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Chile: Taking Stock a Year After the Earthquake

Last weekend marked the first anniversary of the earthquake measuring 8.8 on the Richter scale which hit Chile in the early hours of February 27th 2010, and prompted many to take stock on the country's social networks. The earthquake left more than 500 dead, around 220,000 homes destroyed and more than 30,000 million dollars in financial losses[es]. Thousands of people are still living in emergency housing and have been unable to overcome the trauma suffered. Many protest that the process of reconstruction is moving too slowly, with controversial accusations levelled at the current government and ex-President Michelle Bachelet who faces a legal inquiry [es] for prematurely dismissing the possibility of a tsunami.

The subject has been analysed on the social networks, with the focus varying from criticisms [es] of the slow pace of the reconstruction, to protests [es], memories, commemorations, vigils, and eyewitness accounts tagged #iwasthere [es].

"Houses and buildings may crumble, but our strength to help our families, friends and brothers will remain." Image from Flickr user Play, used under licence CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Mapuexpress [es] takes a look back and says:

La perdida de Vidas Humanas, el quiebre de un sistema y modelo considerado desarrollado, moderno, que sin embargo, dejó al desnudo las carencias frente a una catástrofe y sus impactos.

The loss of human life, the destruction of a system and model considered developed, modern, which however, laid bare the deficiencies in the system when faced with a catastrophe and its consequences.

Roberto Arancibia from El Mundo Sigue Ahí [es] offers this analysis:

Un año después, y la esperada reconstrucción avanza demasiado lento. Un año después, muchas familias siguen viviendo en aldeas y campamentos de emergencia, y se disponen ahora a pasar ahí su segundo invierno. Un año después, y muchas familias todavía son víctimas del terremoto. Vaya para ellos toda mi solidaridad.
Un año después, ¿habremos aprendido algo?

A year on, and the long-awaited reconstruction is moving slowly. A year on, many families continue to live in emergency villages and camps, and are about to spend their second winter there. A year on, and many families are still victims of the earthquake. I offer them my total solidarity. A year on, have we learnt anything?

The Chilean actor Felipe Viel (@felipeviel), who lives outside of Chile, posted an example of the messages [es] of support which are appearing on the Internet:

Hoy recordamos a todas las victimas del terremoto de Chile. Fuerza a todas sus familias .Un fuerte abrazo

Today we remember all the victims of the Chilean earthquake. May their families remain strong. A big hug.

Meanwhile, the Twitter user @elquenoaporta expresses a critical summary of the commemorations in three tweets (1, 2, 3):

1. Todos esperando la hora como si fuera año nuevo. Mal.
2. Una fecha que debería unir, separa más que nunca. Mal.
3. Ni se ha hecho todo, como dice un lado, ni nada, como dice otro. El blanco y negro acá no va. Mal.

1. Everyone waiting for the hour to strike as if it was New Year. Bad.
2. A date which should bring people together, separates them more than ever. Bad.
3. Neither has everything possible been done, as one side claims, nor has nothing been done, as the other side claims.   Black and white don't go together here. Bad.

Reconstruction, protests and reactions

The inhabitants of the city of Concepción have accused the government of being too slow in the process of reconstruction. They assure that the promised funds have not been delivered, and they say that the regional authorities show “little concern” for the inhabitants of the region.

The National Movement for Fair Reconstruction,” [es] which groups together around 25 citizens’ associations from the Metropolitan Region –the capital– to the region of Biobío, called on the hoisting of black flags to symbolise “A year without reconstruction.” The movement bases its demand on behalf of citizens on three points [es]: “Construction of decent housing, with quality and participation; Reconstruction of public services such as schools, clinics and hospitals and Rejection of privatisation and speculation, especially in the coastal region and in historical districts.”

The following video shows representatives of different organizations voicing their concerns about the reconstruction process:

Black flags and balloons have been a constant feature of the protests. Inhabitants of Constitución, one of the areas worst affected by the earthquake, protested [es] while President Sebastián Piñera was making a speech at one of the official ceremonies commemorating the earthquake on February 27.

Protest "a year without reconstruction" in Concepción. Image from Flickr user Annais Ferreira, used under licence number CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Ximena Jara in El Quinto Poder [es] condemns “the government, who to put it lightly, have come off pretty badly” following various hearings carried out by the Government's Finance Office [es]. Ximena writes:

Dan deseos de invitar a todos a desplegar un esfuerzo mancomunado por mejorar nuestra capacidad de generar respuestas adecuadas en caso de una catástrofe. Es éste un problema que no conoce de ubicación geográfica, condición social ni menos, de color político. Cualquiera de nosotros puede ser víctima de una desgracia como un terremoto, un tsunami, una inundación un incendio.

