How Mexico’s deadliest earthquake revealed the best and worst of the country

 Vamos Mexico

The story

It was a Tuesday of September, Tuesday the 19th to be more precise. People in the capital city, also known as Mexico City, woke up on what seemed another normal day in their lives. As noon struck the clock, the sirens started sounding. “Another simulacro” people said. Another simulation of that fatal 1985 earthquake where at least 5000 people had died. Just as every major building was being evacuated in a lethargic and ironic manner, the earth started to shake. “This time they really put effort into it” was heard between the moving mobs.

Only this time there was no simulation. A 7.1 earthquake had just struck the Capital City shaking and breaking every structure on its path. Buildings were crushed, universities destroyed to the point of having to cancel classes indefinitely. Schools were brought down, trapping kids and teachers under tons of rubble. Electricity was lost for the first few hours. Communication networks started to fail even for emergency calls due to the massive flood of messages, images and videos people tried to communicate with their friends and relatives.

As the minutes passed and people managed to communicate with their loved ones, the miracle started to happen. City dwellers from all neighborhoods started to band together offering help. From forming chains to remove rubble, to opening gyms as makeshift hostels, to preparing food and lending cars and motorcycles to move the tools and food, the whole city came alive in a unified effort to help those affected by the earthquake.

As night came, information tools were extensively put into place. Google maps with the locations of damaged and destroyed buildings were created. Facebook walls were filled with alerts and messages about the status of different sites. Twitter was a flurry of updates. People outside Mexico started spreading the word for people to donate. By next day, the status of the whole City was on the internet. However here and there people started noticing that although the City was hit hard, there were small towns and cities that were devastated. And so people started packing food and water and ready to drive to were the help was needed.

This was the second earthquake just this month that had hit Mexico. Two weeks before the southern state of Oaxaca had seen an even bigger 8.1 earthquake hit its coasts. So by the time the second earthquake was over, the southern states of Mexico were left in rubble. And it’s just not that buildings were damaged and/or destroyed. Some highways were disrupted as well, with bridges falling down and other segments turned to big holes.

The best – the people

These two earthquakes have brought out the best of the Mexican people. Solidarity, union and compassion were seen as never before. Regardless of race, gender, age or socioeconomic status, people were united. And it was the people who have been doing most of the work, to the extent that communication media and the government have had to apologize for having stood at the sidelines of it all.

But also not just inside the city, since as time passes, this solidarity is spread across the country were people are driving out of their home cities and towns in aid of the affected ones. And again, even as the Cruz Roja or UNICEF tried to help, the real aid came from the people without any orders. It’s probably the most pure form of solidarity among connationals.

The worst – politicians

Just like when an old building is demolished and the rats come out, the earthquake has once again shown politician’s true colors. It all started around 6 hours after the incident. A petition started to circulate demanding that the INE should remove a part of the 1.3 billion MXN given to political parties on election years, and instead use it to help the people affected by the earthquake. And what was their first response? To say no to 2.3 million mexicans which have seen their homes damaged or destroyed, hiding themselves behind the argument that the law can’t be change so “close” to the election.

Ratas politicas
Ratas politicas

INE has come out and said that they’d prefer to see people suffer the aftermath of the earthquake rather than shortening the campaign duration for the presidential elections. This just goes to show the immense care they have for the people they serve and represent.

Finally one of the candidates for the 2018 presidential elections came out saying he would donate 20% of his campaign budget (remember this is tax money taken from the people in the first place!) to help the afflicted. Of course other parties couldn’t stay behind in the popularity contest, and consequently have come out saying they will also donate their money. Note that this is what they are saying, who knows if they’ll really do that.

But unfortunately it doesn’t stop there. There has now been several reports (here, here and here) of politicians diverting the ‘despensas’ (packages of food and basic need products). They then can store this despensas and when the campaign starts, give them out for free promising big things to people in rural areas, and in so, securing more votes for their campaign. It is really sad to see that even in the worst of times, there are people who just never stop trying to rip-off everyone else.


The earthquake has changed the social fabric of Mexico in a very important way. It has brought together the Mexican people like never before. It has also revealed the true motives of some groups of people and at the same time, showed who people can depend on during trying times. Let’s hope Mexico can get up fast from this accident.



Do you think this is correct? Let me know what you think on the comments below. Y sigue con todo Mexico #FuerzMexico

More earthquake videos

Author: Andres Paez

Tech’er, writer, programmer, life enthusiast.

4 Replies to “How Mexico’s deadliest earthquake revealed the best and worst of the country”

  1. Great text! There are many other aspects:

    – The Earthquake has shown the map of inequality activated. Help came some hours later to the south of the city, which is mostly worse off. Authorities were concentrated in the central parts of the city, where the worse damages happened. Southwards, connectivity in social network platforms is not so available. And when cries for help finally came through, the ways were so full of volunteers rushing there that some vial chaos was made. Later, enraged inhabitants of the town kicked out the head of district from the damaged areas.

    – It also sadly showed that while Mexican society underwent enormous changes after the 1985 earthquake, the emergency plans that failed that time have not changed accordingly. They appear to aim at containing civilians, regardless of the utility of the civilian organizations. Even experts were banned and their work made difficult by the military struggle to establish their authority. When it comes to this, apparently struggles over ownership of the operation become widespread. Instead of supporting the self organization, the state tries to control it at all costs

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