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If you want to help Oaxaca, visit the city. Oaxaca is ready to welcome you. You will help the locals and you will help yourself.
Think in the Morning found ourselves between the two giant earthquakes that ravaged Mexico over the past two weeks. While in Oaxaca, our home away from home in the Fall, there was no mistaking these tragic events for anything other than the brutal earth shaking they were.
The first quake struck around 12 am on September 8th, 8.1 on the scale that purports to measure such things and woke us from a deep sleep. The shaking went on for about 2 minutes, one of the longest quakes I’ve ever experienced. It was quite dramatic with our room and bed and furniture swaying back and forth as if we were floating in the wake of a series of large waves in the ocean. Yet, nothing fell, nothing broke, no roofs or walls split or crashed down. Thankfully.
We did not lose power and other than sirens and people shouting in the street we heard no loud noises or crashes. As we found out later, Oaxaca City survived intact with little damage to buildings. Schools were closed as a precaution until they were inspected, The historic Macedonio Theatre is still closed pending further inspections. A few buildings were damaged but the damage here was not extensive.
At 12:15 am I emailed friends: 7.9 Earthquake in Chiapas. Buildings here shook for a very long time. Hard for me to get information but we are ok and so is the B&B as far as I can tell for now. That was beyond a doubt the largest quake I’ve ever felt. I’m sure there is damage south of here. Chiapas is about 12 hours away by car.
At 12:24 am: Wow! Tsunami warnings along coasts Mexico to Costa Rica. This was a real doozy. Stay tuned.
At 1:10 am: Biggest earthquake I’ve ever felt at a distance but all ok here now. A few things fell off shelves, etc. We are a long way from the coast where the worst damage seems to be.
A quake like that certainly gets the adrenalin flowing. We eventually settled back down to sleep and hoped for the best in the morning. Unfortunately, while things were fine for us and for most everyone in the city, our hearts sunk when reports started coming in from the south. In Juchitan and around the Isthmus in numerous remote areas, and in parts of Chiapas there were hundreds of houses destroyed and dozens of people killed. It was a tragedy of immense proportions.
At 6:05 am I emailed to friends: Oaxaca City seems mostly safe, just rattled. Outlying areas, very poor and remote, the town of Juchitan, and parts of Chiapas are the worst hit. It’s always the poorest that suffer the most.
Here are comments from some of our friends on Facebook who live out in the valley or in the mountains:
“Lots of broken stuff in the house, but we are fine. Cannot reply to all the messages and emails checking on us right now, but thanks to all. Not sure what it is like outside, downtown, in the villages, etc, but WOW, the worst quake we have ever experienced.” Alvin Starkman
“No sleeping through that one, very long and strong. Lost power for a while. Damage in various areas, but OK here.” Chris Stowens
“All FB friends: Personally, I’m fine. I’m in North Carolina. My Oaxaca house sitter says there is no damage to my casita. My friends in Oaxaca city and Teotitlan all seem to be intact and accounted for! I’m monitoring the page Oaxaca Clandestine Appreciation Society for news. Old adobe structures have toppled in historic center. Seems that Oaxaca coastal areas and Chiapas are vulnerable now. I wait for this news, and the path of Hurricane Irma. Safe passage to all in Florida and coastal USA. We need a respite from this. Earth Mother is not happy. I wonder why.” Norma Schafer
At 11:08 am I emailed friends again: “All is fine here. No worries. Just rattled our nerves. Largest damage is in the south at Juchitan and around the Isthmus and in Chiapas. The city here is pretty much unaffected. Thanks for your concern.”
And finally at 3:03 pm: “We are fine and so is Oaxaca City. This was definitely the strongest quake we’ve personally felt and I’d be lying if I said we weren’t scared last night. Everyone here is on edge. The worst damage was south particularly near the Isthmus at Juchitan. I’m sure you will see more there on the news than we see here. Life goes on but with a greater appreciation.”
Relief efforts began immediately around Oaxaca. Several gathering places were set up to receive supplies and necessities to be trucked down to Juchitan. Think in the Morning responded with a blog listing some reliable charities with a plea for help from our friends.
For almost two weeks things here returned to normal. The street vendors were at their posts as usual, the tourist stores were open and doing some business, the tourists that were here were patronizing the tasty food carts and fancy restaurants, the street musicians were playing and singing, the students were studying and chatting, and the professionals, artists, and local business folk were busy as bees, industrious as ants, or at least engaged.
Then the unthinkable, another major earthquake up north, 7.1 on the balance scale but more severe in the damage it caused because it struck near Mexico City. Horrible damage that I’m sure you saw on your TV or in the traditional press so I won’t go on and on but it broke our hearts to see the loss of property and life yet again in a place we love.
It’s an odd feeling to be so near two major catastrophes yet to be unscathed. We hear “thanks to God we’e safe” on the streets and in the cafes yet this is the same God that watched while a school collapsed in Mexico City killing at least 30 children and stood back stoically while numerous buildings and houses to the south and north of us crashed to the ground killing and injuring hundreds and leaving thousands homeless. There are scientific explanations for what happened in Mexico over these past two weeks but the impact on individual human beings is random and inexplicable. For those who survived, life must go on.
Here we are, between two earthquakes, almost unaffected yet well aware of the human tragedies playing out all around us. Oaxaca is calm and peaceful, beautiful, and welcoming. The people need your support. Visiting this beautiful city is a win-win. It helps everyone from the B&Bs to the restaurants to the vendors and it can do wonders for your own mind and spirit as well. Links to several previous posts on Oaxaca are below.
Appreciating Oaxaca with Saul Bellow and Italo Calvino
Some Traditional Markets of Oaxaca
The Trickster: Clifford Irving in Oaxaca
Thank you for this post. Being between tragedy, close yet still far, is as awful from here in California. My heart is breaking, I am numb even as I understand the science of how this could happen, I cannot fathom the reality on the ground. Working on help here!
David….not sure why but….i was thinking of you early this morning as I checked the progress on the latest piece of dyed fabric. It was not fully light yet although birds were tweeting and the resident skunk seemed to have retired for a daytime snooze. I decided to check emails since anything else would have alerted Gus(BIG black dog) that food was on the horizon….and there was “Think” !!!! And all this is to say …Phew!!! So glad you’re unscathed. And what a wonderful endorsement of Oaxaca. …Thanks for the news..Susan
Thank you so very much for this post. I’m bringing group of people to Oaxaca for Muertos this year and have been struggling with exactly what to say to them about the situation there since the quakes. Your eloquent post says it all. I’m grateful. And glad you and yours came through unscathed. Now onward to help those who didn’t. ¡Viva México!
We have had two days now with no noticeable quakes. Things are definitely beginning to seem quite normal again in and around Oaxaca City. Life is full of risks. Visiting here is not one I would hesitate to take. We have had a wonderful time while doing all we can to help those less fortunate in the impacted areas south and north. Yes, Mexico will live and Day of the Dead here proves to be even more interesting and spirited than usual.