Something Beautiful Born in the Midst of the Tragedy of the Earthquake

October 4, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper |


The following is a translation of an article, originally in Spanish, that appeared on the blog of Aurora Roja, voice of the Organización Comunista Revolucionaria, México.

From something horrible can be born something beautiful for the good of humanity. This is what happened in relation to the September 19 earthquake in Mexico City, whose devastation was greatly increased by the crimes of the current system (see “Mexico: The Earthquakes and the Fissures in the Criminal System”). Thousands of people mobilized, especially young people, to places where there were collapsed buildings, to remove debris with their hands, buckets and a few tools. They collaborated in long lines where pieces of concrete or buckets filled with rubble were passing from the ruined buildings while others went through some holes to rescue people trapped still alive or unfortunately some already lifeless.

Faced with tragedy, the relations of the invested pursuit of money, sale, profits, “to see what I get for myself,” so characteristic of the current mainly capitalist system, were suspended in part and for a time. Many thousands of young people and others gave themselves fully to the rescue efforts without seeking any advantage of their own, motivated only by the desire to rescue and support people trapped or left homeless. This represents some shoots of communism, although communism may have been the furthest thing from the thinking of the participants at the time. For it will be precisely in the future world society without classes that the relations ruled by money, commodities, profits, “me first and fuck everybody else,” as well as all the exploitation and oppression that this entails, will finally be left behind, and humanity will work collectively for the common good (as many thousands began to do for a time in the rescue efforts), according to the principle: “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need.”

The young people came from universities and schools, from different downtown and well-to-do neighborhoods, as well as from the neighborhoods of the poor and masses of the city, and from the shanty towns in the State of Mexico. A large number of people came to donate food or tools, with others receiving, organizing and sending it all to the brigades or to the victims. A young woman, interviewed by Aurora Roja next to a collapsed building near Parque de los Venados on September 20, told us: “I went to the store. I bought bread, ham and so on. I started to make tortas [a kind of sandwich]; I threw them into the bucket and I came to distribute them to the people who are helping in this place. So I thought I could help. Yesterday I did it, until tonight today.” She continued to offer water and tortas for free. In this same place, a young man told us: “I am from Chile. I have been living in Mexico for two years. I’m expecting to spend the night with all these people to remove debris. Yesterday I was helping in the same way in other places. In Chile I experienced the 9.1 earthquake. It was terrible! I know what this is about and here I am.” Others passed by offering hot coffee and bread to a line of dozens of people waiting their turn to relieve those who were “inside,” removing debris.

In the days after the earthquake, hundreds of young people joined together and collaborated in the collection center of the Olympic Stadium of Ciudad Universitaria [main campus] of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). Lines of them passed the different provisions or tools from hand to hand, with some others with a wheelbarrow carrying the heaviest packages. Others prepared food or distributed it to those who were there doing all this solidarity work. Many sought to be part of the relief brigades that were being formed to be sent to disaster areas, with some basic training.

When we joined the work there, we talked with a motorcyclist, who commented: “We come with our motorbikes to help. Here the brigades are formed up. Relying on the motorbike, we are assigned to go to the places that they tell us and pick up doctors and take them to the places where they are urgently needed, or we do the same with engineers, architects, rescuers or pick up and take medicines, and with the motorbike we move fast. That’s why you see so many motorbikes here, and this is how we help.”

A couple of young people also told us: “We could not help immediately after the earthquake, but as soon as we got freed up, we went to where the collapsed buildings were. In some places we were able to help. In other places it was more difficult, because the police and the army arrived and told us to leave, saying that help was no longer needed or they just started to prevent people from entering. I think that perhaps they already want to put the machinery in, and a lot of people are starting to think that’s what is going on, that maybe that’s why the army and the police are starting to arrive. This is wrong, if there are still people trapped, you have to help rescue them.”

