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Archive for the ‘Tragedy’ Category

In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.  — Anne Frank

Last night, I watched the pleading (and currently homeless!) mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Carmen Yulín Cruz, BEG the U.S. government for more help following Hurricane Maria, which has devastated this U.S. territory.  Power may not be restored to the island for months, hospitals are without medicines, and people are dying.  This morning I awoke to news that the U.S. president, up bright and early in the luxurious comfort of his New Jersey golf club, had taken to Twitter to personally attack San Juan’s mayor.  Why?  For doing her job!!!  I was both livid at the Twit-in-Chief and incredibly sad for Puerto Rico.  Where is the understanding?  Where is the empathy??  Where is the humanity???

And then I read my Mexico City based friend, Cristina Potters’ latest Mexico Cooks! blog post.  Cristina, thank you SO much for reaching out to and translating the words of “Al” — this is what humanity looks like.  With Cristina’s permission, here is her post:

Mexico City Earthquake :: We Interrupt Our Regular Programing…

At 11:00AM on September 19, 2017, the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, the nation as a whole took a few moments to sound its earthquake alarms as a test run for city residents to practice precautions, and as a memorial to the many, many thousands of people who lost their lives in Mexico City that day so long ago.  The earthquake alarm is arguably the most shocking sound in this city where I live.  There are 8000 alarm speakers set up, one in every neighborhood; one of them is just on the corner, only one door from my apartment building.  The horrible and unmistakeable sound–alerta sísmica alerta sísmica alerta sísmica, accompanied by unspeakable sirens–comes directly into my home office window.  As 11:00AM approached, I steeled myself and warned the cats; the alarm went off as scheduled, stopped within a minute or so, and we all breathed a sigh of relief.



Two hours and fourteen minutes later, all hell broke loose.  A massive earthquake, 7.1 on the Richter scale, shallow and with a nearby epicenter, crashed into Mexico City with no warning.  Due to its proximity, there was no time to sound the alarm until the quake had already started.  As is usually the case, the neighborhood where I live and the neighborhood nearest me were hardest hit.  There are geological reasons for that, but no need to elaborate on those now.  Parts of the whole city sustained serious damage; at last count, about 50 buildings collapsed, thousands more are in danger of collapsing, more than 400 people lost their lives, and thousands more are seriously injured.



On September 24, a young Mexico City woman whom I do not know used social media to express her thoughts, feelings, and experiences as she volunteered with an earthquake relief effort day.  I contacted her and asked her permission to translate her writing into English and publish it here.  She calls herself “Al” and she asked that I not publish a photograph of her.  She says she’s not a writer, although in my opinion she most definitely is.
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“Yesterday I spent six hours helping at Ground Zero on Calle Escocia, in the Del Valle neighborhood of Mexico City. I had stayed overnight at my parents’ home, and got up at 6:30AM. My mother made breakfast for me while I was getting ready, and then I lined up to go to the place where volunteers were to gather.



Those in charge explained to us that we women were to pass empty buckets to the Mexican army, who were going to fill them with rubble and then pass them to two lines of men who were behind us, pressed up against the walls. The army was to move any metal, glass, furniture, and other more dangerous objects. They knew how inexperienced most of us volunteers were and they didn’t want us to run any risks.



In order for us to go in, they gave us equipment—helmet, gloves, vest, and face masks. They used permanent markers to write our name, a contact number, and blood type on our arms. They vaccinated us against tetanus.

And then we went into Ground Zero in silence, our cellular phones turned off. Right after a 45 minute delay due to the scare of the second earthquake [Saturday 23 September, a 6.2 aftershock from the earthquake on September 7, 2017], the army immediately put us to work. We had to wait while Civil Defense made sure that it was safe to go into the building.



My eyes could not believe what they were seeing: I had never seen a collapsed building, never thought how a structure so strong and solid could become a mountain of rubble and memories. The “line of life”, as we called it, began its work, and we put thinking aside in order to be able do our job.



While we were actively working, other volunteers continuously offered us donated water, electrolytes, candies, tamales, and hard-boiled eggs. We volunteers preferred not to eat; we just took candies and left the food for the army and the engineers. Doctors came through continuously, asking if we were feeling all right, putting drops in our eyes, and helping people out of the building if they looked over-tired.



Passing buckets, even the big paint-bucket size ones we had, seems simple, but after an hour I felt blisters on my hands and cramps in my shoulders. I knew I was not the only one tired when buckets began to drop from the hands of other volunteers. Some shouted, “Be careful! Those could break!” The men tried to make us feel better, saying we were doing great work.



