Music & the Spoken Word: To the rescue

Marcos Efrén Zariñana rescued 27 survivors of the 8.1 magnitude earthquake in a unique way

Editor’s note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square broadcast. This was recorded in Mexico City, Mexico, in June 2023, and aired on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023, and will be rebroadcast on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024. Due to the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra’s tour, there will not be live performances of “Music & the Spoken Word” on Feb. 18, Feb. 25 and March 3, and a past performance will be streamed.

At first, Sept. 19, 1985, seemed like a normal day in Mexico City, as millions of good, hardworking people busily began their morning. Then, around 7:19, a powerful 8.1-magnitude earthquake jolted the city, and life changed in an instant. Thousands of people lost their lives. Thousands more were injured. Large sections of the city were cut off from electricity and water. Hundreds of buildings collapsed, trapping people under piles of rubble.

Tragedy can bring out the best in people, and that’s what happened on that day in Mexico City, as caring people organized themselves into search-and-rescue teams.

Marcos Efrén Zariñana from Cuautla, Morelos, about 100 kilometers south of Mexico City, was one of those volunteers. Marcos was visiting Mexico City that day to pick up a uniform for a marathon he’d been preparing for. His short stature, thin build and runner’s determination made him an ideal rescuer. With his ability to crawl into places that others couldn’t reach, Marcos earned the affectionate nickname la Pulga, Spanish for “the Flea.” But the size of his frame wasn’t nearly as important as the size of his heart. Marcos rescued 27 people who were buried under the rubble in Mexico City’s Tlalpan neighborhood.

And la Pulga didn’t stop there. After helping the earthquake victims and their families, he became a certified rescuer. Over the next 28 years, he traveled to 10 countries that had requested his help after disasters. In all, he rescued 160 people. Due to his selfless service, Marcos was named a national hero in Mexico. He passed away last year at the age of 79. (See “‘The Flea’ — Latter-day Saint hero from 1985 Mexico City earthquake — passes away,” Church News, Nov. 2, 2022,

| The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

What do we learn from la Pulga’s life? For one thing, we learn that sometimes God puts us in just the right place at just the right time. When Marcos traveled to Mexico City, he thought he was preparing for a marathon; he didn’t know he would end up saving lives. And we don’t always know how God might use us to rescue someone in need. But we can always be ready. When we seek to follow the Lord’s two great commandments — to love God and to love our neighbor (see Matthew 22:36–39) — that love will lead us to opportunities to help. As it did for Marcos, love can become our call to action.

Related Story
‘The Flea’ — Latter-day Saint hero from 1985 Mexico City earthquake — passes away

Tuning in …

The “Music & the Spoken Word” broadcast is available on KSL-TV, KSL News Radio 1160AM/102.7FM,, BYUtv, BYUradio, Dish and DirecTV, SiriusXM (Ch. 143),, and Amazon Alexa (must enable skill). The program is aired live on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. Mountain Time on these outlets. Look up broadcast information by state and city at

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