lunes, octubre 10, 2005

A weekend of disasters

This past weekend has been full of rain, flooding, mudslides and other tragedies.

I'm sure everyone has heard about the huge earthquake in Pakistan. About 18,000 people are presumed dead. This has gotten a lot of coverage on CNN and other news channels, so much so that by saturday night they already had some slogan and stills attached to the coverage, which made up the better part of every hour. Poorer villages were the most affected, as always, and the headline on the BBC worldwide web page about Pakistan reads "'Whole generation'" lost in quake". I cannot imagine that type of devastation and I have been thanking God for keeping me safe for going on 30 years. I think I have talked to God more this weekend than I have in the past few months.

If you kept watching CNN for a couple of hours on end, you would have found that Guatemala also had its share of tragedy with the aftermath of hurricane Stan, which was not a particularly strong storm, but left behind many days of rain which eventually became torrential. Stan made landfall around Veracruz, Mexico, last week, but its effects have been felt as far south as El Salvador and as far west as Tapachula, Mexico, near the border with Guatemala, and Retalhuleu, one of the Guatemalan departments on the Pacific cost. Keep in mind that in this region, it is already the rainy season, and the ground is already wet with rain and humidity, making it easier for soil to break down and erode away. There is widespread flooding and mudslides and whole villages, like Panabaj and other small, Mayan towns near lake Atitlan have been completely swept away and people buried alive. Picture it, a town of 800 people just gone, to be dug up one day like pieces of ancient pottery. Houses have simply fallen into rivers, precariously built to begin with and unable to withstand the torrential rainfall, so here again, it is the poor who are suffering the most. They say the death toll is 650, but I think it is more into the low 1000's. There are places rescue workers can't even get to, and people are stuck where they are because bridges have been washed out and roads are blocked with debris or are just impassable. My family are all okay, thanks be to God, and are all tucked away in the capital, where it has not been so bad. When I was there in July, as most of you know, I took weaving classes in Santiago de Atitlan, which has been badly affected. We made some friends there at the Asociacion Cojolya weaving cooperative, mostly Tzutuhil indians, but we can't get through to any of them as the lines are out. I can only hope they are alive and well, and wonder about their houses and what this has done to their crops. This tragedy merited about a minute or two every hour on CNN International. The American version, I don't think they even touched it except on the ticker at the bottom of the screen, but the lack of coverage of anything about Latin America in the States does not surprise me. it hurts me everytime, but it does not surprise me. The US has pretty much turned its back on my country, AGAIN, offering just some blankets and that helicopter stationed in Honduras that flew in to try and rescue victims, while Colombia, which had its own mudslides in and around Medellin in the northwest of the country, killing about 25 people, has put up more aid than the richest country in the free world. I never expect the US to do much for Guatemala or any other Latin American country, but they could at least help out a bit more in times of extreme need than they're doing considering they've been gang-raping the whole region for hundreds of years. Then again, the US government can't even get their shit together in their own country. In any case, if you want to see a little more coverage of Stan in Guatemala and environs, here's a link to the BBC stories, in which they also give links to more coverage ( and an article about Panabaj from today's NY Times, in the International section behind articles about Germany's upcoming election and the bird flu.

For its part, New York City and its metropolitan areas got a lot of rain on saturday. I know we haven't had rain in a couple of months, but damn! It seemed like God just wanted to get through all the rain backlog in one night! I went out to Brooklyn to visit Jessica and see her new place, which is across the street from the Brooklyn library and museum. It's really nice, and she could even get away with saying she lives in Park Slope so as to impress the neighborhood snobs, if she so wanted. It must be even nicer on a decent day. Anyway, in some spots, the water was ankle deep, and that's not even taking into account the huge puddles that had formed since most streets and sidewalks are painfully uneven and devoid of proper drainage. As I was walking back to the Eastern Parkway subway station, there were rivers of water coming down the steps from the park, and the stations at Nevins street and Atlantic avenue were about to flood, there was so much rain coming through the ceiling, I had to open up my umbrella! There were of course several delays on the trains which were, the authorities said, related to "switch problems" (the most used excuse for MTA apathy) and not to the rain. But at one point, I had to ask one of the workers on the platform at the Nevins street station "What are you people waiting around for? For the whole system to flood so you can throw us all out onto the street and not have to do any work?" Well, the guy went off to speak to another worker on the platform, and I was cursing my big mouth, when a train came and whisked me and other very annoyed people off to Manhattan and all ended well, eventually. I got home less than an hour later, which was surprising.

The forecast says it will rain all week, and I'll have to remember to wear my wellies and bundle up as the temperature has fallen pretty dramatically, finally. I hated the hot and humid weather and welcome the cool air, but not the rain. I hope you are all safe and warm and happy.

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