In fact this has happened in several cases, either using heavy machinery before rescuing all the people or simply the state locking down control of the situation from above in response to the mass independent mobilization of the people. For example, in the building at Álvaro Obregón number 286 in the La Roma neighborhood, only the angry protest of relatives of the victims prevented them from using heavy machinery while there was still a chance to find and rescue people. And the relatives still have spent days waiting for their loved ones to be rescued. The authorities lie to them, they hide from them that they have rescued bodies, deny them information, and try to isolate them from the press. Faced with this situation, relatives have become enraged, closing streets along with others and taking other actions to pressure the authorities to even give them information. On Monday, September 25, when they called out the authorities, they shouted, among other things, “Turn them over now, a lot of days have gone by; if it’s possible that they are alive, you are taking their life away! Neither the Army nor the Navy has done fucking anything! Let the rescuers come in!” (Proceso magazine, No. 2135, September 30, 2017) In another case, among several others, documented with videos, in the collapsed building at Zaragoza 714, in the Portales Sur neighborhood, authorities prevented volunteers from coming in, which halted the rescue work for 24 hours and resulted in the death of a woman who had been identified while still alive, trapped in the rubble.

The authorities are also trying to hoard the material people have collected on their own initiative, and protests are mounting in the face of a number of cases where this help collected is not being delivered to the victims but rather is being diverted to the political campaigns of the electoral parties or for other purposes. In fact, the UNAM authorities closed the collection center in the Olympic Stadium in relation to a conflict that has not been clarified in which it was questioned whether the help was actually reaching the victims. In a neighborhood near the university, we talked with friends who on their own set up on a corner and began to collect food. People began coming and donating bags of sugar, rice, soup or tuna, toilet paper and clothes. Others came to ask, “Are you going to deliver this directly to the people? Because people distrust these efforts, because all the help will be given to the government and then it won’t get to the people.” They answered them, “We ourselves are going to go to the Morelos neighborhood and we are going to turn this over directly into the hands of the people. We are not going to give it to any institution, but directly to the people who need it.” By the afternoon they had already left for the Morelos neighborhood with two trucks, all at their own expense, both from their own resources and from donations from the people of the neighborhood. The same thing was repeated in many parts of the city.

People even came to Mexico City from other parts of Mexico to help. Two women told Aurora Roja, “We came from Ciudad Juárez [on the northern border of Mexico with the United States]. We grabbed what little we had and we came to help people in this city whatever way we could. And we have been around to various places helping, and it has been a beautiful thing because at the same time the people themselves have helped us out with food and a place to sleep. We didn’t think about ourselves. We said ‘let’s go help’ and here we are.”

There were also many cases of solidarity and heroism at the very moment of the earthquake. When interviewing a teacher, she recounted, “The kids went out with their teacher, but in the hallway the teacher was frozen in fear and the kids just couldn’t keep going forward. Behind them were the older kids, running towards the stairways, but, they didn’t run over the little kids!, who were blocking the hallway, but rather they reacted quickly. They turned around and ran to the other stairs and that’s how they went down the stairs to the yard. On the ground floor, I heard the whole building ‘crunching,’ but I could not leave the kids. I didn’t leave until I got the last kid out. At that moment I thought I could die crushed, I was resigned to that circumstance, but I could not abandon my kids. My fellow teacher was in the upper part of the building and he did the same with his kids: He did not abandon them and got them all out. There was a lot of solidarity between the kids and the teachers.”

All this shows the great potential that exists among the people, who woke up and united in the face of adversity. The authorities have tried to contain, control and stifle this new and inspiring outbreak of independent initiative of the people, while they have cynically praised it, trying to claim the people’s achievements as their own. But the facts are demonstrating, and more and more people are realizing, in varying degrees and forms, that this government, this state, serves interests that are not the people’s interests: In fact it actually serves the interests of the big capitalists and rural landowners and their criminal system. The initiative and selflessness of people in the interests of the people in the face of earthquakes gives us a glimpse of the great transformative potential latent in the people and the possibility of another world. It is a great potential that is possible and necessary to unleash, raise awareness, organize and lead to put an end to this system of such unnecessary misery and suffering so a radically different and much better society can be born.

Posted by Aurora Roja




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