When Mexico shook off its indifference

What were the odds?

In what strange, ironic statistical game would we have guessed that, 32 years after the most terrible earthquake in our country’s history, there would be another one on the very same day, just two hours after the commemorative earthquake drill?

The recent September 19th earthquake caused fear and confusion, shook an already shaken country, hit communities that were just recovering from another earthquake, registered at minutes to midnight just two weeks ago. Thousands of Mexicans mourn today: their school, their malls, their homes, or their loved ones.

However, the recent earthquake also brought out the best in our country.

(Lea esta entrada en español)

The earthquake wasn’t even over, and the government hadn’t had time to react yet, when brigadiers, volunteers, and neighbors took to the streets, asking: “what can I do, what needs to be done?” As buildings fell, so did the barriers between Mexicans, who formed long human chains, passing buckets and rocks and supplies: the construction worker standing next to the engineer standing next to the student…

Tons of food, rescue equipment, and medical supplies (which are not exactly cheap) came. Many people donated their time and effort organizing, classifying, and delivering these things to those who went into the rubble to pull people out. Hands of every color and profession gave out food, water, coffee.

Social media, so criticized by some, became an information hub: who was fine and who was missing, where supplies were needed and where there were too many helping hands. Millennials, that generation often called lazy and indifferent, formed brigades to help not only around their neighborhood or city, but other states affected by the earthquake. Countless Facebook and WhatsApp groups were born to coordinate efforts, all united under #FuerzaMéxico, echoing throughout the media like a cry of hope.

International help came swiftly: almost five hundred rescuers and a score of four-legged heroes came to our country to help, to rescue, to rebuild. The streets became a tower of Babel, but this time there was no fighting, no misunderstandings, just the union of human hearts beyond languages and nationalities.

And when at last the work was done in one spot, Mexicans would join voices like a battle cry, and the volunteers went off to find another place to lend a hand.

It’s been almost two weeks; help is still flowing in, brigades are still moving out, and some wonder, as we go back to normal (but, with a bit of luck, not back to our indifference), if they did enough.

Some could do nothing more than offer temporary shelter or transport to a coworker, a friend, a total stranger. They could do nothing but report what was happening or comfort a crying person next to them.

Some could give no more than what they had at home, because stores went empty because people bought what they could to send help. Some could give no more than what they could buy, depleting their bank account, or even give from their bucket of tamales that they had set out to sell that day.

Some could do no more than reunite a lost pet with their owner, could do no more than distract the little ones seeking refuge at a local shelter. Some could do no more than send monetary help because they were abroad but their family, their friends, and their people were here.

Some could do no more because they reached the end of humanly possible and then some.

To all of these “some”, who each gave their grain of sand, thank you.

Thank you because Mexico shook off its indifference and helped that person we would’ve otherwise ignored on the streets.

Thank you because Mexico didn’t leave the furthest communities to their luck, but did the impossible to get help to them.

Thank you because Mexico condemned corruption and plundering from those indifferent few.

But the rescue is only beginning. In the next few months, we must keep working to build our country back up, physically and socially.

It’s time to roll up our sleeves and help some more.

We can offer shelter to a family, because in Mexico, my home is yours.

We can help non-for-profits who are rebuilding Mexico; these are verified and will help the communities in Oaxaca and Chiapas.

We can donate to the Mexican Red Cross, who will keep on helping those affected by the earthquake.

We can donate PET bottles and Tetra Pack containers, which will help rebuild in the most affected communities.

We can reach out to collection centers and shelters and ask them what they need or how we can help.

Finally, we can and must keep this spirit of national union alive, not to remove physical debris, but to remove social debris that hinder the construction of a more humane, more tolerant, more solidary Mexico.

#FuerzaMexico, we’ll make it through.

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