Earthquakes and the Story of the Ugly Baby

We were sitting around the table last night, sharing a lovely pupusa dinner with some friends and their family.  It had been a pretty long day.  Each of us had gotten up early for various appointments after suffering from a  lack of sleep the previous night.  A large 8.1 earthquake centered off of the coast of Chiapas, Mexico, shook Central America all along the fault line. At just before 11 PM, San Salvador's buildings rattled and creaked for more than one full minute.  It was an odd sensation, with a few seconds of shaking and then a prolonged sensation of swaying in a boat over the waves.  MARN (Ministerio de Ambiente y Recursos Naturales - Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources) was quick on social media to identify the source of the quake, and those of us online at the time posted "Did you feel that?" and "aguado" (like water) and  "everyone's OK," recognizing that in Mexico, not everyone would be OK. 

El Salvador has a recent history of being impacted by big earthquakes about every 15 years.  The last big earthquakes took place in January 13, 2001 and on February 13, 2001.  Salvadorans live with the expectation that the next tremor will bring "the big one."

Around the table, family members shared stories from 1986, when a devastating quake hit the country.  The adults in the room were young and remember buildings collapsing.  In 2001, the double quake and all of the aftershocks sent people running outside.  People were so frightened of being buried that they slept outside.  Everyone slept outside.  Carlos shared a funny story about his co-worker, who was not Salvadoran, who slept outside but underneath a coconut tree.  They tried to tell him it was not a good idea, but he insisted, until the coconuts fell down.

Carlos' wife asked if we had heard about the bebé fea (ugly baby).  All of the Salvadorans around the table knew the story of the ugly baby.  No one knows if the story is true.  A short time after the earthquake of January 13, 2001, a baby was born.  After the birth the baby was quickly wrapped up.  When the nurse unwrapped the baby and saw its face, she gasped and exclaimed, "Oh, what an ugly baby!"  In a deep voice like a grown man the baby said, "The most ugly thing will be on the 13th of February."  The ugly baby predicted the second quake.  Truth or urban legend?  In El Salvador, sometimes one cannot say.

I doubt an ugly baby will predict the next quake.  What is sure is that El Salvador, like other countries located near the slipping points of the earth's tectonic plates, will experience quakes.  For residents and visitors alike, it is important to be prepared.  Know where the safest location is inside or outside your structure.  At home or in your hotel, keep a bag (or your backpack) ready with the following: your legal documents, cash, 2 bottles of water, snack bars, and a small first aid kit.  We also keep a crank radio, small candles and matches, a permanent marker, a tarp and duck tape in our grab bag.

As our sister pastor has taught us, The elements of creation were created to do what they do.  We do not need to fear creation, but respect it.  The earth's crust moves.  We know this and should do our best to prepare for the next quake.


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