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Ann Murdy | profile | all galleries >> Huaquechula, Puebla after the September 19, 2017 earthquake tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Huaquechula, Puebla after the September 19, 2017 earthquake

Originally I was supposed to return to Huaquechula, Puebla on September 21st. After I discovered that Huaquechula was only 17 miles from the epicenter of the earthquake along with the news that considerable damage had occurred, I canceled my trip. I was returning to finish photographing the folk artists who were gearing up for Día de los Muertos. After texting my friend Antonio who lives in Huaquechula, it appeared that everything had calmed down so I returned on October 2nd to finish my work on this project.

Most of the buildings on the zócalo had considerable damage. These include the Palacio Municipal, the Parroquia and the Ex-Convento de San Francisco, which was constructed by the Franciscans in 1540. The roof on the Palacio Municipal was being held in place by support beams as the roof was seriously damaged. All of the offices were no longer inhabited. The Parroquia is closed indefinitely as it has cracks in the dome and cracks on the interior and exterior walls. The clock, which use to chime every quarter of the hour is now frozen at 1:20pm, the hour the quake hit. The most tragic damage is the collapse of the roof of the Ex-Convento. There is now a gaping hole inside. The walls surrounding the Ex-Convento are also in serious need of repair. Fortunately, the governor of Puebla has decided that the government will pay for the reconstruction of the Ex-Convento but no one seems to know when those funds will be available. As all of these buildings are now closed to the public, mass is being held outside on the zócalo and the offices that were located inside the Palacio Municipal are now located there as well.

Even though there was destruction throughout this village of 3,000 people, life continues to go on. Fortunately no one was killed. One could see bulldozers knocking down what was left of buildings. The artists were busy creating their folk art in preparation for Día de los Muertos that begins on October 28th.

Don Ignacio (Nacho) Peralta is considered a “grande maestro”. He is featured in Banamex’s book “The Great Folk Artists of Mexico”. Nacho only had one small candlestick holder that fell during the quake. I also photographed Isabel Neri who makes papel calado. This form of papel picado is created to separate one tier from the other tier on the monumental altars that are only constructed the first year one passes away. Doña María Margarita Sarmiento Dolores was kind enough show me how she creates sugar figures called alfeñique which was more work than I imagined. Don Raymundo Pérez Mendoza demonstrated how he makes his candles that are used on the altars. Doña Inés Rubí Castillo demonstrated how she created her incense burners and candlestick holders. Lastly both Doña Catalina Camacho Suárez and Doña María Feliz Priego showed me how they make the fabric floral bouquets. They take tools by heating them up over the burner of the stove to make the fabric flowers curl up. When I interviewed all of the artists in March of this year they told me that they all learned how to make their craft from their grandparents and parents.

I was also fortunate to watch the bakers of the Castro Rivera Panaderia make rosquete bread. This bakery is owned by Don Marino Castro Blás. This bakery has been in business for nearly one hundred years. The smell of the freshly baked was such a treat and tasty as well!

This year my friend Antonio Cazabel Castro is organizing the first Feria de los Muertos that is a popular culture event. It will run from October 31st until November 5th. It will include food, music, dance, folk art, expositions and a cemetery set up on a street in Huaquechula. During the time that I stayed in his home, he and his friends were busy making life size papier mache calaveras. On my last night in Huaquechula, one of Antonio’s friends, Antonio Nuñez, made a video to promote this event. It was great to see all of these young people paint up their faces and dress in the traditional clothing from Huaquechula.

Lastly, before making this trip, I made a wire transfer to help give needed supplies such as bottled water, canned food, toilet paper, powdered milk, paper towels, crackers, etc. to the small villages in the areas that have been affected by the quake. On my last day in town, Antonio, two of his friends and myself drove out to a small village forty-five minutes north of Huaquechula that was devastated by the quake. We loaded up the cab of a 4-wheel drive pick-up truck with plastic bags full of the above supplies to take to San Francisco Teochitopan. There are over 120 villages in the valley of Atlixco that suffered damage from the quake. None of this information has been reported in the news here. It was heartbreaking to see people basically camped out where their homes use to be. I was happy that I could help out delivering supplies to the people there.

Again and again I am constantly impressed by the resilience of the Mexican people. In the face of diversity from the earthquake they have persevered and moved onward with their lives. They set an example that we should honor and respect.
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Isabel holding papel calado
Isabel holding papel calado
Doña María Margarita making miniature sheep
Doña María Margarita making miniature sheep
Raymundo placing  the ribbon on the candles
Raymundo placing the ribbon on the candles
Nacho Peralta holding incense burner
Nacho Peralta holding incense burner
Doña Inés adding top to base
Doña Inés adding top to base
Putting bread in the horno
Putting bread in the horno
Maria Felix making the semillas
Maria Felix making the semillas
Ceramic artwork by Doña Inés
Ceramic artwork by Doña Inés
Freshly baked rosquete bread
Freshly baked rosquete bread
Angel incense burner by Nacho
Angel incense burner by Nacho
Making alfeñique sheep
Making alfeñique sheep
Catalina with her tray of fabric flowers
Catalina with her tray of fabric flowers
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