daily incidence for three consecutive days.

“However, Mexico does not yet appear to have reached its peak,” the report said. “Based on recent trends, we expect Mexico to report increasing daily incidence over the coming days. Mexico is currently No. 6 globally in terms of daily incidence,” it added.

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