One of our most sad experiences as Mexicans, was the 1985 earthquake. The adults of back then,
have several tragic stories and the young ones have theirs. It is important to remember this
moment because when one is constantly complaining or feeling sad, the remembrance of a
natural disaster in which many suffered, brings us back to the reality, that we can actually change
several things that bother us, but it is almost impossible to change your fate in a natural disaster.
I have been invited to write in Pipo Lion Heart’s blog as a memory of that moment. I am thankful
that he asked me to do so because it’s also part of his life since he was one of the lucky kids who
were born in that year and survived. Many children born in 1985 in the General Hospital of Mexico
died when it fell down.
Pipo was six months old, and was comfortably eating his breakfast in the special baby seats when
the whole building where we lived started to move. As a chilanga (named given to México City
people) we were more or less in the habit of feeling earth movements since we constantly have
them and they last seconds. So, in 1985 at 7:17 it was kind of bothering to get on the run when
you think it’s “one of the usual” low earth movements.
My husband waited for it to pass and left for his job. When he arrived there, he told me how
streets had opened in the middle leaving big cracks. My mother arrived half an hour later to my
apartment and told me she had been listening on the radio, to Jacobo Zabludovsky, the only
journalist who was going around the city and telling about all the buildings that had fallen. We
couldn’t believe it! It had been a 8.1 Richter degree earthquake!
We still didn’t have cell phones so for images to come out on the TV took half a day to appear. And
then on the 20th we had another telluric movement who made more buildings and houses go
My husband together with his fellow workers were asked to help checking up several buildings of
the most affected areas. Since they were engineers they’d know if they were in risk of collapsing.
He was given a special garment to wear and was injected with several vaccines. Before he arrived
home he would go through a special chemical bath, to avoid taking any bacterias or virus brought
out of dead bodies.
In those times my brother worked in a building by the famous avenue of Reforma, which suffered
severe alterations in its structure which meant he would have to move to another place. We were
very worried when he told us he would have to go in the building for important papers, because
after an earthquake that big, there are always repercussions.
My husband and his team of friends were not the only ones helping in this disaster. My oldest
nephew and his friends of 16 years old went to the Red Cross Hospital of Polanco to see how they
They saw many corpses.
Meanwhile it was the neighbors of collapsed buildings who had started to move what was left of
the buildings to see if they could save people who had been trapped. A lot of people worked on
this chores of removing bricks and rocks for hours, days, nights and weeks looking for their loved
ones or simply looking for their fellowmen.
Help from many countries arrived at the airports. There is a special code between countries when
these kind of disasters occur. So food, water, vaccines, and prepared people and trained dogs
came to the rescue.
There are many tragic stories about people who were having their breakfast and fell together with
the wall behind them. We have been asked not use the stairs and elevators in these situations, but
thanks to the common sense of my friend Irma who decided to walk out of her apartment
promptly she was saved. Yes, the steps were collapsing behind her as she and her family were
walking down the stairs. By the time she stepped out of the building, it collapsed and the roof was
at the street level.
We had a great modern dance teacher from the UNAM, and an urban singer/composer Rockdrigo
who lived in the Tlatelolco buildings and died. Even though there are 102 buildings the earthquake
affected 12, of which the one called “Nuevo León” with 15 floors suffered the collapse of 288
apartments. Like in many parts of the city it was the civilians who first got organized to help.
Even though there was a lot of dust and dirt, many things came out into the open: like the bad
working situation of the women who worked as seamstresses, the millions of jewels concentrated in few
people, the incorrect figures of the dead people given by the media (we continue with the same
censorship problem by the government), thieves that took many of the help equipment, and food,
and people who had probably been bullied for their extreme thinness, who became the best
people to get into tunnels looking for buried people.
People say that Mexicans are not very united, but this terrible event proved otherwise; thousands
of people left their comfortable homes to go and help.
Story by: Leonor Rodriguez Hickie
Leonor writes also for a digial magazine called www.cincuentaytantos.com.mx inside the category “La ventana de Leo” (Leo’s Window)
A place for random articles but mainly for poems…