Meanwhile, we tried to concentrate so as not to delay the work as we watched pieces of other people’s lives go by: shoes, photographs, chairs, clothing, blankets, pictures from their walls. Objects that they surely obtained from their own efforts and dedication, and now they are nothing. A wheelbarrow, thrown aside by the masonry workers who were removing bigger pieces of the wreckage, grabbed my attention. In the wheelbarrow was a set of brand new drinking glasses, still in their wrapped box.



As the women at the head of the ‘line of life’ withdrew, those behind them advanced. I came closer to the head of the line, and suddenly I saw a car among the ruin of the building’s parking garage: a bright-red Nissan Sentra, undamaged. Nevertheless, the garage entrance is blocked, so the car will never get out unharmed.



Nobody is taking selfies, nobody is playing music, no one talks, no one makes jokes or acts lazy. Respect is tangible. The entire area is filled with mourning. Yesterday, workers here rescued a pug dog and a cat, which tells us that there is still the possibility of life among the rubble. If we do our work efficiently, it could make the difference between life and death….”  [Please read the full article HERE — I warn you, there may be tears, but you won’t be sorry!]

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In Oaxaca city, while nerves remain on edge, life is going on as usual with only a few signs of the recent earthquakes:  Buildings years ago labeled “inmueble en mal estado” (property in a bad state) now sport yellow caution tape, as does Templo De La Virgen De Las Nieves, which has a huge crack along one of the bell towers.  And, on my block, a plywood retaining wall has been erected to contain a wall that collapsed back in 2012.

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Those atrapada (trapped) by the September 7th and September 19th earthquakes have mostly been rescued, though réplicas (aftershocks) continue daily, especially in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region — still in the 4 to 4.5 on the Richter Scale (though not felt in Oaxaca city).   Damnificados (victims) and escombros (debris) are all that remain in the hardest hit areas but tens of thousands of people are being forced to live in the streets.  To add insult to injury, they must cope with torrential downpours and flooding from this very long and destructive rainy season.

Fundraising events are being held and centros de acopio (collection centers) have been set up to gather donations, with countless volunteers traversing damaged and dangerous mountain roads to deliver supplies.  The need is massive!

HOW YOU CAN HELP:

Como Ayudar – A large international list of information and links regarding assistance and distribution of goods to help those affected by the most recent earthquakes in Mexico.

How To Help The Earthquake Victims In Mexico City, Morelos, Puebla & Oaxaca – List of organizations collecting monetary donations, compiled by Mexico City based food writer, Nicholas Gilman

In addition, a couple of friends have asked me to publicize small organizations they are working with:

Help to San Mateo del Mar, Oaxaca, Earthquake Victims – Norma Schaefer, of Oaxaca Cultural Navigator, is getting the word out on the earthquake relief efforts of cultural anthropologist Denise Lechner and medical doctor Anja Widman.

SER Mixe – An indigenous organization serving the Mixe people in the Mixe region of Oaxaca; recommended by Margaret Macsems, general manager of Khadi Oaxaca.

*** Words in red type have become hardwired in my brain — new Spanish vocabulary I wish I didn’t have to learn under these circumstances.

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I can’t believe it has been three years since 43 student teachers went missing one night in Iguala, Guerrero.  And, I can’t believe the key questions remain.

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Who is responsible?  What happened that night?  Where are they?  Why are there still no answers?  How can 43 human beings be disappeared so completely?  When will the truth be revealed?

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In the midst of our current tragedies, let us not forget the 43 normalistas from Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos, Ayotzinapa, Guerrero.

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Three years without answers must seem like an eternity to their families….

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It’s been two years since that tragic night in Iguala, Guerrero when busloads of students (normalistas) from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College were violently attacked.  Six students were killed, 25 were injured, and 43 disappeared.  It’s been two years of agony for families and friends.  It’s been two years of questions and discredited answers for the people of Mexico.  And, it’s been two years of artists around the world doing their part to not let us forget.

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Images of some of the missing by Asamblea de Artistas Revolucionarios de Oaxaca (ASARO) seen June 18, 2016 on Av. Morelos in Oaxaca, including 18-year old Cristian Tomás Colón Garnica from Tlacolula de Matamoros, Oaxaca.

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It has been one year since 43 normalistas (student teachers) from the Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero were disappeared and several of their fellow students were murdered.

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They are still missing and the truth of what happened that horrifying night has yet to be revealed.  The question remains, What happened to the 43 Ayotzinapa students?

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Cristian Tomás Colón Garnica of Tlacolula de Matamoros, Oaxaca; his 42 fellow students; 215 other Oaxaqueños, and 26,000+ other Mexicans missing since 2006, are not forgotten by their families, their friends, the people of Mexico, and the world.

