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Poorest Mexicans need help now

Michael Cacioppo

Hurricane Wilma did a job on Cancun and Playa del Carmen, Mexico, last week. People were killed. Homes, resorts and businesses were destroyed. I just viewed pictures of the destruction in Cancun. It may be many months before some of those establishments are repaired. I am personally unable to do much for the good people of Cancun. My company will not book anyone into Cancun right now, but we are able to book Playa. My immediate concern is for the good people of Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Fortunately, some of the resorts in Playa are still able to do business today. Others will come back on line in next week or so. The storm, according to one government official, hit with the intensity of 115 mile winds and was the equivalent of four hurricanes in one due to the delay in passing over the peninsula. The Playa del Carmen civil service director reportedly stated that “Playa is destroyed.” That was a media distortion, according to my Mexican dental surgeon that I refer business to, whom I spoke with Wednesday, the day of this writing. He told me that Hurricane Wilma has “cleaned the beaches. It’s beautiful,” he said. “Everything is getting back to normal.” The surgeon says that his electricity and water is back on, and his office is open and ready for business. He says “most everything is working in Playa.” He also said the taxis are running. He believes the media is making it worse than it is. Gee, what a surprise. I also spoke by phone with a representative of the most famous resort in Playa, and she said that two of their three hotel buildings are open for guests. The third building is undergoing cleaning for one more week, but expects to reopen next week. Their beach bar was scheduled to open Thursday, but their beach restaurant is still undergoing repairs. They are accepting bookings now. One of the value beach resorts reports minimal damage, their Internet is working, and they expect phone service soon. They are now open for business. The Daily Telegraph reported, “Much of the town was flooded with knee-high seawater. In one shelter converted from a kindergarten, 40 migrant workers huddled in a small, damp room. They had only eaten half a can of tuna each in the last 24 hours.” The Telegraph quoted a construction worker: “We need water, food and clothes.” The Telegraph quoted Alberto Pat, head of Playa’s tourist police, “I have lived through three hurricanes and this is the worst.” The Telegraph also wrote that “the front of one store in the town was ripped off, a bus station roof had collapsed, and cars lay crushed by fallen trees. At a nearby jail, five prisoners escaped into the jungle after a fence blew down.” My initial concern was, naturally, for the lives of my friends and vendors. I am still waiting to find out if they are all right, as some homes were destroyed in Playa and many homes were damaged. I would appreciate my readers’ help by donating money for me to buy food and water and to give money to those that are the poorest in Playa. I am referring to those who have lost their stick homes in the Ejidal, the poorest subdivision outside of the downtown beach. There is an incredibly poor work force in Mexico. My understanding, from living in Playa for six months this year, is that laborers make the equivalent of $8 to $10 U.S. per day, plus sleep on the job site on the ground or on concrete floors because they have no home. I have witnessed a worker using a bucket on the job to defecate in while looking at the view from a rooftop. These people needed assistance prior to Hurricane Emily hitting Playa del Carmen in August 2005, and they desperately need our assistance now that Hurricane Wilma has done a job on them again. This is no different from what my friend Gerald Gallegos does all the time right here in Eagle County. The difference is that I am not as well off as Gerald, but I do know the territory in Playa and can somewhat communicate with the people. When I arrive in Mexico, I expect to secure vehicles from my transportation vendor, purchase the food and water from Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart, and pass out money to hundreds in need. For example, $50 to $100 buys food for a week or two for one person. It appears those folks in the subdivisions and the jungle will need help for many months ahead. I also intend to walk the job sites and instantly fund workers on the job. Your money is needed now. For those that would like to donate to help my company help these victims, I request that you make deposits immediately to my company account at any 1stBank of Colorado. Ask them for my account number, or send me an e-mail and I will give it to you. Please go to any 1stBank in Colorado or just mail a check to 1stBank, Box 1449, Edwards, CO 81632, to the attention of Theresa, with your name and that the money is for “BPDC Wilma Relief Effort.” Also, please send me an e-mail to confirm that you have donated and at what amount. Also, if you would like to use most any debit or credit card, contact me and I will tell you how to make a donation via PayPal on the computer. You need to know up front that this is not a tax-deductible donation. Hopefully, you don’t care. As they say, it is better to give than receive. Possibly, if you need a tax deductible donation, then my church in Eagle-Vail can possibly accept your money, with your designation to the “BPDC Wilma Relief Effort,” and disperse it to my company account, so that I may draw on it when I am in Mexico. I am presently trying to verify that my church can assist in this manner. They recently gave money to me to give to Claudia Hurtado Valenzuela, my Spanish teacher in Playa, for her organization “Gracias Playa,” which helps poor cancer victims in Playa. I delivered that money, along with other gifts, to her last month. Your help is needed now. Reports of people not eating for one to two days is indicative of the immediate need. Please take a moment and write a check if at all possible. It is my goal to raise up to $50,000 and to disperse at least $50 to $100 per person to hundreds of people on the streets of Playa del Carmen. May God bless you for your immediate assistance. Michael Cacioppo, a former radio talk show host and newspaper publisher, is managing director of BookPlayaDelCarmen.com LLC, a local travel planning consultant on vacations to Mexico. He can be reached at 280-5555 or by e-mail at Cacioppo@BookPlayaDelCarmen.com


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