Mexico is a land of tremors, a fact often forgotten by its people. On September 19th 1985, an earthquake struck the country’s center, leaving 10,000 dead and millions of victims. 32 years later, on the anniversary of the events of 85, the earth shook again, affecting the lives of 12 million people. One of them was Dr Olivia Dominguez, anthropologist of the UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico), who is studying the impact of the earthquake of 1985 together with her students from the National School of Anthropology. Arriving home, she realized that the building had been destroyed, and with it her life’s possessions.
Ismael Villegas is an electrician from Mexico City and professional rescuer. On September 7th, a tremor was felt in the country’s center. He then met his team, Topos Mexico Adrenalina AC and set out for the city of Juchitán, Oaxaca, to carry out various search and rescue missions and provide psychological support to victims, most of them of Zapotecan origin. On September 19th, while helping out at a shelter, he found out about the earthquake in Mexico City and decided to go back to help. After a 15 hour journey, he arrived at a disaster site within the Colonia Condesa and encountered a paralyzed operation, caused by a poor governmental response. Despite his experience as a rescuer in such countries as Japan and Haiti, he was left out from the rescue efforts.
During the rescue, Ismael crossed paths with Daniel Moreno, a recognised Mexican journalist who motivated by what he witnessed conducted a wide range reporting of the Earthquake’s consequences, revealing various cases of corruption and other illegal practices.
Forensic Architect Sergio Beltrán was commuting home when he came across the same disaster site. Paralysed with fear, he continued home, where he learned that a family member was trapped within the remains of a collapsed building. Before setting out to help his family, he decided to confirm the location of this and ten other sites, and shared this information online with the student group YoSoy132. This marked the birth of a new citizen initiative, Verificado 19s, that surpassed the government’s efforts.
Accountant Rodrigo Heredia wanted to help with the search and rescue efforts. Despite the perimeter around the site set by the authorities, an Army Officer, recognising his enthusiasm, asked for his help carrying heavy tools. After 48 hours, he ended up as part of a rescue team on the roof of the collapsed building, about to carry out the first rescue at that site.
Lucia Zamora was inside the site’s building when the quake struck and the construction collapsed on her. She waited in a 30 cm gap, between thouthands of tons of concrete, for a rescue that miraculously happened.
With the passage of time the help, that was forthcoming in the days after the disaster, began to wither. Dr Dominguez found herself in Juchitán, 8 months later, at a national assembly of earthquake victims, representing over 7,000 families. Her research became the official victim’s survey, used to fight the disinformation that sectors of the government used to misappropriate money from donations and funds meant for reconstruction efforts.
Mexican solidarity flourished from the very first moments following the earthquakes. One year later, society remain self-congratulatory for their efforts in the aftermath of the fateful events. The impact over hundreds of thousands of people, is now forgotten.