12 Powerful Images From The Moments After An Earthquake Shook Mexico City in 2017

One year after the September earthquakes that rocked Mexico in 2017, Luis Arango’s photographs of the moments following the tragedy in Mexico City are worth a thousand words.

Luis Arango is a professional photographer with more than 10 years of experience in the field. On September 19th, 2017, he was working in the Roma neighborhood, one of the worst hit by the earthquake, when the unthinkable happened:

“That day, I was directing a shoot near Huerto Roma [a popular urban garden]. We were done, and we were walking, going to the production van, and that’s when the earthquake happened. It was insane.”

Like in a déja vu, the clock struck 1:14 pm, and the earth shook again like it had done 32 years before, in 1985. Camera in hand, Luis set out to explore the city and capture the moments following the event. These photos are now part of the “19/S Project: The Day We Found Ourselves Again.”

Without really understanding what was going on around him -- like most people in the city right after the earthquake --, Luis and his team headed to their studio to make sure everything was okay. Immediately after, they offered to help in any way they could and recorded the events. Arango spoke to Cultura Colectiva about this day and chose his favorite photos to tell the stories behind them:

“I snapped this one while I was walking down Gabriel Mancera street. By then, the Navy was already there, there were first responders, and I was shocked to see that, while we were all worried about the human lives, a little dog was rescued from under the rubble. We didn’t know if he was lost, if he’d gotten trapped, or what… So, it was amazing for me to see that people were trying to save all lives, not just human.”

“This was Amsterdam street, right when civil society started mobilizing itself. At that moment, there were two or three people with the Protección Civil hardhats, but most people there were just people who worked near the site. And that’s when it all started: it was an outpouring of people who wanted to start helping out before the authorities arrived. All the shouting I remember from that scene was because there were gas leaks: ‘Put out your cigarettes, there’s gas leaks!’ ‘We need rope!’ ‘We need water!’ That’s the story behind this photo.”

“I was surprised to see that people started grabbing the carts from the supermarket nearby to carry out the rubble. Without even talking, everyone formed a human chain to get the debris out, and the carts helped to get more debris out faster. I saw this girl who didn’t even think about it, she just ran and worked so hard to help.”

“This photograph is an example of people’s strength and heart. People started arriving with motorcycle helmets, bike helmets, and construction hardhats. An older woman brought buckets and trash cans; it was utter chaos, but amidst the chaos, civil society was organized.”

“This young man’s face really stayed with me because he looked so upset. He was deeply worried and sad. I don’t know if he was thinking about his family, but he was helping in any way he could. I was struck by the fact that, despite his expression, he never stopped helping.”

“This photo was taken in the Narvarte neighborhood. Everyone was helping out so much. By that time, there were soldiers there, and the efforts were more organized in this area. Lots of people were hanging around, waiting to see if they could help in any way. The girl with the backpack started filling up bags with water and handing them out to the rescue workers.”

“This shot celebrates Mexico City’s rescue workers; it’s an image that speaks for itself. It shows the raw side of the tragedy, but it also highlights the courage of everyone who took part in the rescue efforts after the earthquake.”

These photos are part of the “19/S Project: The Day We Found Ourselves Again,” a Pinhole initiative in collaboration with the CUARTOSCURO photo agency to remember the day when we all came together, put aside our differences, and worked as one to help.


Translated by Zoralis Pérez


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