SAN JUAN PILCAYA, Mexico – Simple bamboo structures are being used to provide temporary shelter for thousands of Mexican families left homeless by the devastating Sept. 19 earthquake, including people in this small central highland town where as of Friday more than 300 families were still camping out in the patios of their residences.
San Juan Pilcaya, a town in Puebla state, was near the epicenter of the magnitude-7.1 quake – which left more than 360 people dead, most of them in Mexico City – and like many other communities was left in ruins.
Since then, thousands of families have been forced to sleep out in the elements, under trees or sackcloths or inside of tents.
To rectify this situation, the Ibero-American University of Pueba and the Puebla Bambu initiative, made up of non-governmental organizations, companies and manufacturers, have been producing temporary, economical and practical structures to be used as shelter.
Thanks to donations of bamboo by local producers in Puebla’s northeastern highlands, architects and other specialists, students, soldiers and the beneficiaries themselves have begun setting up the temporary homes as quickly as possible, with a team of 10 people typically completing one unit in a matter of hours.
Those structures measure three by four meters (10 by 13 feet) and can provide shelter for a period of 18 months, typically in the backyard of homes badly damaged by the temblor.
The cost per unit ranges from between 15,000-20,000 pesos (between $800-$1,000).
“We’ve given preference to elderly people, adults with some kind of illness and families with young children,” said Saulo Meis, director of the NGO Esperanza del Mañana.
The goal is to build up to 100 units in San Juan Pilcaya, while simultaneously training personnel to bring these structures to other communities.
The plan for the project’s final phase is to capitalize on the abundance of bamboo in Puebla and build permanent homes out of that material, thereby giving a boost to the local economy.
“Today there’s an opportunity to be a support for Pilcaya and a tool for getting the economy of the northeastern highlands moving,” Meis said.
A total of 23,204 homes in Puebla were damaged by the Sept. 19 earthquake, although that number is expected to rise once a post-quake census has been completed.