Cualquiera de nosotros merece estar amparado por un sistema idóneo y moderno de manejo de crisis, de comunicación, de ayuda, rescate, albergue y asistencia médica. Enfrentemos entre todos este desafío y tengamos un poco de humildad. La soberbia, en esto como en casi todo lo demás es una mala consejera.

It makes you want to invite everyone to mount a united effort to improve our capacity to generate adequate responses to catastrophes. This is a problem which is not limited to a single geographical region, nor a single social or political class. Any one of us could fall victim to a misfortune such as an earthquake, a tsunami, a flood or a fire.

Every one of us deserves to be protected by an adequate, modern crisis management system, comprising communication, search and rescue, shelter and medical assistance. We must confront this challenge together with a bit of humility. Arrogance, in this as in almost everything, always produces bad advice.

The government was accused in social networks of photomontage [es] in its attempt to show the progress of reconstruction after the earthquake with images which turned out to have been taken prior to the day of the earthquake, February 27, 2010. Users of social networks, such as Alejandro Vega [es], quickly claimed to have seen these images previously. EnRuta [es] accuses:

Y ya vamos a cumplir un año de la peor calamidad que he visto. Me refiero a la calamidad humana, al terremoto de ladrones y saqueadores, además de toda la parafernalia utilizada por las autoridades y la prensa. Acabo de ver las fotos falsas de los supuestos arreglos y mejoras hechos por el Gobierno en el año post terremoto y pienso en el montaje que se viene este fin de semana en la VII y VIII Región: Cobquecura, Constitución, Talcahuano, Iloca…

And soon a year will have passed since the worst catastrophe I've seen. I refer here to the human catastrophe, to the earthquake of thieves and looters, as well as all the paraphernalia used by the authorities and the press. I've just seen the fake photos of the supposed repairs and improvements carried out by the government in the year following the earthquake and I think about the montage which is coming this weekend in the VII and VIII Region [closest to the epicentre]: Cobquecura, Constitución, Talcahuano, Iloca…

La Estrella de la Segunda Independencia [es] comments:

La catástrofe dejó en muchos compatriotas una experiencia indeleble. Y nos dejó a todos una lección: el hombre está primero. Su vida está primero. Su dignidad está primero. En esos minutos que temblaba, para todos lo más importante fueron sus hijos, sus padres, la familia. Lo principal fue, a pesar del miedo, la preocupación por el otro. Aquello, lo básico, que nos hace hombres, y no animales.

Ese es el origen de la dignidad, lo que orientó las acciones posteriores al terremoto. A pesar de años y años en los que se procuró la destrucción y la fragmentación de las organizaciones sociales, volvieron a surgir los líderes auténticos, honestos, en el seno del pueblo. A pesar de la destrucción, se crearon casas de la unidad y centros de reunión. A pesar del abatimiento y la desesperanza, mujeres y hombres sencillos, trabajadores, levantaron la bandera de las ruinas y del barro. Levantaron la patria nuevamente.

The catastrophe has left an indelible mark on many of our compatriots. And it taught us all a lesson: people come first. Life comes first. Dignity comes first. In those moments when the earth trembled, the first thought on every person's mind was for their children, parents, family. The main thing was, in spite of the fear, worry for others. That basic thing is what makes us humans, not animals.

That is the origin of dignity, which characterised the actions following the earthquake. In spite of years and years attempting the destruction and fragmentation of social organisations, true, honest leaders began to re-emerge from the heart of the people. In spite of the destruction, houses of unity and meeting centres were set up. In spite of dejection and despair, simple men and women, workers, raised the flag from the ruins and the mud. They lifted the country back onto its feet again.

Marcos Canalez Nuñez (@MarcosCanales) also displays a feeling of pride for his country:

Que puedo decir? Es un orgullo ser y sentirme Chileno, porque #YoEstuveAhiun #27F 2010 a las 3:34. Yo sé lo que se siente.. #VIVACHILE

What can I say? I feel proud to be and to feel Chilean, because #IWasThere on #27F 2010 at 3:34. I know what it feels like… #VIVACHILE

Finally, Rocio Rivera Elorza (@rrelorza) draws February 27 to a close saying:

Y así pasó un año del #27F… me siento feliz porque pude aportar con ayuda post terremoto, pero repitamos: QUEDA MUCHO! y es tarea de TODOS

And so a year has passed since the #27F… I feel happy because I could bring some measure of help after the earthquake, but we repeat: THERE IS A LOT STILL TO BE DONE!  and it is the task of EVERYONE.

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