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Villagers After Mexico Quake: ‘They’re Left With Nothing’

Mr. Ramírez said he had lived in New York for a year, in the early 2000s.

With some effort, he recalled the neighborhood: Corona, Queens. He worked in a Chinese restaurant near Canal Street in Manhattan for $ 200 a week, he said, and later joined a painting crew in New Jersey, earning $ 300 a week and sending whatever he could save to his wife and children in Puebla.

He remembered the ordeal of getting lost on the subway the first time he tried to use it, leaving him feeling like “a primary-school child.” He played basketball on Sundays with other Mexican laborers, somewhere around 103rd Street, and recalled how his American boss on the painting crew pronounced “gracias,” “grasas” — Spanish for “fats,” which the Mexican workers thought was hilarious.

Mr. Ramírez smiled. The swirl of relief efforts around him seemed to fall away. His migration, he said, had been animated by a dream.

“I wanted to know what a dollar looked like,” he recalled. “The first week, when I got paid,” he said and raised his pinched fingers, as if holding an imaginary bill. “I said, ‘Thank God, I now know what a dollar is.’”

Suddenly, he started to sob, overcome with emotion: the migration, the hardships in New York, the earthquake, the uncertain road ahead for his small village. He put his hands to his face — not to shield his eyes but, it seemed, to ease the pain.

He stopped crying, wiping away his tears with his denim jacket. The radio crackled, and he shuffled down the hill toward the shelter, his sandals scraping in the dirt.

Source: NYT > World

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