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Pasadena Rallies to Aid Sister City in Mexico Quake

October 03, 1985|DEBORAH HASTINGS | Times Staff Writer

To Loretta Allen, the most disturbing sight was of homeless families. She recalls a bonfire and a family gathered around it cooking dinner amid a pile of rubble that once had been their home.

She remembers families still living in a house that the Mexico earthquake left without walls and in a building left without a roof.

"Life goes on," Allen said this week after returning to Pasadena from a fact-finding mission. "And these people didn't want to leave their homes. Now the rebuilding starts."

Allen traveled last week to Ciudad Guzman, an area that suffered damage second only to Mexico City in the devastating Sept. 19 earthquake that spread shock waves of death and destruction far beyond those cities.

The earthquake, which measured 8.1 on the Richter scale, and its subsequent aftershocks crumbled thousands of adobe houses in Ciudad Guzman, turning their clay bricks into powder. Twenty-nine people died and about 5,000 were injured.

The city's hospitals suffered no serious damage, but 12 of the 13 churches in Ciudad Guzman were destroyed. An estimated 40,000 people were left homeless.

The city, about 90 miles south of Guadalajara and 250 miles east of Mexico City, has received no aid from the national government and none will be offered because federal help is centered on Mexico City, Pasadena and Red Cross officials said.

Allen, a nurse with the Health Department, traveled with six other representatives of Pasadena on a three-day fact-finding tour of Ciudad Guzman, which Pasadena adopted as a sister city after the quake. They returned late last week and on Tuesday the group met with about 10 representatives of social and charitable groups to coordinate an all-out effort to raise money for the city.

Need for Cash

"What we need is an immediate infusion of cash," City Director Rick Cole, who coordinated the group's trip, told the service organizations.

A fund-raising campaign named Programa Amigos is to be launched Friday at a press conference. Donations are tax deductible and checks should be made out to Programa Amigos. Gifts of canned food, rice, mattresses, blankets, tents, medical supplies and equipment are also encouraged. Donations may be given to the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and several other organizations to be announced Friday. A second trip to Ciudad Guzman to deliver donations will be scheduled within the next few weeks.

Cole's strategy for raising money is to enlist the help of schools, businesses, service clubs, churches and community organizations. Each group will solicit donations from its own members as well as the public. And although the relief effort will also collect gifts of food, blankets and medical supplies, the emphasis is on cash.

"It's important in disasters like this to feed the local economy," Cole said. "It seems to make more sense to send $1,000 to buy supplies than to try and ship them."

Plans to aid Ciudad Guzman have moved swiftly. In less than a week, the core group of organizers was formed, a delegation was sent to the Mexican city and a strategy for fund raising was devised.

Ciudad Guzman, a rural community of about 110,000 in the state of Jalisco, was chosen not only because of the devastation it suffered during the quake, but also because the Pasadena group wanted to focus its efforts on outlying areas of Mexico City that have not received the attention or aid already going to the country's capital.

"Mexico City was not the most appropriate place for our planning," Cole said, "because there was lots of attention there and lots of concern. What the media and everyone else seemed to forget was that some of the hinterlands were in greater trouble."

What the Pasadena group saw in Ciudad Guzman is at times difficult for them to articulate. "It's hard to comprehend the devastation," said Reams Freedman of St. Luke Hospital, one of the delegation members. "There's no way to describe it."

The group was led by Mireya Jones, a Guatemala native and a public relations consultant in San Marino who helped coordinate the Southern California relief effort for victims of the 1976 Guatemala earthquake. She was accompanied by Antonia Darder and Victor Rodarte of El Centro de Accion Social, a Pasadena group representing the Latino community; Dr. Elton Blum; Michael Rogan of the Health Department, and Allen.

The delegation spent three days touring the city, meeting with Red Cross workers, local service organizations such as the Lions Club, and the presidente , or mayor, of the community.

"The people there have really worked very, very hard to get their city back together," Darder said Tuesday. "People have an idea that things don't always work in other countries as well as they do here. But they do work and it was enlightening to see how everyone worked together."

Jones told the service organizations gathered Tuesday that Ciudad Guzman "is the kind of city that reflects Pasadena in a way. They're very proud of their city, and I don't think we could have dug ourselves out of the rubble as quickly as they did."

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