Marcos Efrén Zariñana — an iconic Mexican Latter-Day Saint rescuer, internationally known as “La Pulga,” Spanish for “The Flea” — died on Oct. 25, 2022 at his home in Cuautla, Morelos, Mexico, reported the Church’s Mexico Newsroom.
He was 79.
Zariñana was named a national hero in Mexico for his participation as a rescuer in the 1985 Mexico City earthquake.
It was during this catastrophe — which occurred on Sept. 19, 1985, with magnitude of 8.1 on the Richter scale — that Zariñana joined a group of volunteers who coordinated search and rescue of the victims. People started calling this group of volunteers “Los Topos” — “The Moles.”
Zariñana rescued 27 people buried under the debris after buildings collapsed due to the earthquake in the Tlalpan neighborhood of Mexico City — roughly 20 miles southwest of the Mexico City Mexico Temple.
His short stature and slim figure allowed Zariñana to squeeze into places that were too complicated for other rescuers when they needed to pull out survivors who were trapped in the rubble. This experience resulted in other countries asking Zariñana for his help in other catastrophes.
Ten countries requested Zariñana’s help to rescue people during other disasters. Throughout his 28 years of service, he rescued 160 people.
Zariñana was born to a humble family in the town of Cuautla — 60 miles south of the Tlalpan — on July 18, 1943. However, it was his passion and love for sports that placed him in Mexico City during the 1985 earthquake. That day, he went to the city to pick up the uniforms he planned to use in an upcoming marathon.
The 1985 earthquake completely changed Zariñana’s life. After helping and serving the victims and their families during the earthquake, he decided to continue training to become a certified rescue worker.
In addition to this selfless work, Zariñana worked as a highway patrolman in his native Cuautla.