A letter from Mexico is a monthly letter from Mariana Alvarado, a feminist journalist living in Mexico City. Each month she’ll be exploring different topics, especially the relationship between Mexico and the United States.
It´s been two months since I published my last letter from México. I feel and think I owe you, –ROAR readers-, an apology. I´m sure you understand.
As you know, on September 19 an earthquake struck Mexico killing hundreds of people and causing damages in the Mexican states of Puebla, Morelos and in the greater Mexico City area where more than 40 buildings collapsed.
And since then, our lives changed forever in every sense. Official records said the quake had an estimated magnitude of 7.1 and strong shaking for about 20 seconds. But for all of us, who felt the greatness of mother nature, it felt like an eternity.
More than 350 people were killed by the earthquake, including 228 in Mexico City. More than 6,000 people were injured and even though there´s no official record yet, I´m sure most of us are still struggling with emotional trauma.
How can we forget about it? How can we ignore what happened when it´s still a big part of our daily conversations? How can we forget about the quake when the reconstruction works are just about to start or already happening in different city areas? How can we forget when there´s damage everywhere we drive or walk?
How can I ignore it or pretend nothing happened when every day seeing my baby girl´s friends at school reminds me of that little classmate whose mom was killed in the quake? This 5-year-old kid who´s not longer waiting for mommy to pick her up at school and is struggling living with her grandparents.
Yes, we are moving on with our lives, with our routines and we try, or at least I know I do, to stay optimistic, happy and see all the beautiful things. But as much as I want, tragedy comes back in my mind from time to time. Like the other night, when I was watching TV with my husband and I thought I heard the seismic alert. I jumped out of the couch because of the TV show sounds! I even yelled at my husband saying we needed to leave!
So, no, it hasn’t been easy to forget, despite all the efforts and recommendations I´ve been following, a lot of those even from experts.
If this tragedy has taught me anything it´s that nothing is as precious as life itself. As I wrote in a guest opinion for the Arizona Daily Star, all I wanted that day was to get to my daughter´s school and see that she was alive. All I wanted that day was to make sure I could find my husband and hear his voice. I was terrified thinking about how he works in the 11th floor of a building as I learned some buildings had collapsed. All I wanted that day was to make sure I was still able to hug and kiss my loved ones.
This tragedy has moved the deepest feelings in my heart. It has made think of all the things we take for granted. But at the same time, this tragedy reminded me of how death is part of life. As we have been recovering from the quake, November arrived and our city streets were covered with colorful flowers and ornaments celebrating Dia de Muertos everywhere.
We enjoyed a wonderful exhibit of gigantic Calaveras – colorfully decorated skulls- and a magnificent Day of the Death parade along Paseo de la Reforma, our main Avenue in Mexico City. That made me think of how thankful I am of my roots, my traditions and for my ancestors teaching us that in celebrating death we honor life.
This tragedy has taught me to appreciate life and how fortunate we are to have survived such a catastrophe. I want to honor that the rest of my life and teach my baby girl that life is beautiful no matter what.
As we now prepared to celebrate Thanksgiving here in Mexico City with our beautiful multicultural community, I´m thankful for everything and everybody in my life, including the departed ones.
Mariana Alvarado is an award winning journalist based in Mexico City with 20 years experience as a reporter and editor of web and print. She’s currently a journalism instructor with the Center for Digital Journalism at Universidad de Guadalajara. She’s worked on both sides of the border covering immigration, international business and border issues. She’s collaborated with Grupo Reforma in Mexico and with the Arizona Daily Star, the Orlando Sentinel, among other publications in the U.S. She’s married and have a two-year-old girl. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: Alvaradomariana