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2018 MCHAP

Social Reconstruction of Habitat in the Isthmus of Tehuantepc: Reinforced Traditional Kitchen

Traditional Huave's Knowledge in Collaboration with Cooperacion Comunitaria

San Francisco del Mar, Mexico

November 2017


Cooperación Comunitaria


Isadora Hastings García (Head of the project) Gerson Huerta García (Structural engineer) Jessica Nayeli Ferra (Field Architect)


San Francisco del Mar community (It is no client it is part of a reconstruction process)


Cooperación Comunitaria


The project mainly aims to reduce the environmental and economic vulnerability of women and their families through the reconstruction of reinforced kitchens against earthquakes and strong winds and totopero´s ovens, that will allow the economic reactivation of women and their families, considering also the importance of rescuing traditional constructive knowledge and improve it with safety technics for building self-sufficiency capacities purposes. These goals are part of a broader comprehensive social reconstructive programme that aims to contribute to strenghten the resilience of the population and reduce vulnerability; therefore we are taking actions in the socio.cultural, territorial environmental, productive and education for risk prevention areas rather than exclusively limit to the reconstruction one in an interdisciplinary way. Socio culturally we seek to strengthen participation, social cohesion and critical capacity by involving the population in the design, execution and evaluation of their own processes to generate joint solutions, making them more resilient to the challenges they face. Our main goal in the constructive aspect is to obtain an holistic seismic, flooding and environmental risk analysis of rural houses and the design, construction and evaluation of reinforced safe houses with local materials and local techniques that respond to the cultural ways of life of the locals offering affordable alternatives to reconstruct their homes, contributing to their well being as they feel more secure in the structurally reinforced houses. Special importance is given to the recovery and improvement of the productive processes.


Last September 7th 2017, an 8.2-magnitude earthquake with an epicenter on the Chiapas coast affected much of this state and of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Oaxaca, leaving aproximately 40,000 damaged homes, on september 23rd, a second earthquake increased the damages in this entity and shortly we start the attention of the emergency. We identified the vulnerability factors while attending the emergency and implement accordingly a comprehensive and participatory approach for the habitat reconstruction based on in-work educational programs oriented to the strengthening, and maintenance of self-sufficiency capacities needed for improving their own living conditions in a sustainable way as well as in risk management and prevention, and to design and collectively construct reinforced safe housing resistant to eartquakes and strong winds based on traditional arquitecture. During the diagnosis stage, we found out that among the innumerable damages, the backyard kitchens and the “totopero"(tortilla chips)´s ovens, which gave sustenance to most of the families of the area, both for self-consumption and for commercialization. were destroyed. Traditional kitchens are usually built separately at the house´s backards, and therefore are not considered in the subsidies granted for reconstruction purposes, the traditional constructive knowledge with local affordable materials has slowly been forgotten, hence most of the population cannot make use of it as an alternative.


Our approach emanates from what we learn from the context, the environment, the culture as we listen and involve people in the reconstruction planning, making sure that indigenous knowledge of the affected zones and the ways in which they respond to environmental disasters, are integrated into our reconstruction efforts, thereby ensuring true intercultural dialogue. We identified the importance of the totopo´s production for their sustainance and the use of “comizcales” (clay traditional pots) made ovens as well as We did a research of traditional architecture and building technics, that are already adapted to the weather and particular way of life and made a seismic and environmental risk analysis of houses, the kitchen and the comizcales table in order to reinforce their structural capacity to make them safer against earthquakes using local materials and local techniques. Through theoretical-practical workshops we taught the reinforcement elements introduced in the recovered traditional architecture. The kitchen is an example of how we seek to provide security through structural reinforcement, reducing the costs of reconstruction by using local materials and strengthen capacities and social cohesion trough social participation in the design, implementation and evaluation process. We build capacities for self sufficiency constructive skills and promote colective colaborative work in preparation to replicate the experience.

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