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The Great Mexicali Earthquake of 2010

Photo courtesy of Regina Avalos

Photo courtesy of Regina Avalos

It was Easter Sunday April 5, 2010. Jim and Matthew had just left to go to Home Depot at 3.30pm.

I was alone in our bedroom reading a book when the light in the bathroom went out. After several seconds, all of a sudden, the ground began to shake. I checked our little bedside clock – it was 3.40pm.

There was a low rumble, and then floor started to shake. Quickly, I bounced out of bed as the shaking of the floor increased and stood in the doorway to the bathroom – just like Jim had told me to do. I stood, with both my arms holding onto the walls. The entire house was now shaking, vibrating, and trembling at such an angry rate that things began to fall off the shelves.

It was just like someone had grabbed whole of our bedroom and shook it up and down, sideways, and tilting it all over the place!

I was terrified! I thought of my husband, Jim, and Matthew, and our kids. I looked at the ceiling and I thought will it collapse?

I started to say the Lord’s Prayer,

Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy Kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever.

Photo courtesy of Regina Avalos
Photo courtesy of Regina Avalos

I heard the lady next door howl out as I heard the sound of heavy items falling down in our house. Like me, she must have thought the house was going to collapse.

After a good ten minutes give and take, the shaking started to subside. And then the aftershocks started.

I heard the front door open. It was Jim, shouting out my name. Jim stood under the doorway to our bedroom, and calmly said, “Maryann, come over here now.” I put on my slippers and walked quickly towards him. We held hands and walked out of our house by the front gate and jumped into our truck which was parked outside. The garage door was not working because there was no electricity.

“Oh, thank God, you came back so quickly!” I cried.

“Yes Hon’, said Jim, “The earthquake struck just we were driving and turning the corner. The truck began to swerve around. I thought it was a flat tire, so I pulled over, and turned off the engine. Well, no sooner had I done that than the truck starts bouncin up and down. I joked to Matthew, that our truck was acting like a darn Toyota.”

Jim turned, and looked back to Matthew, “Didn’t I say that Matthew?”

Matthew didn’t respond – he looked like he was frozen, and was as pale as a ghost.

Jim continued, “So, I got out to look! No flat tire, but the road was really shakin, and the truck was still bouncin – right Matthew?”

No sound came from Matthew.

“Shucks,” said Jim, I knew it was an earthquake so we came right back home – swervin and bouncin all the way – “Right, Matthew?”

Matthew now was covering his eyes with both hands.

At this point, Matthew and I were too stunned to talk.

The earthquake had stopped, and Jim just drove around the streets to see what had happened.

When we hit Justo Sierra, the fancy shopping street. The people were all standing outside – even at La Farmacia la Mas Barata, all the pharmacists were standing outside.
We continued to drive. All the traffic lights were out – there were no lights, anywhere. The lights in the stores and restaurants were off, and people were standing calmly in the street.

Just as we passed a large building, we saw a huge piece of wood and plaster fall off from the front of the building to the sidewalk. Luckily, no one was there.

Many of the large display windows were broken in the banks, the fancy shops, and furniture stores. Broken glass was all over the place.

Here it was – Easter Sunday, and there was an eerie silence all over town! I noticed that the normally daring Mexicali drivers had become very subdued and polite, and stopped at the traffic lights, even though the lights weren’t working. Vehicles passed each other with uncommon and silent courtesy.

I said to Jim and Matthew, “Let’s get some ice cream! I really could use a sugar fix right now!” Jim pulled over at an OXXO store; hopped out and went to door of the store. No ice cream – the employees had locked themselves in, and we could see fear in their eyes! After all, it was Easter Sunday, a holy day in Mexico’s Roman Catholics. I asked Jim, “What do you think people are thinking since this is a Holy Day!”

“God’s will…” said Jim. I turned to look at Matthew. He was silent, his eyes were closed, and he was praying – first time I had seen him pray.

We passed the Pemex gas station and it was closed. Jim turned around, and we headed back. When we stopped at our house, we saw that the neighbor across the street was selling capirotada – a special bread pudding for Lent. Capirotada is made of toasted bread soaked in syrup, sugar, cheese, raisins, and walnuts – it is spiced with cinnamon, and nutmeg, but no custard.

These are native ingredients, and are the recipe dates from the 1600s.

