Mexico City, Beyond the Earthquake?: A Recount of the Reconstruction

Citizens carried out a major part of the immediate rescue efforts.

Courtesy of Ignacio Rosaslanda.

 
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We are in downtown of San Gregorio, Xochimilco, in the deep south of Mexico City. Here the damage after the earthquake was aggravated by decades of bad urban planning and social exclusion. We can see the damaged houses, the houses and streets that are being rebuilt and the chinampa, just across the street.

Voice Over: Laura Freyermuth, Civic Urbanism Coordinator, CIUDADanía19s. Filmed By: Luis Enrique Muciño, Andrea Molina, Emilio Rodríguez, Anabel Robles and Alejandra Trejo, UAM Cuajimalpa. Produced with Talking Eyes Media.

The Problem
The Roots
The Solutions

The broader impacts of 19S are not due to the 7.1-magnitude earthquake, but to the lack of a comprehensive response to emergencies, to reconstruction, and in particular due to the absence of a public risk management policy. In one of the world’s largest cities, where sociopolitical dynamics are complex, how should we understand this problem while facing the human loss and damage to homes, schools, and workplaces that disrupts daily life? How do we demand a forward-thinking approach to emergency response?

Mexico City, built on the basin of Lake Texcoco, is particularly vulnerable to earthquakes. The most affected areas are located along the edges of the now-extinct lake. Geography is not the culprit; vulnerability to disasters has increased due to excessive draining of groundwater, which is exacerbated by logging on cliffsides that had once helped retain water. The risk is accentuated by the absence of regulation around people self-building homes, in oversight of new developments, and in emergency protocols. Moreover, city planning regulations primarily benefit real estate companies, and lack of risk management increases the challenges posed by geography.

Listening to and acknowledging the voices of our affected neighbors is indispensable, as is enriching them with the experiences and assessments that have emerged from NGOs, scholars, and experts on earthquakes and related responses. It’s necessary to share information and transform it into governmental action. As citizens, we must demand that reconstruction efforts account for environmental justice and the guarantee of human rights for all those who live in, work in, or visit the city.

Construction workers were essential in volunteer emergency response efforts.
 
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Construction workers were essential in volunteer emergency response efforts.

Courtesy of Gabriel Hernández Tinajero.

Remnants of a life recovered among the rubble.
 
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Remnants of a life recovered among the rubble.

Courtesy of Gabriel Hernández Tinajero.

Rescue by citizens and government in a collapsed building.
The damage invaded our privacy.
Yet to be rebuilt: affected middle class.
Construction worker in solidarity.
Rescue at an office building and clothing factory with migrant women workers.
Cops restrict access to damaged office buildings and retail area.
The damage blends into daily life.
Remnants of a life recovered among the rubble.
Rescue by citizens and government in a collapsed building.
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Rescue by citizens and government in a collapsed building.

Courtesy of Ignacio Rosaslanda. 

The damage invaded our privacy.
2

The damage invaded our privacy.

Courtesy of Gabriel Hernández Tinajero.

Yet to be rebuilt: affected middle class.
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Yet to be rebuilt: affected middle class.

 Courtesy of Ignacio Rosaslanda.

Construction worker in solidarity.
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Construction worker in solidarity.

Courtesy of Gabriel Hernández Tinajero.

Rescue at an office building and clothing factory with migrant women workers.
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Rescue at an office building and clothing factory with migrant women workers.

Courtesy of Ignacio Rosaslanda. 

Cops restrict access to damaged office buildings and retail area.
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 Cops restrict access to damaged office buildings and retail area.

Courtesy of Ignacio Rosaslanda. 

The damage blends into daily life.
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The damage blends into daily life.

Courtesy of Ignacio Rosaslanda. 

Additional Media

Demolition of a house in Xochimilco over a year after the earthquake.

Courtesy of Ciudadanía 19s.

Additional Media

Neighborhood sounds and voices in San Gregorio Xochimilco during inventory of the damage.

Courtesy of Alumnos de la UAM Cuajimalpa.

Additional Media

#NoMeOlvides (Don’t forget me): Stories about reconstruction.

Courtesy of Ciudadanía 19s.

