May 12, 2016
Yesterday we took a trip to our old neighborhood. We had to go to the Civil Registry office, which has finally just re-opened after the earthquake. We are still working to complete all of the requirements for us to get our Cedulas. These are government issued IDs that are important in gaining assimilation into society here. They are needed for everything, like getting a back account, a membership at the grocery store, school enrollment, voting, opening and running a business, to get a driver’s license and likely employment. Ironically, they make it very difficult to obtain these… and through this strange world of politics and secret alliances, we are trying to navigate the red tape. Alas, we have been here for 10 weeks and we still don’t have them in hand!
Anyway, since we were in the neighborhood, it was good opportunity to see what had become of everything and everyone. For me, it was largely unrecognizable… as many of landmarks that I used to navigate myself are now missing.
Any people who were there a few weeks ago are gone now. It seemed that we barely saw a few hundred people in this former society of nearly 20,000 residents.
Block after block, showed vacant lot after vacant lot..residential homes and shops that have since been demolished. All that have been marked “uninhabitable” are now being removed by the local government. The owners have no say or decision in this. It will, however, be up to the landowners to rebuild if they are fortunate enough to have the funds to do so. Keep in mind that most people do not have home insurance here, and if so, rumors state that most of them are denied their claims on the basis that the properties were compromised before inspection. (If anything was touched or removed… it was deemed not inspect-able).
The first phase of demolition is to clear all of the uninhabitable homes and small businesses, and 2nd is begin removing the numerous high-rise condominium buildings.
We were told that there is a photo floating around, of this neighborhood in the early 1940’s. It is expected that when the clearing is completed, the area will be visually reminiscent of that time…nearly 80 years ago, with somewhere between 5-10% off the previous establishments still standing.
We took a pedal taxi to go to see our previous residence, and we confirmed the rumors… the adjacent hotel to the home has been deemed unstable and irreparable, and it also set for demolition.
Carlos was approached on the street by one of the “soccer kids”. He told us that everyone is well, but struggling financially. Most locals made their tiny incomes (of less than $10 a day) off of tourism. Needless to say, there are not any tourists anymore and probably won’t be for a very long time. It is sad to wonder what will become of these locals. They have survived an earthquake, and in turn will endure an unfair economic downshift.
Most of the parks have been cleared of their temporary residents. We understand that most people who were living in them were taken to survivor camps just a few days after we left. These camps are located elsewhere, away from these devastated areas. The people who have stayed in the area, are mostly living in tents near their former homes or even in the vacant lots of where their homes once were.
The few businesses that are determined to thrive, have set up “shop”in a line of tents along the street of commerce.
We walk away from this, again… so thankful that we have come away from this with so much luck. It is something like “survivors guilt”, to try to understand the how and why and who are more and less affected than others. The best we can do to honor the rest, is to live in each moment with the memory of those who will not. And to use what we have, to support those who need it the most.
Our reflections continue to be in amazement of those that push on…undaunted by what has passed, and only determined to move forward against the odds. It is remarkable to witness the drive and ambition of those who have and had nothing in regards to material goods and corporate success. But whom have everything in terms of character, determination, resilience, independence. Here, there is no such thing as welfare, food stamps, or unemployment. We can’t help but wonder if the lack of that type of government aid is exactly the reason why the people are so strong. They have never been taught to expect something from someone else. They have not been conditioned to sit back and wait for an outside influence to magically change their circumstances. They do what they need to do, take responsibility for themselves, and most of all… they work hard for their accomplishments.They show their pride by teaching, sharing with, and showing others how to do the same.
The world, and particularly Western civilizations, have so much to learn from them.