Let me hold you, Mexico.
I know you're scared, you're afraid to close your eyes tonight.
I know you feel uncertainty, impotence, that you are home of a wounded nation.
But let me hold you, Mexico. Let me comfort your heart.
Because you are a land of fighters, of solidarity, of brave, unbroken people.
Mexico: you are the house of people who defy the unknown and grow despite the ghosts of pain, people who are not afraid to leave their homes and offer others a helping hand.
Do not be afraid, we will go forward, together, as we overcame the earthquake 32 years ago, the hurricanes, and so many corrupt governments.
Do not be afraid, Mexico, because in times of suffering you've found a family in others.
-Anonymous letter that circled the Internet during the earthquake's aftermath.
On September 19, Mexico's ground was shaken once again as it happened in 1985. Buildings crumbled, darkness fell upon the city, and those streets once full of life and energy were covered in dust and rubble. Despite the hundreds of lives that were lost and the thousands left homeless or displaced, Mexican society worked together to rebuild their homeland. "The Mexico I saw this week is not a Mexico waiting for something to happen or a sleeping country. This is not an indifferent society," said Elsy Reyes, a student from the state of Puebla, where the epicenter of the 7.1 Richter Scale earthquake was located.
Minutes after the ground stopped shaking, civilians started using social media to organize themselves and help immediately. People from all ages and social status volunteered to remove the rubble and help save those who were trapped beneath it. Human chains appeared all over the city, carrying debris away from the buildings and tools for the rescuers. Doctors, vets, and nurses worked for free all day long. Hospitals and clinics gave free services. Everyone found a way to help the others.
"From that girl who, even without knowing me, invited me to her house at midnight and allowed me to use her clean bathroom, to those who put themselves at risk to save a life, all of them made me realize that together we can make a huge difference. I am very proud of my country," added Elsy Reyes.
People shared on social media the location of provisional centers to leave cans of beans, powder milk, bottled water, baby food, toilet paper, medicines, and other supplies. They shared all what they had for those who needed them the most. Mexico, one of the Latin American countries with the biggest inequality gap, did not hesitate to donate. Some gave away their homemade tamales and tortillas. Others gave away clothes, eggs, and medicines. In the other states of the country, personal vehicles were used as heavy-duty trucks to distribute donations in Morelos, Puebla, and the small towns that were also affected. Universities encouraged their students to volunteer in their field of study. Architecture undergraduates from the Universidad Iberoamericana checked houses and buildings that were slightly damaged to make sure they were habitable.
Restaurants offered free meals to volunteers. Hotels allowed people to stay for free. Everyone shared their phones so volunteers could communicate with their loved ones and let them know they were fine. The crowd kept singing Mexican folkloric songs and cheering rescue brigades. Some sang the traditional and meaningful song "Canta y no llores" ('Sing and don't cry'). Mexican flags waved from balconies, light posts, and houses. The hashtag #FuerzaMexico ('#StrengthMexico') became a trend on the Internet. Mexicans living abroad spread the word about donation campaigns, so even those who could not help directly with their own hands could contribute rebuild their home.
The sense of patriotism, unity, and solidarity among the people was something I had never seen. I was proud of being Mexican.
Although this country's economic and social situation has worsened in the last years, people were able to put problems aside and organize. Civilians have even proved to be more efficient than the government itself. Despite the authorities' corruption and impunity, there is hope for each Mexican. Today Mexicans know their potential. They know that together they can be unbreakable.
“Facing this reality, we try to save what is truly valuable in oneself and in others. This destruction hurts us all, but it has made us realize how we all need the same and how we are one people. It is a new beginning. Now we can make the most of a natural phenomenon that made us human beings again,” says Isabel Muñoz, 65, who experienced in one lifetime the two worst earthquakes in the history of this city.
Text by Isabel Barquin Gonzalez Sicilia
Images by Pablo CI