We don’t have weapons sir!  Why are you aiming at us?
from the above video, narrated (in English) by Lila Downs.

And so, Mexico Marks One Year Since Disappearance of Students

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It’s been nine months since 43 students from the Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos teachers’ college in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero went missing — a traumatic, heartbreaking, and disgraceful anniversary that isn’t going unnoticed.  The Missing Mexican Students Case Is Not Closed For 43 Families, nor for the people of Mexico.

Yesterday, in Tlacolula de Matamoros, the signs were impossible to miss, as we walked down the main street.  The community continues to remember her son, Cristian Tomás Colón Garnica, one of the Ayotzinapa 43.

P1100112“His father traveled from their land when the abduction of the 43 young normal school students was first reported. ‘I am a day laborer. I make 600 pesos [USD$44.50] weekly, maximum, and that’s when there’s work, because sometimes there is no work. My boy wants to be a teacher. That is the job he wants, but they stopped him, they arrested him … What are we going to do?!'”  — from Mexico Voices.
P1100110On the wall, near the stencils above, posters announced events in Oaxaca city in remembrance of the students.  As the murals at the north entrance to Tlacolula de Matamoros proclaim…

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“VIVOS 43 LOS QUEREMOS”

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Eight months and counting… Tonight, eight months ago, 43 students from the Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos teachers’ college in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero went missing.  I am sadly resigned that marking this horrific anniversary has become a regular feature on my blog.  As a mother, a guest resident of Mexico, and someone who believes that the peoples of the world deserve social justice, I can’t ignore this tragedy.

I dare you to leave Carteles por Ayotzinapa, the current exhibition at Instituto de Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca (IAGO), with a dry eye.  The 49 posters on display are only a fraction of the over 700 posters submitted to the First International Poster Biennial 2014 Convocation Ayotzinapa, an initiative of Oaxaca’s internationally renown artist, Francisco Toledo.  In addition to Mexico, artists from Argentina to Greece; Iran to Lebanon; and Poland to the USA responded to his call, recognizing as Toledo explained, the tragedy of Ayotzinapa has outraged people from beyond the borders of Mexico.

Photo courtesy of Oaxaca Media

Photo courtesy of Oaxaca Media

Irwin Homero Carreño Garnica, a graphic design student, originally from Ocotlán de Morelos, Oaxaca, was awarded first prize for his heartbreaking work, “México fracturado por Ayotzinapa” (Mexico fractured by Ayotzinapa).  As you can see above, it is a map of Mexico in the shape of a skeleton, with a break in the femur, where Ayotzinapa, Guerrero is located.  Like the work of the Tlacolulokos, the use of an iconic image (skeleton) and a primary palette of black, white, and greys, increases the emotional impact, much like Picasso’s, “Guernica.

Second place was won by Damian Kłaczkiewicz (Poland) and third place went to Daniela Diaz (Mexico).  The three winning posters will be reproduced for distribution throughout Mexico.

The exhibition runs through June 26, 2015.

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Yesterday, the city of Oaxaca celebrated its 483rd birthday as a Spanish chartered city.  Early in the morning bells were rung, Las Mañanitas was sung, tamales and atole were served, an air force flyover buzzed the city several times, multiple musical events were held, a convite paraded through the streets, fireworks exploded from the Plaza de la Danza, and more, and it continues.  I was going to write about it, but…

Today a more urgent anniversary requires our attention:  Mexico Marks 7 Months Since 43 Ayotzinapa Students Disappeared.  Family, fellow classmates, friends, and supporters around the world keep their names alive and cry for justice.  And artists continue to reach into our minds and hearts through their music, artwork, and film making.

In the documentary, Ayotzinapa’s 43 Disappeared: Family & Friends Remember, we hear the voices of their classmates and relatives. They don’t trust the official story and are determined to find out what happened.

Near the end of the song, “La Patria Madrina,” from her new album, Balas y Chocolate (Bullets and Chocolat), Lila Downs chants the Ayotzinapa 43 mantra that can be seen and heard all over Mexico, ¡Vivos los llevaron, vivos los queremos!  (They were taken alive, and we want them back alive!)

And, on walls throughout Mexico, our attention is called to the missing 43 students from the Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos, teachers’ college in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero.

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Mexico City

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Mexico City

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Oaxaca de Juárez

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It’s been five months since 43 students from the Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos teachers’ college in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero went missing.  Their parents, the people of Mexico, and growing numbers around the world continue to ask, Who is Really Responsible?

A mural recently appeared along a very long wall at the entrance to Tlacolula de Matamoros.

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As I’ve previously mentioned, one of missing is Cristian Tomás Colón Garnica from Tlacolula de Matamoros.

