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Despite two devastating earthquakes in September, life moves forward in Mexico

In the days after not one, but two powerful earthquakes shook the capital of Mexico, our thoughts turned to Baltazar Juárez, who we had interviewed just days before the first quake struck. We were relieved when we finally made contact with him to hear he was safe. We asked him to share a little bit about his experience living through the earthquakes, and how he and his Mexican colleagues are picking up the pieces.

As you know we had two big earthquakes—one on Sept. 8 (8.2 magnitude) and the other one Sept. 19 (7.1 magnitude). This last one was very devastating because the epicenter was close to Mexico City. I was driving on my way to school after orchestra rehearsal, and at the traffic came to a stop. We could not drive anymore. At that moment, you could not imagine all the damage in the city. I went back home because we could not get into the school’s building, the traffic was chaotic, and there were many people going home by foot because the power was down so the subway and public transportation stopped working. It was like an apocalypse movie, but this was real life.

We are only just getting back to normal. There was nothing going on for two weeks except supplying help. Some of my students and I went directly to the collapsed buildings in our own communities to remove rubble and help with anything we could. I teach in three schools, and two of them were damaged. Actually I had an urgent meeting yesterday afternoon at one of them, and we were told that the building was so damaged that we can’t hold classes there anymore. We have to be relocated, but the problem is that many other institutions also have to be relocated. We have a big problem.

I was seriously considering canceling the competition because the money from the government grants that we were getting was redirected to the urgent necessities. But the organization has already put so much work into it, and the students have been preparing their music—there is so much involved that it would be a shame not to go on. This will be a good encouragement for everybody after the catastrophe. So we are running the contest with our own money (money that we don’t have, but with loans.) Of course we have to relocate several venues for the competition and festival. Also, I regrettably had to ask the guest soloists from Zagreb and the National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico (my orchestra) which has the honor of accompanying the finalist, to postpone their participation until next year.

So on top of the earthquake it has been like a storm to keep the competition and festival going, but I am happy we could work it out and looking much forward to it.

Editor’s Note: If you would like to make a donation to help the Mexico international Harp Competition and Festival, you can do so on its website www.mexihcf.com.

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