Betzabe Valdes Lopez, MDES in Critical Conservation 2019
Organization: Cooperacion Comunitaria, Oaxaca, Mexico
Sponsor: International Travel Community Fellowship
“After a few weeks in the region, getting to know people and moving around the river, we began our work in mapping, workshops, and interviews. Since Cooperación Comunitaria was working in the same area, and information similar to our own interests, we would gather to talk about our research focus and findings.
We also divided our mapping efforts into three areas: gathering of pre-existing data, creating new spatial data, and creating a robust photographic record. Even if pre-existing data is technically available to the public, there were some instances in which it was challenging to obtain it. Therefore, we worked with several government agencies to attain all data available regarding the river, earthquake damages, topography, built environment and official rubble dumpsites. Given the scarcity of information, we also created our own spatial data, which included water treatment and waste management infrastructure, unofficial rubble dumpsites, material extraction sites, critical risk point along the river, landfills, flood-prone areas, and water runoffs. Additionally, we created a robust photographic compendium using a drone, tablets, and cameras.
As for our creative mapping workshops, the objective was to explore qualitatively the value that the inhabitants of the region give to their urban and natural environment. We worked with groups of 8-10 adult women and children in each municipality to create visual representations that helped us identify the primary needs, concerns, and changes related to the earthquakes of September 2017. The workshops studied three areas: seasonal floods, perception and interaction with the Las Nutrias River. The workshops also studied changes in public spaces after the earthquakes. Further, each session served as a forum for environmental discussion and education that encouraged citizen participation concerning the reconstruction process.
To get a broader understanding of the current and historical situation, we met with several key actors within and outside the community. These included government representatives, elected officials, academic institutions, non-profit organizations, residents, and private-sector companies. All of our meetings helped us establish valuable partnerships with federal, state, and local individuals to carry on our work (some of which will even continue to work with us as we move forward with our research). In short, we attempted to address three questions: What are the significant issues in the area? What has happened so far in response to the earthquakes? What are some good alternatives to what has happened so far that could help improve the recovery process?
We used a mixed methodology approach to combine quantitative and qualitative methods in order to benefit from each of our specialties. Getting immersed in the community helped us to accomplish more interviews and workshops since locals would help us to gather the groups and connect us with main actors that were involved in the process.”