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I realized, as I was processing the photos, each panel of the mural incorporates a letter.  One has to stand back (in the street) to see words materialize.  However, when we went back to Tlacolula on Sunday, there were cars and trucks parked in front of most of the mural and all we could see was, “Vivos 43.”  I would love to hear from you, if you know the full text.

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Ahhh, it feels good to be back in the warm and wonderful Oaxaca.  There are the sounds…  I awake to church bells, followed by the loudspeaker cry of “Gas de Oaxaca” from the propane vendor.  Last night, as I was heading to bed, rockets exploded and, just now, the camote man’s steam whistle sounded, announcing tooth-achingly sweetened hot sweet potatoes and bananas.  Then there are the sights…

The walls continue to talk…  On Thursday, I saw this on Calle Morelos as I walked to the Alcalá and comida with friends.  It remembers Leonel Castro Abarca, one of the 43 still-missing students from Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos teachers’ college in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero.

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On the way home from comida, I detoured to see what was to be seen on the zócalo.  Teacher tents remain pitched around the bandstand, but the walkways were free of ambulantes, and, as always, the Cathedral presided over the scene.

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Thursday, the familiar sounds of protest were irresistible.  I grabbed my camera and headed out the front gate to see a massive march by healthcare workers on their way to the Plaza de la Danza.  To be honest, tubas and cohetes would have had me out the door, too!  It was way too quiet in el norte.

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And, what can I say about last night’s sunset from the terrace?

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Naturally, a marmota and pair of monos were waiting on the plaza in front of Santo Domingo this afternoon, awaiting a bride and groom to emerge.  After all, it is Saturday — wedding day in Oaxaca!

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I wonder what my ears will hear and my eyes will see, mañana…

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Along with blogger buddy Chris, I’ve been immersed in putting together a presentation for the Oaxaca Lending Library on the Danza de la Pluma, as it’s performed in Teotitlán del Valle.  On the superficial level, the Danza relates the story of the Conquest.  But, as is the genius of art, it reaches into our hearts and souls and explores and communicates the truths we feel.

And so, this brief video from classmates of the 43 missing Ayotzinapa students touched me deeply.

The ballet needs to tell its own story in such a way it can be received without having to be translated into language.  –Twyla Tharp

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The 43 students from the Normal Rural Ayotzinapa teachers’ college in Guerrero are still missing.  Following Thursday’s Global Day of Action for Ayotzinapa mass demonstrations, “analysts and commentators across the Mexican news media spectrum began speaking of a modern day revolution now brewing in the country.

Street art: tilted chair with words

A tipping point?  I don’t know…

Angular  (Street art, Nov. 22, 2014 on a wall in Oaxaca.)

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Today is the 104th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution.  However, there is no joy; most of Mexico is in mourning for the missing 43 students and the anger is building.  In Mexico City the military parade and celebrations will be moved from the Zócalo to a military installation in the Polanco neighborhood.  A mass protest march will replace it.

Castigo a los responsables de la masacre el Ayotzinapa

Zócalo, Oaxaca de Juárez – Nov. 17, 2014

The country’s attention is focused on today’s Global Day of Action for Ayotzinapa.  Many will wear black today to mourn the loss of students, journalists, and others to violence in Mexico.  It is indeed a global event;  Greek students have posted a video in support of the missing students and their families.  They will be Standing in Solidarity in Salinas (California) and in at least 115 other cities around the world.  And, in Oaxaca, among many other events, at 4 PM there will be a Festival Por la Vida at Santo Domingo, one of 231 actions listed on a Facebook page.

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Sitting on a wall, high above Av. Independencia in Oaxaca city…

Tears welled up as I watched the march go by.

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The headline, Mexico Burns as Outrage over Student Disappearances Sparks Protests Against State-Backed Violence, from the Nov. 13 “Democracy Now” show, is not an overstatement.  Yesterday, in front of Santo Domingo…

Todos somos 43 in foreground; Santo Domingo in background

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Bottles with flowers propping up cardboard

The Caravana de Ayotzinapa, one of three caravans by the parents and supporters of the missing 43 students from the Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos teachers’ college in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, is scheduled to arrive in Oaxaca tomorrow morning (Nov. 17).  A procession from the crucero at Trinidad de Viguera to the zócalo in Oaxaca is scheduled to begin at 9 AM.  Given the prohibition against foreigners participating in political activity, as much as I would like to be there, I’ll be sticking close to home.

However, for my friends in the USA, check out photographer and writer Tim Porter’s article, #43; there are demonstrations coming to a city near you.  Tim is a frequent visitor to Oaxaca and, for my Marin peeps, his articles and photographs regularly appear in Marin Magazine.

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