An 8.2 earthquake shook southern Mexico on September 7, leaving Oaxaca completely devastated. It was the strongest earthquake that Mexico had felt in 100 years. Just 12 days later–when relief efforts were still in their infancy and aftershocks continued to rock the area–a second earthquake of magnitude 7.2 struck central Mexico. The 7.1 quake occurred on the 32nd anniversary of the most tragic earthquake in Mexico’s history. In fact, September 19 had been set aside as a date to review and drill earthquake safety procedures.
What is there to say? What words can describe the magnitude of the loss and the emotional, physical, mental toll of these quakes? What is our job as Spanish teachers in these days?
One of my very favorite Bible stories is the story of Hagar, found in Genesis 16 and 21. Hagar was the servant of Abraham’s wife Sarah, and when Sarah couldn’t conceive, she had Abraham sleep with Hagar. When Hagar conceived, Sarah was jealous, and the Bible says that she despised Hagar. Hagar ran away, and the angel of the Lord appeared to her, assured her that her struggle was witnessed by the Creator of the universe, and promised her that she would have too many descendants to count. She named that place, “El Roi”, “You are the God who sees”
There is a very real need in Mexico right now; a physical need, a monetary need. More about that later. AND there is also the need that accompanies any human suffering; the need to be seen.
As language teachers, we have dedicated ourselves to giving the gift of language to our students; to giving them a new voice. Let us now dedicate ourselves to giving voice to the real people struggling to pull together the pieces of their broken lives. Let us find stories that move our students to action; let us scream from our classrooms to Mexico, “WE SEE YOU!”.
There is much that we can’t do; but there is much that we can. I have put together some materials that highlight some ‘heroes’ that have emerged from the rubble. The first is a slideshow about the Topos (moles), which are members of a volunteer organization that formed following the ’85 quake. Thank you to Jody Noble and Janice Sabin de Medina for sharing resources with me that helped me put together the slideshow. I embedded several videos in the slideshow that Jody brought to my attention; please take the time to watch them with your students.
Frida, the rescue dog
The second is an article that I added to the 9/18 issue of El Mundo en tus manos about Frida, the dog that has become a national hero in Mexico. Kristy Placido originally shared her story with me, and I added the article post-publication last Monday. I am now separating it out as a free article to include in this packet of materials. The final resource that I included is a story about teenagers in Mexico that have joined the relief efforts, distributing donations on bicycle. Becky Moulton shared that story from NPR with me!
How to help
I reached out to Jody Noble, who is a former Spanish teacher from CA that now lives in Oaxaca. I lived in rural Oaxaca back in 2006 and so I am connected to that region in particular. Jody reports that there are 50,000 homeless in Oaxaca. Flooding is now a major problem in the region. The poor and indigenous people of Oaxaca are being forgotten, overshadowed by the devastation in the capital following the quake on September 19. People are sleeping in plastic chairs out in the open with water up to their knees in Juchitan. A bridge went down on September 23, after another aftershock, and two more people died.
With Jody’s guidance, I have chosen two organizations to support. Won’t you join me?
These are two real entities working in Oaxaca that have very good track records. You can donate directly to them from your PayPal account, eliminating the exorbitant fees that come with crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe:
- Go to PayPal.
- Press “Pay for goods and services”.
- Send payment to one of these two organizations:
There are many more stories of ordinary people that are making a difference on the ground in Mexico. I wish that I could write about all of them, but I have five little humans that depend on me. Thankfully there are many more teachers out there that are also trying to give voice to the victims and their families. Click here to read a post with materials from Kara Jacobs and click here and here to read news from Maris Hawkins. I have created a Google Drive folder to collect additional resources related to the earthquakes. Please feel free to add anything that you find–links to articles or videos, resources that you develop, images, anything that you think teachers could use to help connect students to this situation.
Puerto Rico, I see you, too.
I am donating all proceeds of my Huracanes en el Caribe mini-unit from the month of September to Hurricane María relief efforts. Within the next few days I will be sharing materials specifically about Hurricane Maria to give voice to our neighbors in Puerto Rico following Hurricane María. Jillane Baros has already shared a video that she created on her Facebook page. It is an edited version of Despacito that shows off Puerto Rico and cuts out the stuff that you don’t want to show your students. She also shared some links to images of the same places post-hurricane. Look for her post from September 24, 2017 on her Facebook page to access the video and links!