ACAPULCO, Mexico — The 58-year-old woman, a cook by profession, toiled on a recent afternoon inside a luxury apartment with expansive views of the Pacific, putting Gucci and Dior shoes into a bag to take to her employer. Around her only the apartment’s skeleton and piles of debris, walls and windows stripped by Hurricane Otis, remained.
But Rufina Ruiz was optimistic. Her house, in a suburb near the entrance to Acapulco, only flooded, while homes in the adjacent neighborhood were “buried.” And she still has a job, even though that meant she was not home when the government census of the hurricane’s victims was taken, which would have translated into aid. “I’d rather work,” she said.
More than two weeks after Otis went from tropical storm to Category 5 hurricane in a record 12 hours, catching authorities and residents flat footed, this city of 1 million, a blend of big hotels and impoverished suburbs, tourism and drug violence, is trying to recover at a similarly unequal rhythm.
Cars can again drive down the city’s main streets past rubble and felled palm trees. Signs around the city read “free food.” There are lines everywhere: for water, food, access to pharmacies.
Acapulco’s wealthiest residents, who fled either before Otis or immediately after, began to return to take stock of their seaside properties.
Along Acapulco’s coastal boulevard that encircles the bay once bobbing with yachts, a young man pulled tables and chairs out of a small restaurant. Nearby, workers nailed boards over broken shop windows.
Soldiers and National Guard troops fill the central streets, easily outnumbering the once ubiquitous pal