September 19 Earthquake in Mexico Brings Citizens Together

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MEXICO CITY — On September 19, Mexico´s ground was shaken once again, as it had been in 1985. Thirty-two years after the September 19, 1985 earthquake, buildings were once again turned to ashes, blackouts began, streets were destroyed and bridges fell. Hundreds of lives were taken away and thousands were displaced or left homeless, but citizens acted in unison to rebuilt their homeland. “The Mexico that I saw this week is not a Mexico that crosses arms, is not a country asleep, it is not an indifferent society,” said Elsy Reyes, a student in Puebla, where the earthquake’s magnitude hit 7.1.

Minutes after the ground stopped shaking, civilians began using social media to organize help for victims of the earthquake in Mexico. Women and men of all ages and social status volunteered to move rubble. Doctors, veterinarians and nurses worked day and night for free; and hospital and clinics gave free services.

“From the girl who, without knowing me, took me to her house at midnight to go to a clean bathroom, to those who put themselves at risk several times to save a life — they made me realize that together we make a huge difference. I am very proud of my country,” Reyes said.

Social media shared locations where people had left cans of beans, powder milk, bottled water, baby food, toilet paper, medicines; pantries in homes were emptied and given away. Mexico, a Latin American country with a broad inequality gap, was not discouraged. Some gave away homemade tamales and tortillas; others gave away clothes, eggs and medicines. Personal vehicles were used to distribute donations in Morelos, Puebla and the villages in between towns. Universities encouraged their students to volunteer in their field of study. Architecture students at the Universidad Iberoamericana made checkup visits to homes that had cracks and damages, to check their stability.

Restaurants offered free meals to the volunteers; hotels allowed people to stay for the night; people shared their phones so strangers could communicate with their loved ones. Crowds sang songs; flags were hung from homes, balconies and light posts. The hashtag #FuerzaMexico, meaning “strength Mexico,” took off. Donation campaigns meant that even those who lived far away could contribute to rebuilding after the earthquake in Mexico.

The feeling of patriotism, unity and solidarity from the people was something unique. Mexico’s economic and social situation has worsened exponentially in recent years; nevertheless, when in need, the people reacted with more strength than ever.

According to the Fund For Peace’s Fragile State Index, conflict risk indicators in Mexico are worsening. According to the World Bank, three percent of Mexicans live on $1.90 a day or less, and an additional 11.8 percent live on $3.20 a day. Despite this, one of the world’s richest people is Mexican. Nevertheless, in some cases, disaster can bridge inequality.

“Faced with this reality, we try to save what is truly valuable in oneself and in others. This destruction hurts us all equally; we realize how we all need the same thing, and we are one people. It is a new beginning, but now, we are enriched by the natural phenomenon that made us human beings again,” said Isabel Muñoz, 65, who has now experienced her second September 19 earthquake in Mexico.

 – Isabel Barquin Gonzalez Sicilia

Photo: Flickr

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About Author

Isa Barquin

Isabel is from Mexico. Her academic interests include international relations. Isabel’s goal is to represent Mexico in the international arena. She has always combined her studies with NGO volunteering, which has enriched her experiences, learning from other cultures and other people.

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