Nicaragua: The Aftermath of the 1972 Earthquake

On December 23, 1972, a strong earthquake with a magnitude of 6.2 struck Managua, Nicaragua killing 5,000, injuring 20,000, and leaving 250,000 homeless. Nicaraguan blogger Homero was a young child at the time, but he holds memories of the aftermath, which he describes in a recent post [es] in his blog Ventana de Homero [es] (Homero's Window).

Cuando logramos salir a descampado a un patio detrás de mi casa, pudimos observar que el cielo estaba rojo y la atmósfera cargada; los vecinos comenzaron a juntarse; la mayoría estaban con ropas de dormir y algunos niños lloraban asustados. Mi padre me dijo en tono serio: “Es un terremoto hijo, Managua debe estar destruida” y era cierto.

When we were able to emerge to a patio behind my house, we could see that the sky was red and that the atmosphere was charged; the neighbors started to gather, the majority were wearing their sleeping clothes, and some children were crying because they were scared. My father said to me in a serious tone: “It is an earthquake, son, Managua has surely been destroyed” and it was true.

The family left in their car to check on the safety of the grandparents, who lived across the city. Embarking on that trek, they saw much pain in the darkened streets.

Por primera vez miraba como en una película lenta y en blanco y negro; como la gente deambulaba sin rumbo por las calles; otras desesperadas rascaban con su manos los escombros buscando a sus familiares enterrados bajo las lozas y bloques de cemento. Pude ver como en unos carretones de madera trasladaban muertos y heridos y todo el mundo imploraba; “llevenos al hospital” y nosotros no podíamos hacer nada.

For the first time, I saw things in slow-motion and like a black and white movie; how the people aimlessly wandered through the streets; others were desperately digging the rubble with their hands, looking for buried family members under the cement blocks. I could see how some wooden carts moved the dead and wounded and everyone pleaded, “take us to the hospital” and yet, we could not do anything.

Neighbors organized themselves to provide water and blankets to those who needed it, as well as organized search teams to look for the dead and injured. Homero also noted that there was not a single member of the national guard on the streets, which only added to the chaos:

Los ladrones aprovecharon la madrugada para asaltar las tiendas y robar lo que encontraban; al principio no sabía, miré un hombre sucio y sin camisa cargando un televisor por las calles y mi padre me dijo: Ahí va un ladrón. ¿Y como lo sabes? le pregunté, por que nadie en estas situaciones se preocupa salvar un televisor. Eso solo era el comienzo de la ratería que se desató en los días posteriores; mientras los ladronzuelos de los barrrios hacían su “diciembre” Somoza y sus secuaces se robaban la ayuda humanitaria de los danmificados del terremoto de Managua.

The thieves took advantage of the daybreak to rob stores and steal what they found; at the beginning I didn't know what was going on, I saw a dirty and shirtless man carrying a television through the streets and my father said to me: There goes a thief. How do you know? I asked him, and he said because no one in this situation is worrying about saving a television. It was only the start of the pilfering that was unleashed in the following days; while the neighborhood thieves did their “December” (Christmas), [former president Anastasio] Somoza and his henchmen stole the humanitarian aid for those affected by the Managua earthquake.

He ends his post with a reflection on the legacy left by the earthquake 37 years ago:

Nicaragua no solo había perdido miles de sus hijos; también perdió su capital, la novia del Xolotlán y ningún gobierno le ha podido devolver su centro ni su belleza.

Nicaragua not only lost thousands of its sons; but it also lost its capital, the bride of Xolotlán and no government has been able to return neither its city center, nor its beauty.

1 comment

  • Estimado Eduardo: Te felicito por esta loable labor de difundir esas voces del mundo que permanecen en el anonimato. Esta iniciativa es de primer orden por que amplifica el espectro del periodismo ciudadano en la blogfera. Gracias por encontrar valor en mis textos. Saludos desde Nicaragua. H.

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