ASUNCION IXTALTEPEC, Mexico — At night, they drape blankets on the sidewalks and drag bare mattresses to the middle of the road, away from precarious buildings.
They find what rest they can on park benches, in hammocks, on woven cots, in stringy “Acapulco chairs,” beneath tarps and lean-tos, or on the bare ground under a rainless sky.
The 8.2-magnitude earthquake Thursday night laid waste to hundreds of buildings in and around this small Oaxacan village, leaving residents effectively homeless as they endure aftershocks while awaiting a rebuilding effort that has barely begun.
“Our house is now this almond tree,” said Eneida Jiménez, a 55-year-old retired elementary school teacher and single mother of two whose home across the street was still standing, barely, its walls riven with massive cracks and its rooms littered with debris.
Jiménez, her mother, her children, her grandchildren, and clusters of other neighbors and relatives pass their hours under the tree, waiting for government workers to catalogue the damage and maybe offer some assistance to rebuild.
Like many residents here, Jiménez does not have insurance for her home — “We don’t have this custom here,” she said — and they will be relying on government aid or whatever remittances might be sent by relatives in the United States.
“For 30 years, this was my sacrifice, my savings, the nights I ate, when I didn’t eat, to give this house to my children,” she said as she surveyed her broken home. “And I’ve lost everything.”
Many Oaxaca residents worry about the structural integrity of their devastated homes, and they fear that the repeated rumblings might cause further damage. Since the earthquake, there have been hundreds of aftershocks, including a 5.2-magnitude quake Sunday morning in Juchitan, a few miles down the road.
Hundreds of municipalities such as this one have been declared disaster zones across the southern states of Oaxaca, Chiapas and Tabasco, a part of the country that is poorer and less developed than other regions of Mexico. Juchitan has accounted for many of the 90 deaths from the earthquake. Residents in far smaller Asuncion Ixtaltepec have counted at least 11 dead, in addition to the blocks of ruined government buildings, schools and churches.
“My great-grandfather built this house 80 or 90 years ago, and it collapsed in one minute,” said Carlos Alberto Chiñas Nolasco, a 21-year-old stylist sleeping under a slab of tin in his yard with the remnants of his destroyed house all around him.
Chiñas was asleep Thursday night along with his father, a retired soldier; his mother, who runs a beer store; and his uncle when the earthquake struck. They fled outside and watched as their home fell to the ground.
On Sunday, government cargo planes arrived in Oaxaca with supplies, and soldiers distributed food. Search teams picked through rubble, and religious groups handed out donations. Many quake victims said they had no idea where they would find the money to begin the rebuilding process.
“We’re just going to wait for some kind of support,” Chiñas said, amid piles of bricks and roof beams. “These are ruins, and we’re left with nothing. Without any work. What are we going to do?”
In the distance, trumpets heralded another funeral procession to the cemetery. Even the graveyards were not spared, with the quake cracking tombs and toppling headstones.
At the municipal cemetery in Juchitan on Saturday evening, Margarita Degante López, 62, was laid to rest in a tomb with broken glass next to a gravesite with toppled flower vases.
She and her husband, Miguel López, owned Hotel del Rio in Juchitan and were asleep there when the earthquake started. The couple, along with three other family members, were trapped when the building collapsed.
“When we arrived at the hotel, we saw that it was pure rubble,” said Degante’s son-in-law, Gonzalo Martinez, a state government official, who attended the funeral. “It was an extremely desperate moment for us, to think they were under the rubble and we couldn’t do anything at that moment.”
With the help of neighbors and authorities, four of the five family members were rescued; Degante did not survive. Her husband suffered cuts on his forehead and other injuries. When the family drove him home, they discovered that his house also had crumbled.
After watching his wife’s funeral from his wheelchair, he could muster no words.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I can’t.”