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Anarchy in the CDMX:19 Septiembre 1985… y… 2017

20 September 2017

Obviously, we have had an “eventful” few days here.  The coincidence of another major earthquake on the anniversary of what many here still think of THE earthquake (and only a two hours after a city-wide drill) has been endlessly noted, but apparently, saved lives.  The first responders to the apartment house collapse a few blocks from my house (where, had I not been in a wheelchair recovering from a bicycle accident, I’d have been walking my dog about the time it happened) were construction workers from a nearby renovation project who had just finished a refresher course on what was they should do, should they face a major earthquake ever again.  Which, of course, they did.

But, it wasn’t just the construction workers who popped up, knowing exactly what to do.  In 1985, it was the inability… or reluctance… of the government to respond immediately that forced citizens to set up “ad hoc” disaster relief brigades.  I honestly think it changed the psyche of the country… people did not passively wait for help to arrive, or for someone in authority to pop up to tell them what to do, but took control of their own lives, and responsibility for their community.  While some, like the Brigada de Rescate Tlatelolco have become formal bodies since then (and deserve your support:  paypal donations to donativos@brigada-rescate-topos.org), and back in 1985 we didn’t have social media to keep us informed, what surprises me is how organized the unofficial emergency response is.

In 1985, for communications, one had to depend on radio, TV and print journalism.  It took longer to sink in the dimensions of the disaster in 1985.  And, even if the media outlets were able to function, their reporters, pressmen, and technicians either were missing, or unable to get to work.  Elena Poniatowska drafted a writing class for “ladies who lunch” to work as reporters and runners for the newspapers.  A 14 year old boy scout took charge of one rubble-digging crew, under the assumption that SOMEBODY in uniform should be directing the operation (and, it is said, he did a much better job than any military authority around).  Private autos (still relatively rare in those days) were pressed into service as ambulances. And neighbors set up communal kitchens to serve not just the “damnificados” (displaced people) but the hordes of accountants, housewives, students, construction workers, doctors, lawyers, bureaucrats, punk rockers … who all found themselves not cogs in the machine, but active agents in the running of their own society.  But it took a few days.

Yesterday, within about two hours of the initial quake, Facebook and other social media (it could have been earlier, but I wasn’t checking my social media all that much while sitting out in the street anticipating possible after-shocks) was full of calls for this and that brigade.  None needed a formal name… nor was their any formal leader. But they knew what was needed.  Bicyclists were asked to meet at one place, ready to distribute food and water to sites where other brigades were searching for survivors in collapsed buildings.  And those brigades were listing exactly what they needed:  including megaphones for whoever it was who had to coordinate the effort.  And, if you’ve seen these operations, they are coordinated.

One reads and hears it was “anarchy” back in 1985.  And, in a sense, it was.  The government response was to protect itself from the people.  Much of the business community did the same, more interested in protecting its goods than in rescuing its workers.  It was chaos, but the heroes and heroines of 1985 who saved the city were “anarchists” of a sort.  The masses simply pushed aside the state, and of their own free will worked together under their own leaders… or no leader… to meet the immediate needs of the citizens.

In part, the state has learned its lesson:  one reason we have that drill every year here.  And some (but not enough) better building codes.  Certainly, the “official” groups… Cruz Roja, the hospital staffs, the police, the electric company, etc… have responded quite well, although not always as immediately as one would like.  Not having to go through channels, or wait for instructions, we are almost back to normal in good part thanks to a outbreak of anarchy.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. roberb7 permalink
    21 September 2017 9:04 am

    Good article from the _NY Times_: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/20/world/americas/mexico-earthquake-aid.html

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