A Path with Heart: A Tsunami that Never Arrived
I remember climbing up a high and rough hill. It was very early, at dawn. The first beams of sunlight broke through the trees and bushes.
It was a huge mountain. The top was crowded with families: children like me, and elders like my grandmother. Everybody was praying. Everybody was helping each other, and sharing food.
I must have been four years old. I did not understand what was happening exactly, but I felt the fear. It was a terrible fear of the uncertainty and of the unknown. Would there be a home to go back to? Would the city still exist?
The solidarity among the people amazed me. People did not stop praying. Rich and poor united as brothers and sisters, even though we were all strangers. The crowd was a family of strangers united by the fear.
Authorities had alerted the crowd that a tsunami was coming to Mazatlán. My family, like many others, fled the city and hit the road to La Sierra to keep safe.
Nothing happened. No tidal waves devoured my city. Some houses were robbed by thieves who dared a tsunami that never arrived.
However, the fear stayed with me in the form of bad dreams. Many nights during my childhood and adulthood, I dreamt of a big wave coursing over the sea, sweeping over the city and blasting everything in its path. The big wave always trapped me. As I rolled around in the wave, I felt it was the end; I was going to drown. However, miraculously, in my dreams I always, always survived. I used to wake up agitated, sweating.
The powerful earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan made me remember the tsunami alert that mobilized Mazatlán when I was a child. Indeed the alert that was sent to the Pacific coast after the tragedy in Japan, once again mobilized Mazatlán. Many families fled to La Sierra again. The city has became a ghost town full of lonely streets, much like Tokyo.
Countless people have died and many are missing. There are fears of radiation. At this moment, there is no time to think of the psychological impact of the tsunami on children. People need to find their dead, get their country back on its feet and heal their wounds.
However, I wish Japanese children could get help to deal with the tragedy. The tsunami dreams followed me for many years until I could overcome them. The ocean, the beach and the waves are still in my dreams. However, there are no more tsunamis, only a feeling of immense respect and love for the ocean and beaches. But to arrive at this point, it took me a lifetime.
Edited by Maria Ginsbourg, Journalism graduate from San Francisco State University
Araceli Martínez Ortega is a Mexican journalist who has lived in California in the last nine years. This collaboration is about her personal journey through Las Americas and wherever she goes.