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Chicagoans working to send aid to victims of Mexico earthquake

Soldiers remove debris from a partly collapsed municipal building felled by a massive earthquake in Juchitan, Oaxaca state, Mexico on Friday. One of the most powerful earthquakes ever to strike Mexico has hit off its southern Pacific coast, killing at least 61 people, toppling houses, government offices and businesses. | Luis Alberto Cruz/Associated Press

Organizers in Chicago are working to raise money to help people in southern Mexico affected by Friday’s massive earthquake.

The Cuentos Foundation, a nonprofit, is looking to raise money to send to aid-minded activists in the Oaxaca state of Mexico, near where the earthquake registered early Friday.

“We don’t belong to any government agency or political party or something like that,” said Manuel Revueltas, of the Cuentos Foundation. “This is a community-based donation.”

By Friday night, the death toll stood at 61 from the 8.1-magnitude earthquake that had registered just off Mexico’s southern Pacific coast. It was the strongest earthquake to strike the country in 100 years, with tremors felt as far away as Mexico City.

By Friday night, a GoFundMe page set up by Cuentos had raised $730.

18th Street and Loomis Avenue in Pilsen, where efforts to raise money to help the victims of Mexico’s massive earthquake already are underway. | Sam Charles/Sun-Times

Organizers in Chicago are coordinating with a Mexican activist and artist in Oaxaca, Carlos Orozco Ocaña, who plans to take those supplies to the Isthmus region of Mexico, another area near where the earthquake struck.

Ocaña, a native of the Isthmus region, has lectured and given workshops on Oaxacan art at the University of Illinois-Chicago and Loyola University.

Typically, the drive from Oaxaca to the Isthmus is about six hours, Ocaña said. With the damage from the earthquake, though, he estimated it could take two or three times as long when roads are reopened.

“There’s no way to go by highway because the hills fell down so we are just waiting for a chance to do it,” he said.

Aside from helping others impacted, Ocaña said he is trying to get back to the Isthmus to find and help his family.

“I don’t have communication with my family,” he said. “I lost contact with them. Some relatives disappeared, and so we are working hard now just to go and find them.”

Rodolfo Alvarez, near his Pilsen hardware store. | Sam Charles/Sun-Times

Before Cuentos started raising money for earthquake victims, the foundation was working to send aid to victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Revueltas said Cuentos was collecting water, cleaning supplies and items for babies, such as diapers and formula, and sending it by truck to Houston. Before Friday, he said, Cuentos had sent two trucks and had planned to collect more, but “now it’s this.”

Rodolfo Alvarez — who moved to the United States 53 years ago from San Luis Potosí, Mexico — was at his hardware store on 18th Street in Pilsen Friday evening.

Though he did not know anyone impacted by the earthquake, Alvarez sympathized.

“The people that have the least amount are being hit the most,” he said. “It’s hard to understand but that’s the way it is.”

18th Street in Pilsen, a Chicago neighborhood where many have ties to Mexico. | Sam Charles/Sun-Times