Additional Media

What can the subsoil tell us about better ways of facing earthquakes? Material to raise awareness about and facing the risk.

Courtesy of Ciudadanía 19s.

Our Point of View

University Partners
Community Partners

We understand Environmental Justice to mean: measures and actions seeking to benefit all living beings through the equitable distribution of the resources needed to achieve good quality of life sustainably and without harm to others. We believe that justice begins with acknowledging the problem.

On September 19, 2017 (19S), a 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck Mexico City, causing loss of life and extensive damage. The memory of 19S is bittersweet; even though two years have passed, reconstruction is ongoing, and in some cases it hasn’t begun. In the aftermath of the disaster, there was a major disparity between the State’s response, marked by its absence, and that of civil society, which overflowed with solidarity. Now that time has passed, neither victims nor reconstruction seem to be anyone’s priority.

The earthquake was a watershed moment in the life of Mexico City, prompting questions such as: What did we as a city learn about comprehensive risk management? What are our vulnerabilities? What path can we take towards safety? Can we rebuild in a way that will improve environmental justice?

The stories presented here were developed in collaboration with C19s, an NGO. They arose from efforts to support our affected neighbors, evaluate public policy, and attempt to influence it. Articulating and outlining the different reconstruction-related problems for both students and the general public has been a challenge, but we believe we have managed to shed light on important points in the midst of such uncertainty.

—Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana-Cuajimalpa

We understand Environmental Justice to mean: measures and actions seeking to benefit all living beings through the equitable distribution of the resources needed to achieve good quality of life sustainably and without harm to others. We believe that justice begins with acknowledging the problem.

On September 19, 2017 (19S), a 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck Mexico City, causing loss of life and extensive damage. The memory of 19S is bittersweet; even though two years have passed, reconstruction is ongoing, and in some cases it hasn’t begun. In the aftermath of the disaster, there was a major disparity between the State’s response, marked by its absence, and that of civil society, which overflowed with solidarity. Now that time has passed, neither victims nor reconstruction seem to be anyone’s priority.

The earthquake was a watershed moment in the life of Mexico City, prompting questions such as: What did we as a city learn about comprehensive risk management? What are our vulnerabilities? What path can we take towards safety? Can we rebuild in a way that will improve environmental justice?

The stories presented here were developed in collaboration with C19s, an NGO. They arose from efforts to support our affected neighbors, evaluate public policy, and attempt to influence it. Articulating and outlining the different reconstruction-related problems for both students and the general public has been a challenge, but we believe we have managed to shed light on important points in the midst of such uncertainty.

—CIUDADania19s

Contributors

University Partners

Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana-Cuajimalpa

Faculty Project Directors Rafael Calderon Contreras Alejandra García Franco Maria Moreno
Students Edith Alitzel Echazarreta Aleman Ana Karen Perez Almaraz Gonzalo Antonio Sanchez Aramburu Cindy Aime de la O Bautista Jesus Fernando Ruiz Castillo Ana Carolina Ruiz Cedeño Maria Soledad Rivera Cruz Jennifer Esther Sorcia Cruz Nancy Marlene Lara Cruz Maria Guadalupe Calderon Duran Liliana Lozano Feria Antonio Garcia Islas Albarrán Rocio Jimenez Damaris Isaura Perez Manzano Elizabeth Monreal Lazcano Marisol Alma Delia Carmona Martinez Itzel Berenice Jimenez Medina Alvaro Morales Mondragon Fernando Franco Monroy Rogelio Valladares Munguia Juan Daniel Garcia Navarro Elizabeth de Jesus Nuñez Donovan Tellez Peña Miguel Alma Pineda Laura Xochitl Moreno Quezada Andres Ivan Gonzalez Ramirez Luis Enrique Trejo Razzo Ramses Ravelo Reyes David Antonio Hernandez Roa Jesus Antonio Amaro Robles Marcos Alexis Galicia Segura Rocio Isela Cruz Trejo Karen Paola Pintor Vaca Alejandro Mejia Villa

Community Partners

CIUDADania19s

Ruta Civica
Laura Georgina Freyermuth Joffre