Lucy Popescu

freedom to write, review, travel…

Another day, another quake

Posted by lucypopescu on May 22, 2009

On Thursday, the UK was criticised for its handling of the H1N1 outbreak – it has overtaken Spain and now has the most confirmed cases in Europe – and it was suggested that Britain may be hiding a much larger outbreak. The same criticism was levelled at Mexican officials last month. Mexico city, meanwhile, is officially “back to normal”. On Thursday night the city mayor lowered the swine flu alert level from yellow to green as there have been no new infections for a week. No more masks; one can go about one’s daily business as normal and ride the peseros again with abandon. But it seems that Mother Nature cannot resist delivering a parting shot.

Early afternoon on Friday, another earthquake registering 5.7 on the Richter scale hit Mexico. This time I was caught, quite literally, in a state of undress. I was having a massage to alleviate some muscular pain when the quake struck nearly throwing me off the table.  I was with Erica, that indomitable chica, who just carried straight on as if nothing had happened. When I asked for confirmation – forgetting suddenly the word for earthquake (terremoto) and asking instead if it had been a tremor de terra – she took a quick look outside, shrugged and told me to watch the vase of flowers, perched precariously above my head, for any sign of aftershocks. From now on, I’m going to call her my hermana en crisis (sister in crisis).

It has to be said, although Erica’s calm response was admirable, an earthquake isn’t great for relaxation and I emerged in more pain – my muscles tensed for flight – than when I arrived.

The epicentre was in Puebla, but again the tremors were felt strongly in Mexico city. Many offices and buildings were evacuated. Poblanos would have been understandably nervous having suffered a disastrous earthquake almost ten years ago in June 1999 whilst Chilangos will recall the devastation wrought by the September 1985 earthquake.

Two earthquakes in a month!

Coming from a tiny island in Western Europe, everything in this country is writ large: As well as the earth tremors, the sun is relentless in its intensity; the mountains over-shadow everything; the volcanoes are awe-inspiring… It is no wonder that Mexicans are naturally superstitious.  At every turn God, or some other higher being, seems to be sending a message. Whether it is the virulence of the virus that swept through the country targeting the young and healthy; the terrifying thunderstorms (common in May) and torrential rain that floods everywhere in seconds; or the jagged flashes of lightening that at night illuminate everything for miles around and immediately cause power cuts; or the deadly scorpions that appear to lurk in every dark corner.

It is all food for the imagination which, in turn, nourishes the soul but, to be frank, these damn tremors are becoming a little too regular for my liking.  However, Britain has its own horrors including the threat of terrorism and rising gang violence. When I shortly leave DF for London will I be exiting one drama and walking into another; leaving a city in recovery for one dealing with an escalating flu crisis?

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