Jorgito shows his wristband off proudly. It has his name, identity number and his mother’s telephone number. “The teacher put it on me,” he tells me between smiles, with all the innocence of his four years.
“It’s for the tremors,” his mum clarifies, “in case the big one comes. All the kids from kindergarten have to wear one and they are doing the same in the elementary schools.”
In contrast to her son, the mother’s face looks haggard and thrown-off. “I’ve hardly been able to sleep. The first few nights we went to Céspedes’ park and now at home I spend all night watching over the child.”
Jorgito runs around care-free in the entrance to playgroup. He greets his teachers mischievously and plays with the arriving children. There aren’t many.
“It was like this when I was in the park the other night,” his mother tells me. “The adults had their hearts in their mouths, and he didn’t even bat an eyelid. Blessed childhood…”
I ask why she is still bringing him to kindergarten. On balance, in the face of the current seismological situation many people in Santiago have opted to keep their children at home or to take them with them to work. The provincial authorities have given this power to parents, even though the classes have not officially been suspended.
“It’s not an easy decision, but I don’t have anyone to leave him with. My parents are ill and I don’t want to overload them, and at my work I can’t pay enough attention to him. The kid is a like a rocket. Moreover, in kindergarten he is safer. My house will fall down before this place does…”
Santiago has not experienced a tremor in the last 48 hours. Perhaps the threat has passed already. But no one dares to lower their guard; a large-scale earthquake is the most unpredictable misfortune.
Perhaps because of this Jorgito’s mum’s face is pure anxiety. From the doorway she attentively watches the footsteps of her son, who is now hand-in-hand with one of his teachers. She barely breaths until he crosses the threshold of the room with his few companions. She looks nervously at her watch, rushed.
“Forget it, I can’t do this,” she says as a farewell. “Today I’ll come and collect him earlier. Hopefully the buses aren’t too bad…”