Capirotada is viewed by many Mexicans as a symbol of the suffering of Christ on Good Friday.

Here's our "computer room"
Here’s our “computer room”

“Here’s just what we all need!” I said, getting out of the truck.

The lady, Lulu, selling the capirotada in front of her house, spoke perfect English, as did her brother, Mario. He had just been on his cell phone to San Diego. After hellos, Mario said, “This is the biggest earthquake Mexicali I have ever felt. Our friends up in San Diego even felt it!”

We bought three capirotadas from Lulu at only $3.00 each (each one must be a thousand calories). Handing us the capirotadas, Lulu said, “Listen, if you all need anything, water or anything, just come over.”

“The problem is the electricity. We are now waiting to see how fast the government is going to get it fixed,” said Mario.

“Let’s hope soon,” said Jim, and added, “Nice folks,” as we crossed the street back to our house.

Like most of the people in Mexicali, none of our neighbors seemed worried or upset.

Matthew was still in the back seat of the truck – staring out the window.

“Hey, Matthew,” I said, “I’ve got something pretty good for you.”

“Yes,” said Matthew, turning slowly in my direction.

“It’s a delicious sweet – special for Lent – called capirotada; you will love it,” I said.

Matthew snapped out of his funk and smiled from ear to ear, got out of the truck, and asked, “Which one’s for me?”

Not too bad in the kitchen
Not too bad in the kitchen

Back home, we were happy to find no real damage, just items that fell off the shelves – and our rack with all the computer stuff on it fallen against our work table.

“I’ll just set it all up, again,” said Jim. He’s really great that way! Hardly ever loses his cool.

The three of us sat down and ate our capirodadas, enjoying every bite of it. The sugar fix made us all think clearly. Matthew started giggling over the slightest things.

I searched for my box of emergency candles, and began lighting them. Darkness was coming.

By candlelight, we cooked up some pasta with some left-over meat sauce. Dinner was good. Must have been the candlelight! From outside, we heard great Mexican music coming from Mario’s car stereo.

There were still aftershocks, and there still are!

Exhausted, we finally went to sleep; I woke up after a strong aftershock swayed our bedroom. “Jim, wake up! Did you feel the aftershock?”

“Huh…yes, I’m here, zzzzzzzzz.” Jim went back to sleep.

The next day, Monday, April 6, 2010, the electricity came back on in the morning.

When the TV came on we learned that the  Mexicali earthquake was 7.2 on the Richter scale and that the epicenter was just 36 miles from our house at Guadalupe Victoria in Mexicali Valley. We found out later that Mexicali had suffered some serious damage on its roads and it was reported that six houses burned and a three story parking lot under construction collapsed and power was suspended city-wide until this morning.

The Governor, Jose Guadalupe Osuna Millan, has declared a State of Emergency for all of Baja California.

Jim even managed to get the trash out for the Monday pickup.

We are fine, just tired and a little shaken up. Our dog, Rex, and our two cats, Moss and Twiggy are all OK as well.

After all the excitement, we just relaxed watched TV, and the Tiger Woods interview.

Just another day in Mexicali.

3 comments to The Great Mexicali Earthquake of 2010

  • Aukele Jordan

    Glad to find your site and to know all is getting back to normal for you all.
    It was several years ago I discovered the hospitality and decency of the
    folks of Los Algodones when I took the advice of some people who had dental
    dentistry there. I just had some “patchwork” done because I knew it would not
    be long before I’d need a set of immewdiate dentures done. I took the advice
    of the motel maid in Yuma,Az, also a Mexicali Girl and saw Dr.Magaña’s. I was
    not disappointed. However, I need to go go back for the inevitable now, and I
    am recalling the fancy plywood edifice on front and hope it held during all the
    quaking there.
    I’m looking forward to reading more of your Mexicali Memories in the future.
    Good luck and God Bless all there. Aukele

  • Rob Andover

    Hi, Mary Ann, glad to hear that you got through the earthquake OK, I have been in one before when I was living in Portland tho the one there was only 5.2, I can only imagine what it must have been like to be there. Glad to hear that your neighbors and everyone else it seems stayed calm and rode it out. Rob

  • d

    so glad to see all is well. 😀 we got the earthquake as well where i live (about an hour north of salton sea). it was pretty bad but obviously not as bad as you got it.

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