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July 2022

Libraries and hurricane narratives

Libraries and hurricane narratives 950 760 Lavinia Hirsu

Libraries and hurricane narratives

By Eliana Pasarán

On May 30, 2022, Hurricane Agatha devastated Mazunte and many other small towns on the coast and in the Oaxacan highlands of Mexico. What began with an early ‘chipi chipi’ (light rain), at half past four in the afternoon became a torrent of water and wind that left many soaked to the bone, with rivers of water and mud that covered or swept away loved ones, houses , animals, trees and plants, dreams and convictions, favourite objects. We must not forget that more than two hundred people lost their lives in the entire area and that, at the time of writing this text at the end of June, many families are still in mourning, isolated, homeless, without electricity and other basic services and even food. Others were luckier, we suffered tough but not irredeemable losses, we got less wet, and here we are, continuing to recover, step by step, day by day.

The “Biblio Mazunte” (Mazunte Library) survived the hurricane without much damage other than a little water and leaves on the ground. It took great care to store and protect all its jewels, including the mango tree which, a little dishevelled and with a few missing branches, continues to generously provide us with shelter. It is an extraordinary luxury in post-hurricane times, when thousands of trees have been devastated and are without fruit, turned into shadows. For this reason, as soon as the thick layer of mud covering the small square that provides access to the Biblio was cleared, on June 18 we met like we do every Saturday with the girls and boys to continue our immense passion for sharing stories, and what could be better than the one about the hurricane?

To warm up our engines, we enjoyed the picturebooks such as ¡Llueve, llueve, llueve! (Rain, rain, rain) by Lee Haery y Jeong Byeongkyu; Willy el tímido (Willy the Wimp) by Antony Browne; the poem Gota de lluvia (Raindrop) by José Emilio Pacheco and, amidst so much water, we slipped in Del otro lado del árbol (On the Other Side of the Tree) por Mandana Sadat and La recta y el punto (The Dot and the Line) by Norton Juster. Then everyone narrated their own story, letting us know that, as it happens in books, everything that moves in the bowels of an extraordinary event can be seen from many angles and perspectives: “I went down to the kitchen as best I could in the middle of the storm because the roof of the room blew away, I was very worried about my mother who was coming behind me”; “I watched a movie with my friend; we had popcorn, books, dolls and we didn’t get wet at all, the bad thing was seeing that we no longer had trees the next day”; “I started to cry when my dad came back covered in mud without finding my kitten”; “I was very stirred by the sea, by how it moved and corrugated iron sheets, palms and wood flew everywhere”; “mmmm, it was bad for me, I wonder why the hurricane landed right here and not somewhere else…”. Then we re-lived the faces we had at that time, through a little theater called kamishibai, we did a moving meditation to get rid of our fear, and we finished with a gallery of drawings that collected our impressions of before and after the storm.

In this way, we shared, we reflected, we read, we played, we drew, we amused ourselves, we learned many ways to deal with a situation and we had a lot of fun, along with the parents! This is the magic offered by libraries with their stories and all their knowledge. They are unique spaces where, through words, readings, drawings and other activities we get to know ourselves and others, where we save and share our individual and collective memories, where we experience all kinds of emotions through incredible narratives and we relate to each other with kindness and respect. They also have the incredible power to help us get back on our feet in these difficult times, giving us a space for fun and entertainment.

To continue our service to the community with renewed energy, every afternoon in July we will have readings, puppet workshops, walks to learn English, games and movie screenings on weekdays, in addition to continuing our book loans to homes and Saturday mornings of books and games. After all, “the passions are like the winds: they are necessary to set all things in motion, even though they often cause hurricanes”, as the French writer Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle once pointed out.