On January 13, 2001, a strong earthquake hit El Salvador, causing hundreds of deaths and considerable damage to significant cultural resources throughout the country.
GCI staff immediately contacted colleagues at El Salvador's Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y el Arte (CONCULTURA), the Institute's partner for the past three years at the archaeological site of Joya de Cerén. Responding to their request for aid, a team of GCI conservation architects was scheduled to fly to San Salvador February 13, the day a second destructive earthquake struck. The second quake resulted in additional deaths and in heavy damage to buildings already weakened by the first quake, and the mission was postponed. In early March, the GCI team toured the most heavily damaged areas and, together with CONCULTURA, identified ways the Institute could help El Salvador safeguard its jeopardized cultural heritage.
In June 2001, the GCI ran a two-week training course in El Salvador on emergency temporary shoring and rain protection of historic structures, using national monuments in three cities as practical examples. The intent was to help establish a network of professionals within El Salvador prepared to stabilize historic buildings in the very likely event of another earthquake in the region. The training course was led by two structural engineers, Julio Vargas and Daniel Torrealva. Both are professors in the Engineering Department of the Universidad Católica del Perú, and both have been heavily involved in postearthquake relief work throughout Central and South America.
Emergency structural shoring and rain protection are interim measures only, not permanent repairs. They are designed to minimize further damage to the buildings from the hundreds of aftershocks still rocking the country and from the long rainy season, which began in May and will continue through the summer. The protective measures will allow CONCULTURA time to assess conditions thoughtfully, to consider long-term conservation options, and to arrange funding for the buildings' permanent repairs.