Like Father, Like Son
How two masons rebuilt on behalf of their community.
June 12, 2019
The intense elements can make life hard in Salinas del Marquez. Every year, there are hurricane-like winds in the winter, intense heat in the spring, and monsoonal downpours in the summer. At least once a year, the local salt cooperative is busy at work harvesting the salt that comes in from the ocean. The ocean torrents over the breach, and pools in large, empty flats, where the water slowly evaporates into the blinding sun. The saturated waters turn pink, and soon, all that’s left is the rich sea salt. The workers toil under the heat to bag and distribute the salt to trucks, which haul it away to be sold to farms or in the marketplace. Salt harvesting and fishing are some of the biggest industries in town.
At the wizened age of 60, Carlos works just as hard as ever. Raising four kids was a challenge all its own, but he and his wife worked together to provide the best life they could for their children. While Carlos would work, either at a nearby dam, the fisheries or the salt fields, his wife would sell food at the local school. It was because of their teamwork that they knew their children never went without a meal.
And in 2019, Carlos helped rebuild the schools of Celso Muñoz and 13 de Septiembre- a primary and pre-school that are right across the street from each other. All Hands and Hearts enlists the help of local masons to guide and lead the technical work while international volunteers assist however they may. And for people like Carlos, it’s a reliable means of income that also has a direct impact in his own life — His grandson will one day attend these schools.
Carlos worked so often that he didn’t get to spend much time with his children, except on weekends. But occasionally he would take one of his sons, Josue to work with him. It was there that he was exposed to some of the work his father was doing.
Despite the concern Carlos had for his son’s quality of life, Josue recalls his childhood quite fondly. Carlos encouraged all of his kids to study, and while the rest of them did, Josue wasn’t interested in getting a degree. He knew what he liked, and he wanted to go to work right away. As soon as he graduated high school he found work as a mason — sometimes out of country, and often far from his family. Soon enough though, Josue got married and had two kids of his own.
The earthquake struck in the middle of the night on September 7, 2017. It was an 8.2 magnitude earthquake that ripped through the states of Oaxaca and Chiapas. Josue and his family ran over to their parents’ house. Luckily for them, everyone was okay — the entire town, however, was thrown into chaos. Since Salina del Marquez is located next to the ocean, everyone became panicked about the possibility of a tsunami. The electricity went out. People were screaming and running back and forth through the pitch black night as the whole town evacuated to high ground. A whole town crowded around the evacuation point, waiting in terror for a tsunami that never came.
Houses were damaged and destroyed. The schools in town were condemned. Life as they knew it was different now.
“It was terrible. For the whole week everything went into standstill. There was no work, the shops had very little food. People couldn’t buy food for their families. It was one, two weeks like that because more tremors followed, they just weren’t as strong. The houses moved, people ran again into the streets. We went again to the hills because they were saying that a tsunami will come.” – Josue
Since the schools were no longer safe, classes were suspended for two months, adding another pressure for parents while struggling to find work. Slowly, life began to move again. Work resumed and people began to tear down the rubble and rebuild. All Hands and Hearts committed to rebuilding the schools in the community as a part of the reconstruction effort. It’s here where Josue and Carlos worked, rebuilding the schools that once fell, but in a disaster-resilient way. Josue’s son attended school in a temporary learning center nearby.
Josue says that he wants his son to go to school, and also wants him to learn the ways of masonry. After a natural disaster, communities need people to help rebuild. Josue doesn’t want his son to be a victim, but rather, a participant in recovery efforts. Just like Carlos was… just like Josue was.
And as for Carlos…
By supporting the work we do as an organization, we support families within communities affected by natural disaster. This Father’s Day, consider making a donation so we can help families not just recover from natural disasters, but thrive in the process. Click here to support our earthquake recovery programs in Mexico.
Story and Photography by Mike Demas for All Hands and Hearts