At the moment that I am writing this article, I am thinking of all my friends I have in Mexico City because just a few hours ago a powerful earthquake (7.1) shook the Mexican capital. Just couple of weeks after the earthquake in southern Mexico and about a week after hurricane Irma hit the U.S. east coast and the Caribbean, we have a new disaster now in a densely populated city: my beloved Mexico City.
I spent couple of years living in a city in which I fell in love with Our Lady of Guadalupe. I was a seminarian studying in Seminario Hispano Hispanic Seminary located in a suburban municipality with the name of Tlalpan. I just was a couple of miles away from UNAM | Portal UNAM I took the train every other week from the Southern part of the city to visit the shrine of Our Lady Guadalupe which is located in the north of Mexico City, by the hill of Tepeyac; the place where San Juan Diego was a witness of the miracle that changed Mexican modern history forever. While traveling from the south of the city to the north, more than an hour, I prayed to the Lord, so he could give me the strength and perseverance to continue in my vocation to the priesthood. I liked to go for confession at the Basilica of “La Morenita”
My first time in Mexico was in 2000, at the turn of the millennium. By that time, I was amazed by the cultural richness of Mexico as I was fascinated enjoying Mexican food. Even though Venezuela and Mexico are part of Latin America, our cultures are very different; what is somehow the same is the language: we speak Spanish. Coming from Venezuela, I felt welcomed by the faithful that I got to know. I was able to make many new friends that I still treasure.
My second time living in Mexico City was between 2012 and 2014. In two years, I was sent to three different parishes to help in several ministries. I engaged with the People of God from different backgrounds. We have to remember that Mexico City is a magnet for many internal migrants (from the same country) and external immigrants coming from other parts of the Americas and even from other parts of the world. Mexico is the route of many immigrants who want to get up north and cross the border to pursue the so called “American Dream”. Some of the immigrants get stuck in Mexico and some of them just decided to stay and make a living in the big metropolis: the capital of Mexico.
In this environment, I was able to see both sides of the coin of a contrasting reality. I visited the most wealthy parts of the capital; I also visited a huge landfill in which impoverished Mexicans had built a surreal shantytown within the city; this was the same site were the movie Elyseum was filmed. It was shocking to me seeing the facts: kids walking and looking for something of value in the trash. As surreal at it was, I worked along the youth of the parish I was serving, to deliver gifts to the kids. It was a happy moment to see kids smiling as they received these gifts. We delivered those gifts right after the “Dia de Reyes” or the feast of the Epiphany, when Mexicans celebrate the visit of the magi to baby Jesus with “La rosca de Reyes” or pan dulce baked for the occasion.
This is just one of numerous fulfilling episodes that I lived in the capital of Mexico. As I heard the news today, I though of the many friends I have there. I was praying for them and even I called a handful of them checking on them, praying that they were safe.
The questions I made for myself today were: What It has to happen a natural disaster like this to call my friends? Where is God in the midst of this disaster? I do not have an elaborated answer to this questions, but a I am willing to listen the word of the Lord in my personal prayer, as I reflect on my approach to relationships and friendships. Today I offer my prayer for my friends. Likewise, I will offer my prayer tomorrow for them.
Without a doubt, I can tell that part of my heart is still there in Mexico City. Probably tomorrow I will keep calling the friends I was not able to call today. I just continue praying for my Mexican brothers and sisters who were taken by surprise by the earthquake today. Now I have another question for myself: Am I prepared spiritually for a natural disaster? The answer: I am trying as a good Catholic Christian to be ready for a moment like this. I am a priest and I should be ready. I am praying…
I found a Psalm very appropriate for this difficult moment. May the Lord bring them consolation as we pray together with Psalm 46: