Dispatches From Mexico City: Dealing With The Grief
Last week’s earthquake remains top of mind here in Mexico City. While the cleanup efforts are well underway, a heavy malaise hangs in the air everywhere you look.
In the days following last Tuesday (Sept. 19, 2017), people everywhere tried to get involved in the relief effort. Personally, we raised money with friends and family in Canada, brought donations to various help centers set up around the city, and last Thursday we joined a bucket brigade to help clear rubble.
For nearly everyone, it seemed like no matter what they did it wasn’t enough as more volunteers poured into sites looking for any way to stay busy, proactive. To help in any way possible.
On that Thursday (Sept. 21), everyone wore masks to protect themselves from the dust that hung heavy in the air. Frequently, someone in charge would signal for quiet by raising a fist. In turn, everyone else would raise their own fist, passing the signal down the line. This was done so workers could give instructions or listen for any noise coming from the rubble. The only sounds were tarps blowing in the wind as hundreds of people stood completely silent, their fists raised in the air. It was surreal, to say the least.
Miracles In the Rubble
On Friday (Sept. 22) we were still hearing stories of people being pulled out of collapsed buildings. My girlfriend was at one site when they pulled out a pet. Support arrived from around the globe with countries like Japan and Israel sending rescue teams and aid coming in from countries like Turkey and Venezuela.
Almost 4,000 buildings were damaged in the quake, and some friends remain homeless. The popular neighborhood of La Condesa seems largely uninhabitable while crews work to remove debris. Condesa, along with Roma and Del Valle (my colonia) were the hardest neighborhoods hit. These areas are known as some of the hippest in the city.
Interestingly, I was told this has a lot to do with the ‘85 earthquake. Those neighborhoods rest in the bed of the lake that used to encompass where Mexico City now is. Because of the soft ground there, they’re more susceptible to damage. In the ‘85 quake, many of the buildings were damaged, causing rent to remain affordable in the following years despite the central location and beautiful architecture. That led to an influx of artists and foreigners. After that, restaurants, bars and boutique stores sprung up to cater to the new residents and, in turn, property values begin to rise. A lot of that seems at risk now as people consider what to do next.
The Psychological Scars
There was a sizable aftershock Saturday morning, but we slept right through it. Later that afternoon my band performed. We have an ongoing gig Saturday afternoons at a Texas-themed barbeque restaurant. These events are normally happy occasions where families gather to share food and take in the unique dining experience. We looked forward to helping people take their minds off the troubles but the sadness was palpable that day.
Indeed, the psychological scars are evident everywhere you go. Many people are on edge, wracked by fear and anger. Rushing emergency vehicles, while always common in a city this size, have sirens that cut through the day like an air raid alarm. We’ve rushed to the door a few times believing them to be another warning.
But even as people struggle to deal with the aftermath of last week’s tragedy, there remains a sense of solidarity. People nod and smile at each other on the street, they continue to drop off donations at help centers, and they continue to volunteer. So, while the sadness hangs heavy in the air, there are definitely signs of hope. And in these days, that’s the best we can ask for.
Ty Trumbull, from his base in Mexico City, covers the entrepreneur’s journey and business continuity for ChannelE2E. Each Tuesday or so, he offers views about his adopted hometown — his personal Dispatches from Mexico City.