A bit of holiday cheer for youngsters in Mexico City earthquake tent cities

Toys and other gifts from parents and aid workers brightened the Epiphany holiday Saturday for children living in dozens of makeshift tent camps more than three months after a deadly earthquake.

The Jan. 6 holiday is commonly known as “Day of the Magi” in Latin America, and it’s when children in Mexico traditionally receive gifts rather than on Christmas Day.

Uriel Martinez, an 8-year-old whose family lost their home in the Sept. 19 quake, woke up early Saturday to find a toy gun had been left for him overnight. That made him happy because he wants to be a soldier when he grows up.

“I heard the kings come, but then I went back to sleep,” Martinez said.

The camp where the family is sleeping in a southern neighborhood of Mexico City is a motley assortment of tents pitched on boards with tarps strung overhead to keep out the overnight chill.

Nearby is the quake-damaged building at 18 Independencia Street where they used to live, and which they now enter only to use the bathroom for fear it could collapse. Authorities plan to demolish it.

But this weekend there was plenty of holiday cheer.

Kids devoured a “rosca de reyes,” the “kings’ cake” associated with the day. A girl walked hand-in-hand with a doll around a Christmas tree strung with streamers and ornaments, and a young boy pedaled a tricycle underneath laundry airing on a clothesline. One toy car was so big it barely fit through the door of a tent.

Luz Maria Alvarez, who is also living in the camp with her husband, children and grandchildren, said the adults and teens are stressed because they still don’t know what will happen.

But “for the younger kids, living like this is still a kind of adventure and even more so on a day like today when we are all together,” Alvarez said.

The nonprofit “Ayudame hoy,” Spanish for “help me today,” said it distributed some 3,000 gifts in quake camps in Mexico City and elsewhere. Some people are also still homeless in the south of Mexico after another powerful quake hit there earlier in September.

Puerto Vallarta News

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