When we were in San Miguel yesterday, we went into the church where people were staying after losing their homes. I didn?t take photos because it would really have been intruding. People stared at us like we were aliens as it was. I was looking for my friend and we asked several people if they had seen a gringa with a red headed baby and her tall gringo husband. No one had. One man told us, ?We have many unclaimed children here, in that room, but no white babies, I?m sorry. You can look to see if you know any of the children.?
Families were huddled on the floors of the rooms in the church. Like all churches and homes here, there was a courtyard with a fountain and since the rooms were overflowing, they hung plastic sheets around the edges of the courtyard so people could lie in the corridors. Men were mostly out digging or seeing what they could salvage if their homes were still standing. Women and children huddled in small groups, talking quietly, their faces downcast. Volunteers were cooking lunch for those who were staying there.
Outside, near the actual slide, a man told us, ?There was no warning, everything went all at once. It?s because the water had nowhere to go, it just built up pressure and boom.?
Another woman told my sister-in-law, ?We thought it was an earthquake. The ground started to shake violently and then it all came down. There was no time to do anything.?
It?s amazing how Guatemalans pull together after a disaster. Say what you will about their living day to day methods, about their Guatetime . . . these are people who get into it when they are needed. Long before any foreign organization was in there, San Miguel already had people handing out food and water, helping clear debris and bringing clothing for those who lost everything. I?m sure it?s just a drop in the bucket, but it was help and it was there before the authorities could even get into the town. It reminds me of Stan, when men from San Juan, which was barely touched, took the bus to Jocotenango to spend the day digging everyone out of the mud, returning weary and filthy at the end of each day.
If you want to help, Common Hope is working in this area to help get people what they need and to help them rebuild. I haven?t worked with this organization but they do seem legit.