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The Earthquake that Revealed Mexico's Strength and Solidarity

Categories: Latin America, Mexico, Citizen Media, Digital Activism, Disaster, Humanitarian Response

Rescue crews photographed in Mexico City, September 19, 2017. Photograph used with permission.

Mexico is just beginning to tally the damage caused by the 7.1 magnitude earthquake that shook central Mexico, including the capital as well as the states of Morelos and Puebla, on September 19.

The quake occurred exactly 32 years after a disastrous 1985 earthquake that took hundreds of lives and left its mark on the capital and its residents. The death toll has risen to 248 [1] and is expected to rise further, yet the devastation has mobilized solidarity, drive, and creativity among residents, both Mexican and international.

Teams have quickly organized various rescue missions, zone-mapping, observation and information-sharing to assist the wounded, taking front stage both on and off social media. Online networks have acted as critical communication hubs in moments when misinformation or missed connections have hindered rescue services.

Recent Twitter posts reveal the ways in which everyday citizens have made an effort to support those in crisis:

Facebook de Cheko Macías. Compartida con autorización.

Facebook of Cheko Macías. Shared with permission.

In moments like these, I continue to think that a people's greatness isn't in its institutions. Because it is out there, in the streets. Face to face. Hands holding hands. Heartbeats that don't give up, and ask that others don't fade. Instances in which we look ahead and realize that we are not as different as we thought. People looking for what is theirs: nobility, hope, solidarity, happiness and the near future. Giving up is not an option. Until the last breath.

In fact, citizen rescuers have taken a leading role by offering diverse forms of support and activating creative participation to help victims:

Masons, young people from the neighborhood, neighbors lifted a cement slab and saved a person in

Santa María Nativitas. #fuerzacdmx [2]#sismo [3]pic.twitter.com/gu922geILI    [4]

— Jesús Robles Maloof (@roblesmaloof) September 20, 2017 [5]

Remember that good Mexico. pic.twitter.com/YKJEop2X5p [6]— baxter (@elbaxter) September 20, 2017 [7]

Help has varied from transportation and mapping to repairs, medical attention, and psychological support as well as search-and-rescue missions with sound-tracing teams [8]:

Brigades distributing donations/teams on bikes.

pic.twitter.com/cIiLwC8t0K [9]

— Cd México en bici (@CdMx_enbici) September 20, 2017 [10]

We are distributing supplies and first aid kits in a squad of 12 motorcycles throughout the city. We are coming to you.

pic.twitter.com/EmLxBbcVJq [11]

— raquel miserachi • (@salvenseustedes) September 20, 2017 [12]

Friends, if their are cracks in your house, send me photos and I'll take a look at them for you. — Jonás (@fooonts) September 20, 2017 [13]

We are offering free psychological first aid to those affected by the earthquake.

Contact us at 5662-66-28 or 5661-39-65.

— Gabriela De la Garza (@gadelagarza) September 20, 2017 [14]

Map with locations of affected buildings after the quake in Puebla and Mexico City. If you have information about Morelos, help!https://t.co/305qXvgLY9 [18]pic.twitter.com/7qSZTUFOKV [19]

— #GastosPendejos (@GastosPendejos) September 20, 2017 [20]

SismoMéxico.org [21] organized another map collaboration by providing open information searchable by the kinds of help offered and the needs of specific areas. Verification initiatives have also been organized to fix information and keep it updated. For example, hashtags #Verificado19S [22] and #Terremotomexico: [23]

Programers and fact-checkers have been making this map more useful and validating its information since the morning. Applause.

#Verificado19S [22]pic.twitter.com/F0uHmbnJRp [24]

— Horizontal (@horizontalmx) September 21, 2017 [25]

Every life matters, every hero matters too

Many migrants in Mexico have pushed aside their fears over their legal status to show unconditional support to people affected by the earthquake. Siete24 [26] reports that many migrants have come out on the streets, facing possible abuse or extortion, “with borrowed shovels and without receiving anything in return. They were the heroes of this earthquake.”

It doesn't matter where we are, we are brothers and we should help each other. Honduran helping in Oaxaca. Stay with us, #Chilango [27] (Mexico City residents) damn it!

#Sismo [28]#CDMX [16]

— Rogelio Estrada (@reztrada) September 20, 2017 [29]

Pets and other animals were also rescued:

Check it out, list of veterinarians that will help animals for free:

pic.twitter.com/sH4fP8feJV [30]

— Cess 🇲🇽 (@cessleon) September 20, 2017 [31]

Rescue moment when dog was found alive under rubble after

Sismomexico [33]#sismocdmx [34]#cdmxsismo [35]@MtyFollow [36]pic.twitter.com/CE4m3VQqsC [37]

— YankuikMx (@yankuikmx_) September 19, 2017 [38]

There are heroes without a cape. For those of you who say we don't have to rescue dogs, remember that there are dogs rescuing humans.

#AyudaCDMX [39]#SismoMéxico2017 [40]pic.twitter.com/l3UIKsyrKe [41]

— DoNNoVaN Mendoza (@do_ovan_) September 21, 2017 [42]

Outside the capital

Prior institutionalized neglect has compounded the damage in surrounding areas of the capital in the aftermath of the earthquake. In many cases, the most vulnerable populations, already in need of support, have suffered the most serious consequences:

@EPN [43] Mr president, the necessary attention has not been paid to Moreles these photos were sent to me  of Jojutla, Morelos

pic.twitter.com/LyQWoXLTHs [44]

— Persianas Vanglezz (@PVanglezz) September 19, 2017 [45]

“Twice we've fallen… thrice we'll rise”

This earthquake will go down in history as one of extreme devastation that also revealed the strength of Mexico's people. At a time when trust in Mexican institutions has been rocked by corruption scandals [46] and state espionage [47], the behavior of its citizens leaves no doubt as to who holds the reins as they rebuild their city:

People sing, “Cielito lindo” while they help with rescue efforts in Mexico City.

#FuerzaMéxico [48]🇲🇽#Mexicanosfuertes [49]pic.twitter.com/tyf1JVV9gh [50]

— Karina Bastida (@BastidaKarina) September 20, 2017 [51]