Saturday, November 10, 2012

Shake, Rattle, and Roll

This week an earthquake with a 7.4 magnitude on the richter scale rocked Guatemala and many parts of Mexico and Central America. The earthquake occurred about 25 miles under the water along the coast of Guatemala but could be felt in multiple places, including Antigua.
At 10:35 am while I was in my Spanish class, our tables started to rock and we were all moved into the garden to wait out the tremors. As this was the second earthquake since being here, I tried to stay calm, but the rocking was much stronger and lasted much longer. Even some of the locals became nervous but tried to stay calm for our sake. Finally after what seemed like forever, the shaking stopped and classes were resumed.
Around Antigua, damage was minimal with only a few power cords down and the phone lines tied up. Down where the epicenter of the earthquake was, was another story. Buildings crumbled and around 50 people died with some injured and missing. This news was devastating to hear, but the government has reacted quickly and efficiently, sending in resources and paying for the burials of each person. After reading the news, it was said that this earthquake was the worst one that occurred in Guatemala since 1976 when about 23,000 people died. For 2 days after, there were still aftershocks that were felt by some people, but definitely not as strong. I'm just glad that all is well and we are all safe and sound

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Dia De Los Muertos

Today is November 1, and if I was living in the United States right now, it would be just a normal autumn day for people to recuperate after Halloween, but in Latin America, something new is celebrated.  Di De Los Muertos translates to Day of the Dead.  Sounds a little morbid right?  Actually, after experiencing the celebrations today, I found it to be very beautiful and interesting.
Day of the dead is a time when business close, families spend the day together, and the lives of those who passed away are celebrated.  This morning during my class, my teacher took me to the cemetery in Antigua to see the festivities and learn about the culture.  Normally a cemetery is a solemn place where people go to mourn their loss.  Today I thought there was a festival going on with the amount of people, noise, and activity.  Walking up to the entrance of the cemetery, there were vendors selling carnival food, snacks, and drinks.  People were walking in with handfuls and bouquets of flowers to place on the grave sites, and music was playing in all areas of the cemetery.
A cemetery in Guatemala is different from those in the United States.  Instead of having the graves under the ground, people buy small buildings to use as their grave site and are placed inside like a tomb.  The decoration is very elaborate and the buildings are large and tall.  Today, families came with crowns and bouquets of flowers to place on the grave sites where they then ate their lunch, sang songs, listened to music, and celebrated the lives of those who were gone.  I imagined this day to be filled with sadness and despair, but from what I could see, that was not the case at all.
Additionally, giant kites are often flown in the cemetery in order to signify the connection from Heaven to Earth to allow those who died a day of passage to visit their loved ones.  These giant kites are made in advance with specific colors to signify different meanings.
I was excited to be able to take part in this experience and I think that it is a great way to celebrate the lives of those who are gone.