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Social Representation of Human Resettlement Associated with Risk from Volcán de Colima, Mexico

  • Alicia Cuevas-Muñiz
  • Juan Carlos Gavilanes-Ruiz
Chapter
Part of the Advances in Volcanology book series (VOLCAN)

Abstract

This study examines a rural community of several decades of existence called “La Yerbabuena”. La Yerbabuena belongs to the state of Colima and it is situated on the flanks of the active Volcán de Colima; as such, the inhabitants are exposed to high levels of volcanic activity in their daily lives. This community has experienced resettlement on several occasions due to the volcanic risk. The study is based on theories of social representation that deal with how people perceive the events of their daily lives, as well as what happens in their immediate environment, including available information (such as news) and interactions with familiar people. These perceptions are formed partly from personal experience and from information, knowledge, and patterns of thought acquired during a shared tradition, education, and social communication. The social representation of families resettled due to volcanic risk is classified in four categories or assumptions: (a) the volcano represents a potential risk to their lives and possessions; (b) their relocation involved a change in economic, political and cultural factors that impacted on their daily lives; (c) this relocation represented a benefit to their daily lives; and (d) the relocation fractured the social cohesion of the community. Meanwhile, for the families who opposed their own resettlement, social representation was anchored in three aspects: (a) La Yerbabuena is not considered a zone of high volcanic risk; instead the resettlement was a “governmental pretext to expropriate these families of their land and possessions”; (b) the resettlement was a violation of their human rights, given the harassment they received before and during the resettlement process; and (c) their failure to acknowledge a volcanic risk allowed them to implement strategies of resistant, such as generating discussions and actions appropriate only when the volcano was no threat and became a “guardian”. This refers to the old traditional view of the volcano as the guardian in which the volcano would protect this community from possible eruptions and it would emit signals in which only these families could perceive and interpret. At the same time, these resistant families depended on the risk management protections implemented by the authorities. Based on this research it is clear that social representation in La Yerbabuena is born from the mental images that both the relocated and the resistant constructed from the sociocultural reality common to all members of the town. It is therefore important that all social actors involved in risk management have an understanding of the culture, risk perception, and forms of social representation of the volcanic risk of the inhabitants of communities high risk zones in order to design plans suitable for prevention. Furthermore, it is critical for the population to have active participation, to facilitate better risk management.

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Authors and Affiliations

  • Alicia Cuevas-Muñiz
    • 1
  • Juan Carlos Gavilanes-Ruiz
    • 1
  1. 1.Universidad de ColimaColimaMexico

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