A Portrait of Comandos in Verapaz

This post is also available in: Spanish

On November 12th, a Blogger by the name of Roberto Valencia made an entry on his blog Crónicas Guanacas about being a witness to our recovery efforts in Verapaz after the mudslides and flooding. He wrote the following..

Thursday 12th of November, 2009

The Carnival of Verapaz

Within Minutes, Jhonny Ramos, getting slightly irritated and without pointing out anyone in particular yells out:

-“I don’t know why people are here! The Police closed the road”!-

Within minutes he is very angry and try’s to start a chainsaw.

38yo Jhonny has dark skin and small curled hair like that of a Young Michael Jackson. He wears his yellow overalls with the NGO emblem of Comandos de Salvamento. He is in front of his brigade and is working at the crossroads of 1.a East Street and 2a North Avenue in the lower zone of Verapaz, San Vicente.

It is Monday afternoon and Verapaz is boiling over with people. On early morning Sunday, a mudslide of rocks and trees slid off the side of the Chichontepec volcano and devastated this small pueblo -that is rarely heard in the news, but today is different.  Even during the towns patron saint festival is it not as busy as it is today. Only a small amount of people have come to help, including Jhonny and his brigade, or at least to try and help. Most of the people here now are just curious onlookers that have arrived from outside to see with their own eyes the misfortune of others. There are all sorts of nosey “Looky Loos” with their cameras, cell phones and video cameras.

The National Police have placed yellow tape at the entrance to most of the flooded roads.  The tape reads- POLICE DO NOT CROSS, the same type of tape you see at a murder scene but today it is even more morbid.

From the junction on, blown debris is spread around the town. The scene is huge, unstable and surreal. Most commonly seen are tree trunks and roots, but there is also twisted metal, huge rocks, wires, a utility pole, a television, a couple of empty refrigerators, an open umbrella and a crushed truck that mysteriously has a one of it’s headlights on.

I’ve been standing here for half an hour and have seen many walking carefully or stumbling through,-the young, the not so young, soldiers, elderly ladies, adults, girls with babies in their arms, even EMS workers-the kind that you do not know what agency they represent, and members from the ministry of health..it all appears like people are going to a carnival..

And this is when Jhonny, frustrated with the chainsaw, loses his patience, stands up and shouts,

“I do not know why people are still crossing! The police barred the way! We are looking for bodies here and more people that cross here makes it hellishly  difficult!

Nobody seems to get the hint. They continue to walk on by..



Photo: Roberto Valencia

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