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Vulnerability to natural disaster is nothing new to the people of a vast majority of the regions of Latin America. A few several natural disasters within recent decades have proven this to be true The Mexico City earthquake of 185 and Hurricane Mitch in 188. In evaluating both separate afflictions to Latin America by nature, it can be said that the primary reason for such extreme vulnerability is because of poor government preparation and response methods. If in fact there were to be an increase and greater emphasis on well expressed initiatives for governments to limit the devastating effects of natural disasters, then perhaps this would be an ideal way to reduce catastrophic susceptibility overall.

In exploring the variety of geographical compositions within Latin America, it is clear that landscapes contribute greatly to ruthless natural assaults. As indicated in the September 10, 00 lecture by Professor Diana Liverman, examples of such land hazards can be seen as “steep slopes, unconsolidated material, poor soils, sparse vegetation cover, low-lying coasts & valleys and changing climates.” Though such happenings are common, it is the factor that human beings are put in the middle of these lands that complicates matters and sky-rockets vulnerability risks. In the event of Hurricane Mitch, human vulnerability was a result of events such as deforestation in Honduras that later lead to soil erosions that were linked to the displacement of several farmers that were forced to live in unstable hill and riverside areas (Liverman 78). With a large number of Honduras’ poor living in such conditions, it only intensified the overall impact of Hurricane Mitch as it swept through the poverty-stricken lands. As for the earthquake in Mexico, the landscape was also seen to be a great contributor to the amount of damage done. Historically, Mexico City is built upon an old lake, carrying great potential for instability, especially in the event of an earthquake. Structures within a city like this need to be built accordingly in order to avoid great consequences; however, this lesson was not learned until after the earthquake struck in 185. This earthquake left roughly 10,000 dead (Whitbeck).

According to Alejandro Bendaña, there is much blame to go towards “the absence of preventive organizations, the failure to properly alert communities and the lack of adequate preparations to preserve life and property” (17). This is an outrageous act committed by most Latin American governments, particularly Nicaragua’s government during and even after Hurricane Mitch. In following the notion that apathetic and inactive governments don’t do enough, this idea is based off of the belief that when there are poverty stricken people living in unstable and at-risk areas of potential disaster, it is the governments job to at least warn people about it and provide the necessary preparation and coping initiatives. Bendaña also states that even Cuba’s government was concerned enough to issue effective organization coordinated by government and civil organizations in order to save lives and reduce casualties (16). This is also seen with the example of Mexico’s earthquake in the capital city. “Many Mexicans were angry at what they considered their government’s slow response to the disaster. The first government employees to hit the streets were no rescue squads but soldiers with orders to prevent looting” (185 Mexico earthquakes). This goes to raise the question of what is in the best interest of the government.

Governments could greatly reduce this vulnerability by simply implementing greater programs to help people. In the case of Nicaragua and Hurricane Mitch, there could have been lives saved. Bendaña credits much of the lack of response to the then-president, Arnoldo Alemán for not declaring Nicaragua in a state of national emergency in order to receive aid from international entities (18). If Nicaragua would’ve done that as Hurricane Mitch struck, it wouldn’t have stopped all the vulnerability-based deaths, but it would’ve significantly reduced them. Just like with Mexico City after the earthquake that is said to have reacted very similarly to Nicaragua in the sense that “the government maintained that Mexico could handle rescue efforts on its own, despite offers of assistance from other nations (185 Mexico earthquakes).

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Latin America has seen great magnitudes of vulnerability throughout its lands, whether it is by hurricane or earthquake. The Mexico City earthquake of 185 and Hurricane Mitch in 188 have only proven to be minor examples of an underlying problem surrounding the realities of Latin America’s natural disasters. In casting aside all natural contributions to human vulnerability, it can be said that human political (governmental) policy also heavily influences or doesn’t influence the situations surrounding natural catastrophes. Government influences by not acting responsible enough to warn and prepare for events that will have devastating effects


“185 Mexico Earthquakes.” Worldbook. 00. Worldbook.com. 5 Sept. 00.


Bendaña, Alejandro. “Nicaragua’s Structural Hurricane.” NACLA Report on the

Americas. Vol. , Issue , Sep/Oct. p 16-18

Liverman, Diana. “Natural Disasters in Latin America volcanoes, earthquakes and

hurricanes.” The University of Arizona. Tucson. 10 Sept. 00.

Marston, Sallie A., Paul L. Knox and Diana M. Liverman. World Regions in Global

Context Peoples, Places and Environments. Upper Saddle River. New Jersey, 000.

Whitbeck, Harris. “Mexico City learns from the past quakes.” Cnn.com. 17 Aug.

1. 5 Sept. 00. http//www.cnn.com/WORLD/americas/ 08/17/mexico.quake/ .

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