Aid for Mexico Abounds in NYC but Shipping Is a Challenge

The collection center at Mi Casa Es Puebla is no longer receiving donations. (Photo via El Diario)

Mexicans in the tri-state area of New York and close-knit communities overstocked local donation centers in a show of immense solidarity with the victims of the Sept. 19 earthquake, an outpour that took community leaders, organizations and business owners by surprise.

Still, small amounts of this aid are reaching the devastated zones in Mexico at a time due to the strict requirements imposed by customs authorities, airlines and ground transportation companies collaborating to send the shipments.

Ana Flores, director of Mi Casa es Puebla – an organization located in Passaic, New Jersey, that serves as a satellite office of the government of the state of Puebla – stressed that their warehouse is full and that they are no longer receiving donations.

Oaxaca Mexican Products, a Passaic importer known as “The Market on Eighth (Street),” is in the same situation. Pedro Matar, a New York entrepreneur, said that the warehouse is twice as full as it can be.

Aeroméxico is collaborating by transporting shipments free of charge, but has strict requirements, including a ban on flammable products such as cooking oil and alcohol. In addition, boxes may not weigh more than 50 kg. (110 lbs.) each.

“The problem is that donation centers in the area have brought us unsorted goods, which slows down the process of shipping to Mexico. We do not have enough volunteers to classify tons of items and mark them as donations,” explained Flores. “Everything needs to be inventoried. It is a requirement of the customs authorities.”

Matar said that the “Market on Eighth” received some 40 tons of goods in a matter of days, an avalanche of humanitarian aid that exceeded expectations. Thanks to a partnership reached with Aeroméxico, about 20 tons of aid have already been sent over in the last few days, said the entrepreneur.

“Aeroméxico started out with one ton per flight, but they increased the cargo to 5 tons because there is too much aid to transport,” said Matar. “Still, we need hands to classify and pack the provisions. In the first few days, we saw an army of volunteers, but it has slowly dwindled.”

Seeking alternative means of transportation

In order to expedite the shipping, community leaders have asked ground transportation companies to join the campaign of solidarity with Mexico, a call that Control de Carga carriers heeded immediately.

Juan Garza, co-owner, said that the company has 6 donation centers across New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Nevada and North Carolina.

“We started shipping aid there the day after the earthquake. We are taking it directly to the devastated towns. Mexico City has plenty of supplies, but there are localities in the states where no help of any kind has arrived, such as Puebla,” said Garza. “We are committed to getting the aid directly to the families in need, without middlemen.”

Garza added that the infrastructure destroyed by the quake, in addition to heavy rains, have delayed the transportation of provisions. Many areas continue to be isolated due to the destruction of bridges and the damage suffered by the roads.

“We had to drive through an overflowing river in Puebla, which is a real challenge. We have seen a growing need for assistance. There are people sleeping outdoors… It’s devastating,” he said.

Garza pointed out that the strict inspections made by customs employees pose yet another challenge, as donations such as used clothes are not allowed.

Gerardo Izzo, spokesman for the consulate of Mexico, said that the diplomatic office has been collaborating closely with all organizations involved (…)

“The chancellor’s office has established alliances with a number of Mexican and U.S. airlines to facilitate the transportation of in-kind donations from the U.S. For its part, on Sept, 20, the Department of Finance and Public Credit – through the Tax Administration Service – announced specific measures to facilitate the entry of donations into national territory via customs,” said Izzo. “In addition, the Department of Communications and Transportation will exempt from toll charges all cargo vehicles carrying donations into affected territories.”

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