I am certain that all of you will remember the August 15, 2007 earthquake that hit Peru. Yesterday, April 26, 2008, I had the opportunity to visit a family in the region where the earthquake did the most damage.
My maid, Edith is from Chincha, which is in the region of Ica where the 8.0 epicenter did the most damage. To say the least, it was a bittersweet experience. Edith, her 15 year old son, Gino and I rode the bus for 3 hours to get to her home. On the way, she told me that she had never invited anyone to visit with her family. I was/am touched and honored that she asked me to go.
Her family welcomed me with open arms and what a family. I met her parents, four of her 11 brothers and sisters, her adorable grandmother, brother and sister-in-laws, aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews. It is a large family! I had a wonderful meal of cerviche – one of my favorite Peruvian dishes of raw fish “cooked” in lime juice, rice and yucca – a root plant.
We visited the town square of Chincha. Here I saw where their church once stood…now it is a bare lot with rows of pews underneath a tarp. Another reminder of the earthquake’s destruction.
Near the town plaza is the home and shrine to Melchorita Sarava Tasayco who was a lady that dedicated her life to helping the poor and sick. Today, many visit her home, which is now a shrine to her. Here they pray for help with their various problems and illnesses. Along the walls, there are many murals that have been painted in appreciation for the miracles that have been answered by this lady.
On the street outside of this shrine, are several small gift shops. Mostly they sell items made from wicker. One of the things that Senora Tasayco did to help the poor, is teach them to weave with wicker in order to learn a craft that they could earn a living with.
The market place was very interesting and busy. We also visited a vineyard. This area is very popular for wine. Pisco wine of the famous Pisco sours is from this area.
We rode the streets of Chincha. Everywhere there is evidence of destruction from the earthquake. Some people have been fortunate to be able to rebuild or purchase a pre-fab home made of wood. However, for the most part, people are living in homes similar (or worse) to what Edith’s family is living in. These homes are shelters that consist of mats woven from wicker. The roofs are also mats that are reinforced with cardboard. There is no running water and some people are without electricity. Fortunately, Edith’s family does have electricity.
It just makes me wonder where all of the money that people donated actually went. Edith showed me where her sister and brother-in-law’s home was….there is nothing left of it. You can see the red cement floor, but that is all. There is literally nothing left.
Edith’s sister and family now live with her parents. They have a room that is separated from the others with blue tarp. Jose, the husband, is trying to make a living as a taxi driver. He rents the car he is using and slowly is trying to build a life for he and his family.
If it wasn’t lost in translation, I understood Edith to say that relief money was given to the mayor of the town. He supposedly distributed the money to his family and friends. People like Edith’s family have received no assistance from anyone.
We left the area around 4:30 and arrived back in Miraflores around 8:00 PM. It was certainly a day that has left a huge impression on me and left me asking many questions.