Words from a man who lost his home in Mexico’s earthquake

22859998_10155521906031928_2080079651281708923_oAs part of my fall sabbatical, I had the opportunity to visit Tlatempo, Mexico, a small town in the hills above Cuernavaca that was partly destroyed in the recent earthquake. About half the houses in the town were located directly on an earthquake fault, and they were reduced to rubble. The community school also had crumbled.

I accompanied Dra. Alicia Valencia and a group of her students from the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional – future teachers who were learning with Alicia about community-engaged-pedagogy. They were accompanying the community in a variety of ways: working with children, listening to parents, offering meditation and yoga sessions, and helping with a myriad of reconstruction tasks.22829443_10155521906026928_6214897323039309781_o

Unfortunately, a large part of the collective energy of this group went to a rather sad task: bagging moldy clothing that had been donated to the town.  After any natural disaster, there are often massive donations of relatively useless stuff. In this case, people who had lost homes had no where to store the clothing, even if they could find items that were appropriate and in good condition. And it was the rainy season…

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While visiting the town, I had the opportunity to talk with a man named Rosalio Saucedo Figueroa,  whose home had been reduced to rubble. Rogelio spoke thoughtfully and eloquently about his losses. I promised him that I would bring his thoughts to a wider public, and so I share them verbatim here, along with my translation:

“Hoy aquí en mi pueblo tengo la bendición de Dios de contar con una persona que viene de Los Angeles, California. Está grabando este testimonio, y quiero decirle a la humanidad entera, del Polo Norte al Polo Sur, de este a oeste, que caerse no significa el final. Caerse, y levantarse, es lo más lindo que Dios nos ha permitido hacer en la Tierra. Nos quedamos en cero, sin hogar, pero hoy vivimos contentos, felices, porque nos llega la gente de donde quiera a traernos su buena vibra, su voluntad, y sus buenos deseos. Son los mejores cimientos que vamos a poner a nuestras nuevas casas, y que primero Dios, con toda la suma de ayuda y esfuerzos que estamos hacienda, pronto tendremos un nuevo nido, una nueva casa, y será un pueblo con encanto, un pueblo mágico. Ayúdenos, por favor, se les pedimos, gracias.”

“Today in my town I am blessed with a visit from a person who lives in Los Angeles, California. She is taping this testimony, and I want to say to all of humanity, from the North Pole to the South Pole, from east to west, that to fall down does not mean the end. To fall down, and get back up, is the most beautiful thing that God has permitted us on the planet. We are back to zero, without homes, but we live happy, content, because people from all over send us their good vibes, their good will, their good wishes. Those are the best bricks that we can put into our new homes, because if God permits, with all of the help and efforts that we are doing, son we will have a new nest, a new house, and it will be an enchanted town, a magical town. Help us, please, we ask, thank you.”

“Ahora tenemos que ver que nuestra vida sea arte, y tenemos que demostrar a la humanidad complete que a pesar del desastre mundial que hay, en el desequilibrio que los gobernantes de cada país han provocado, por la ambición del dinero y del poder, muy aparte de eso vivimos gente que nos gusta vivir en fiesta, en harmonía, en paz, sin corrupción, sin ambición. Porque hoy que esta tragedia nos da la oportunidad de contarlo, nos dimos cuenta que no tenemos nada, que sólo somos seres vivos en el planeta, como cualquier animalito, como cualquiera planta, pero que somos importantes para nosotros mismos. Y para poder querer a los demás tengo que quererme primero yo… Si hay amor debe comenzar conmigo…Nosotros tenemos ese gran compromiso con nuestra Madre Tierra. Que mucho daño le han hecho los grandes empresarios, los ricos…y tal vez estos terremotos, cataclismos, estén sucediendo también por eso, que no nos hemos dado cuenta que el planeta está viva, el planeta se está manifestando, así es que vivimos con amor, fraternidad, demostrémos la amistad, y bueno, ojalá que esas gentes duras metálicas, un día reflexionan, y hagamos verdaderamente a nuestra planeta donde la gente vivimos en fiesta.”

