Although tired from our visit to Viña and my classes in Santiago, we decided to take a brief excursion to Tumbes, a small fishing community near Talcahuano that had suffered greatly during the earthquake and tsunami. We didn’t know what to expect, but the warm sun and soft breeze was luring us to the coast.
Situated on a thin strip of land that is backed by a long, steep cliff, Tumbes hugs the coast as tightly as a child to its mother. Since its early existence, Tumbes has been nourished by the sea, which bestowed bounties of crab, clams and other sea creatures for sale and self nourishment. Life was simple, but hardworking.
Last February 27 was a double whammy for the residents of Tumbes. First, the 8.8 earthquake violently shook the tiny community, then the subsequent tsunami took a huge bite out of its heart… physically, mentally, and emotionally.
While walking our dogs along the narrow main street, we happened upon two women selling crab claws and meat from a small table. Colored ceramic tile covered the concrete, and at first I thought that it had been part of a patio. In Chile, it’s not uncommon for street side yards to be finished in decorative and easy maintenance tile. However, in talking with one of the women, Nancy Bello, we learned that it was the spot where her house had once stood.
Her husband had been in the house at the time that the tsunami struck, and was carried out to sea. All that remained of her life was the tile floor. We could see the outlines where walls had once stood. Nancy pointed out where the kitchen, living room and bath had been. I was struck by her fortitude to carry on.
Even though it has been almost a year since that fatal day, the emotional and psychological wounds continue to bleed. As with 9/11, it is still emotionally moving to see photos, watch the videos and share stories of where we all had been when the quake struck, and what had happened. I sometimes wonder whether we will ever truly put the event behind. We all carry forward, but there is another rock in our backpack.
If visiting or living in Chile, please consider patronizing Nancy’s jaibas (crab) business: Proveedora de Ventas de Jaibas, Cell 85 78 42 86, Principal No. 119, “Caleta Tumbes” Talcahuano