22 de abril de 1992
Just after 10 a.m. on that fateful day, a series of explosions ripped through the Guadalajara sewage system (thousands of gallons of gasoline had seeped into the pipelines), destroying 13 kilometers of streets in the city’s Reforma district.
Jose Hernandez Claire, as much as any single person could be, who brought about the change. At the time, simply a photographer for Siglo 21, when Hernandez arrived on the scene, he was torn between providing assistance and recording history. He chose the latter.
Although the explosion killed over 200 people, it was initially downplayed by the “mainstream media” and the “powers that be”, in good part because those 200 people (and 3000 destroyed homes) were “unimportant” people, living in a barrio popular (or, in English parlance, the wrong side of the tracks). Only much later (ten years later) was it revealed that PEMEX workers had shut off the values from the Salamanca refinery without informing the refinery operators. The pressure build-up ruptured pipelines, and gasoline poured into the sewers. Without waring the populace, the municipal authorities had simply tried to flush the sewers the night before.
Hernandez’ photos — published world-wide — ignited popular anger, forcing out the then dominant PRI at both the municipal and state level, and generating a new public consciousness in Mexico’s second city, While Guadalajara and Jalisco remain a bastion of conservativism, they would never be the same.