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Last November, an earthquake struck the San Marcos region of north-western Guatemala, killing 41 people and leaving over 20,000 homeless.
When I visited San Marcos in February, the destruction of that earthquake could still be seen in the damaged buildings and piles of rubble that littered the streets.
The San Marcos earthquake did not generate many headlines outside of Guatemala. It was small news internationally, but for the people of this region the damage it caused was huge.
Mayda Mendoza Diongio’s house was completely destroyed when a boulder rolled down a hill and crashed through the front door of the house.
“Thankfully my children were at my sister’s house,” she said. “We are always told to stand at the doorframe if an earthquake hits, but if they had stood at our doorframe the boulder would have killed them. I saved for years to build the house and I lost it all in just a few minutes, but at least my family was not harmed.”
Caption: Bottom: Mayda Mendoza Diongio’s with daughters Melisa and Paola beside the boulder that crashed into their house during the November earthquake. Top: Mayda examines the coffee growing on the plot of land where her new house will be built.
A little down the road, Marvin Méndez Fuentes is also thankful for the stroke of luck that saved the lives of his children. There is nothing left of what was once his home – but he knows it could have been worse.
I was working in the field when the earthquake happened,” he told us. “Thankfully, my wife and children were all at a funeral and were not at home. Ten of my neighbours were killed when their house collapsed on them. If the earthquake had happened at night, we would all have been killed.”
Caption: Marvin and his son Jose Enrique beside the rubble of their home in February, 2013 and (top)
with family outside what will be their new home.
Trócaire is currently rebuilding and repairing houses in San Marcos. This is one of the many humanitarian projects Trócaire carries out to rebuild lives after emergencies that many people outside of the affected region will not even have heard about.
Sixty-nine-year-old grandmother Maria Margarita Quiroa lived her whole life in the home that was destroyed by the earthquake.
Like many others in San Marcos, she will soon be able to move back into a proper home, thanks to the support Trócaire receives from the Irish public.
For Maria, a new home means everything.
“It was so sad to see the house destroyed,” she said. “I was born in that house, as were my four children and five of my grandchildren. We lost everything. With the new house At least I will be able to see out the last days of my life in a proper home.”
Caption: Maria Margarita Quiroa inside her temporary home in February 2013. Below, work is underway on her new home, March 2013.
All photos by Alan Whelan bar the bottom two and middle top by Trócaire Guatemala.
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