Report from Puerto Rico’s earthquake zone: AWB clinic #3 Penuelas 02/01/2020

From AWB Trip Leader Ramon Serrano:

It’s when the sun goes down that the terror begins. Another sleepless night for the 171 people still living under tarps in the makeshift community inside the towns’ athletic stadium. The tremors continue every night and now can be calculated by the uncontrollable shiver, almost to the exact degree, by what is now a collective human Richter scale. Of course, many have their smart phones dialed directly into the seismic activity but take a reluctant pride in being able to identify the source of their nightmares in such a precise manner. “El de anoche midio 5.4”

Sra. Ramirez is a 34 year old Social Worker, native of the town, who when the Earth convulsed on January 7th, took the lead in the relief effort. She begins her work every morning, seven days per week at 6 a.m. in the camp’s ground zero. She herself admits that because of her own personal trauma, she is only able to sleep 2 hours per night. She says that aside from the 171 people living in the camp, at least to thousand of the towns’ residents avail themselves of the social and medical services on a daily basis. The camp includes a host of voluntary agencies willing to provide everything from psychological counseling to pharmaceuticals. Her primary concern is the fear factor. When I asked her how many in the camp had lost their homes, she replied that many of their homes had been damaged but were still livable. They were just terrified at returning to an unstable environment.

Fear as a human condition is probably one of the most difficult emotions to quantify. It has many layers. It travels through the human body from outside to inside and back out, until it can paralyze an entire community. It goes from shock to terror and back down to depression, many times pushing people to take their own lives.

Penuelas is a town of just 26,000 people that can be easily passed on the highway en route to Ponce, Guanica or San Juan. But the people represent the inner core of our culture as Puerto Ricans. Their humility and generosity knows no bounds. In a recent interview with the towns’ Mayor he estimated that at least one thousand of Penuelas” residents had fled to The States since the tremors began. He sounded hopeful when he declared that they would return once The Earth settled down. In the same interview he stated that what they needed were more cots because many people were still still sleeping in their cars or on the floor.