Thursday, February 09, 2006
"It's a cemetery now"
Spent yesterday in Panabaj, western Guatemala, where the mudslide buried 700 people during hurricane Stan last year. 15 feet of mud is now dry earth, bodies buried below the surface. You walk on top of the mud, and as one villager said, "It used to be a village. It's a cemetery now." They recovered the last body 15 days ago. Bulldozing while collecting rocks to errect a stone wall to prevent this from happening again, they saw a hand sticking out of the earth.
The villagers, all Mayan Indians, planted palm trees to mark where their loved ones lived and died. These two grandmothers, who errected a small shrine, lost all but one person each. Their husbands, children, grandchildren. Concepcion sobbed as she told us how she prays for her family, entombed in mud below the shrine. All she found was this hat, which her children used to play with. She also lost her one-month-old grandbaby.
I can't imagine... and don't want to. The fear they live with at night, that the water and mud river will happen again, rushing down on them and entombing them or sweeping them out to Lake Atilan, as it did with little Francisco, who was found buried up to his neck in mud, but thankfully alive.
I'm exhausted and depressed now. Too much to write my book, though I have a deadline and brought this laptop to write. I've gotten some writing done, but I keep thinking the real world isn't being an author and books and the sometimes petty crap that can go with being an author. It's there, in that little village of grieving people, who only wanted to live their lives as they did, a tight-knit community who worked and played and prayed together, and now have lost entire families. It's going to take me a while to recover from this trip and all the emotional angst. In all honesty, I don't care about romance writing right now. I'm too wounded now to think about it, like a little piece of me was left behind on the silent mudfields of Panabaj, where mothers weep during the day for the children they lost, and children who survived wake up screaming, dreaming of it happening again.