Help Your Neighbor

In mid- September, Hurricane Lorena dumped tons of water on Cabo Corrientes, which is just south of Puerto Vallarta,  and saturated everything.  Eleven days later, Tropical Storm Narda devastated the villages of Yelapa, Pizota,  Aquiles Serdán, and other tiny communities clinging to the coastline.



One of these villages, Graciano Sánchez, sustained very significant damage.  However, unlike well-known tourist destinations such as Yelapa and Pizota, it was largely left out of governmental aid and private donations due to its relative obscurity and more remote location.


The village is a two-hour drive from the luxuries and conveniences of Puerto Vallarta. It can be reached only by road because there are no safe places to land a boat.  We travel south on Highway #200, past the Vallarta Botanical Gardens, until we arrive at the 16th-century town of El Tuito.


Here, we turn west along dirt roads and bump along through the craggy hills until the road splits north and south, just before it reaches the pristine beaches of the Pacific. To get to Graciano Sánchez, we go right, and, in five kilometers, we cross the bridge over the Rio Aquiles Serdán. Here, we take the next right, up a narrow rut through the bush and along the river’s edge. A few minutes more and we arrive at a scattered collection of shanties, where about twenty-five to thirty people enjoy close family living. This is Graciano Sanchez.


The back-to-back storms of Lorena and Narda shattered the lives of the people living in Graciano Sanchez. Their homes were crushed by the torrential flooding, or they were inundated with mud, sand, and debris. The barbed wire fences used to keep a few cattle together were swept away. The crops of corn, peppers, and tomatoes that the families subsist on were lost, and the wells were swamped with silt and are useless. Not only have these people lost their homes, but they have lost their food and their livelihood.


When Narda hit, the river was transformed from a limpid, peaceful stream to a life-threatening, uncontrolled monster. The river burst its banks, flooded the surrounding land, and swept away the only bridge, the single connection between Aquiles Serdan and Graciano Sánchez, and the outside world. The river, at the crossing, can now be forded by people on foot and by mules, but it is impossible to get trucks across.


The scant emergency supplies, sent by the municipality, are unloaded on the south bank of the river. When these deliveries were seen by the folks in Aquiles Serdan, they forded the river and took whatever they could carry, on their heads or their mules back to their home turf. Unfortunately, in the chaotic relief efforts in the days and weeks that followed the torrents, the people of the more remote Graciano Sánchez were often unaware of the deliveries and missed out.


The good news is that a close relative of those in the village told Holly Hunter and her husband, Dan Gair, about the problem. They live on a ranch in Maito, ten kilometers south of the missing road bridge. Holly and Dan crossed the village, went to Graciano Sánchez, made a list of the people affected, and what they needed. They then reached out to friends and acquaintances to raise money and relief supplies for their Mexican neighbors, suffering back at the coast.


The villagers still need cots and mattresses, mosquito nets, plastic hoses for water lines, water filters, first aid supplies, barbed wire, and construction materials. They, particularly, need the cash to buy these things.



The International Friendship Club, (I.F.C.), which has been supplying anti-scorpion serum to a regional clinic in Maito for the last two years, stepped up immediately with cash. This was possible because the club had financial reserves carried over from the previous tourist season for emergencies just like this. In turn, this money was available because kind and generous homeowners in Vallarta offer their homes for showing by I.F.C. in the tourist season. It is truly a magnificent community effort powered by kindness and volunteers.


If you would like to help the impoverished people of Graciano Sánchez, who are our Mexican neighbors, get back on their feet, you can make a small or large donation to either Holly Hunter at her PayPal account…, or you can drop cash or cheques off at the IFC office. It’s upstairs at the corner of Libramento and Insurgentes and is open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 1:30 pm.


We can’t do everything, but we can do something!




John Warren on Email
John Warren
John Warren is in charge of Publicity for the International Friendship Club (IFC). His articles describe the programs and charities that IFC supports, the sources of income of IFC and the social experiences, lectures and classes that members can enjoy.
He splits his time between Puerto Vallarta and Lethbridge, Alberta. In the winter months he writes for the IFC, this summer he’s focusing his writing on the environment.