“Now we have to see that our life is art, and we have to show all of humanity that in spite of this world disaster, and the uncertainty that the leaders of each country have provoked by their ambition for money and power, that very separate from that live people who love to live in celebration in harmony, in peace, without corruption, without ambition. Because today this tragedy gives us the opportunity, we realize that we are nothing, that we are just beings alive on the planet, like any little animal or plant, but that we are important for ourselves. And that in order to love others we first have to love ourselves. If there is love it should begin with me…We need to make a commitment to our Mother Earth. Because the big corporations, the rich, have don ea lot of damage. Perhaps this is why earthquakes and cataclisms are happening, so that we realize that the planet is alive, that it is speaking, and that we have to live in love and brotherhood, in friendship, and I hope that all those hard metallic men will one day reflect, so that we can truly make this planet a place where people live in celebration.”

When I told Rogelio that I help to train teachers, he offered these words:

“Para todas esas personas que hoy se están preparando para ser maestros, quiero decirles que hay un compromiso tan grande. Podría ser más grande que nuestro planeta, ya que futuramente tendrán que trabajar con recurso humano, y lo que Uds como estudiantes hoy y como profesionales mañana van a ser con sus pupilos. Tienen que mostrar que tenemos que vivir con arte. Les tienen que enseñar a reflexionar. Les tienen que enseñar a pensar. No debemos vivir por vivir. No al materialismo. No a la corrupción. La preparación no es para eso. Ayudemos a prepararnos espiritual y mentalmente. La riqueza del ser humano no es en el capital que tenga, sino en el espíritu, conocimiento, y lo que haga para toda su gente, que esté cerca o lejos de allí.”
“To all those people who are preparing to be teachers, I would like to say that this is a very great commitment. It could be the greatest one on the planet, given that in the future you will work with human resources, what you as students today and as professionals tomorrow will be with your pupils. You will have to show them how to live with art. You will have to show them how to reflect.  You will have to show them how to think. We should not live just to live. No to materialism. No to corruption. Education is not for that. We need to help ourselves to prepare spiritually and mentally. The richness of human beings is not in the capital that they have, but in the spirit, knowledge, and what they do for people, whether they are near or far from here.”
“Que no se olviden que van a ser formadores de nuevas generaciones. Que esas generaciones sepan reconocer su planeta. Sepan reconocer los animales. Sepan reconocer su próximo. Sepan reconocer su propia familia. Y sobre todo que infundan y viven con valores: honestidad, amor, fraternidad, colaboración, que mucha falta nos hace en todos los países de esta planeta.”
“Don’t forget that you are going to be forming new generations. Those generations should know how to respect (recognize) the planet.  They should respect animals. They should respect their neighbors. They should respect their family.  And above all they should infuse and live with values: honesty, love, brotherhood, collaboration, which is sorely lacking in many countries on this planet. “
Rogelio is re-building his home and he knows that he will appreciate it all the more for having seen how easily things he love were lost. I take inspiration from his words and will carry them to the future teachers I work with at UCLA.


  1. Thank you for sharing Rogelio’s beautiful words. The message he shares, of hope and love, is indeed inspirational. I am called to push my own work further in ways that bridge community and scholarship.

    • admin

      December 23, 2017 at 2:54 am

      Dear Maritza: Thank you for taking the time to share this comment. It reminds me of the power of words – how sharing can inspire and motivate others, in all kinds of ways. Rogelio really wanted his words to go out into the world, to see his experience generate good far and wide.

      As for bridging community work and scholarship, it’s true that there are many forces that keep these things apart, or that pull us in directions that seem contradictory. But I’ve come to see that there are many ways to do this work that can be more integrated, more cohesive, less fragmented. I’d be happy to talk and think with you sometime about your own work.
      Best, Marjorie

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