On Tuesday afternoon at around 1pm Mexico experienced its second earthquake tremor in 11 days at 7.1. It arrived only hours after the annual drill commemorating the 1985 earthquake disaster 32 years earlier. This has been my experience of it. But more importantly an experience of the big perspective shake and humanity power it has birthed.
I was in my 2nd floor flat in San Rafael and a surreal great movement seemed to surge but this time in all directions , up and down and side to side.I only had time to grab my keys before rushing out and down the stairs with the neighbours from downstairs and their pet terrapin in towel. I galloped out minus shoes , as quickly as I could and down the stairs , I followed the crowds into the middle of the street eyes like a hawk on everything above us. I noticed my breathing speed up and heard senoras around me wailing. I backed myself into a circle of people of all walks of life , who had gathered in the middle of the street. We formed ourselves like a circle, protective and facing out at all angles , a survival circle in our territorial instinctive human states.The downstairs neighbours daughter screamed mama over and over again whilst she breathed heavily. A tall glamorous telenovela looking woman emerged from the crowd and said to me ;
‘No eres de aqui ,verdad?’ (‘You are not from here are you?’)and she took my hand and squeezed it as the apocalyptic vibrations rose up from the ground.
A big isolated fear welled up in me , her grip was like a big golden embrace around my shakey inners, I was more moved by her than the physicality of the earthquake.
And so this theme began.
A puff of dust had dispersed further down the street and I thought , this could be it , the city is falling.
The sun shined bright and the hysteria rised up from the valley. Sirens and smashed glass , broken mirrors abandoned in the street. I returned to my empty flat and analysed the damage , my mirror had fallen and various ceramic pieces had scattered from unexplored bits of my new apartment , I gripped my phone , waiting for some sign of connection to the ones I hold dear.The network was of course overwhelmed ,so every so often through the tiny windows of connection I made scattered whats app words to my friends. A big isolated fear welled up in me once more.I waited for someone to direct me, frozen in shock .I walked out into the street to see if there was anything I could help with, I walked past groups fanning fainted colleagues and lingered around televisions in hardware stores reporting the devastation around the city. When I arrived home I met my flatmate Raquel she was quick to take me under her wing and did what all Mexicans do best , firstly she took me to eat.We then went to visit a neighbour in his gallery La buena estrella a few blocks down and decided to start taking supplies to the various rescue centres that the civilians had started to organise in the disaster zones. We walked through the dark crumbling streets , electricity had been cut in parts and imerged to a chaos of flashing lights and mounts of toilet paper and plastic bottles of water at a Centro de Acopio at Jardin Pushkin in Roma Norte.People has been there since it happened trying to organise aid where possible for the victims and damage that had shattered La Roma and Condesa , two fancy and ancient neighbourhoods ,I had called home last year.
Several folk in plastic hats and high vis began shouting – FILA FILA and humans gathered in their chained form to move loads of water and food from vehicles gathering around the edges. In the chaos I spotted my friend Coco. In Mexico all my friends are fruits. He was mounted on a bike shouting across the masses of people potential directions of what could be done next , I ran across and gave him a real life – alive squeeze , tried not to tremble into hysterical weeping and left him to his mission, he seemed to be in his element. I decanted a large bottle of water and some supplies from my backpack into the hands of a man who had arrived from another disaster area looking for supplies.
My heart gushed at the amount of people arriving to volunteer or bring aid. We decided to move to another area to make ourselves more useful , we made friends with a lovely man called Nacho and his taxi friend who offered to drive us around where we were needed. There was a panicked power of adrenaline fuelling all of these civilians to help their people. The failure of their government and trust in services means everything is down to the community and boy do the community go all out . Our second stop took us to Chimalcopotla , there we wiggled through the crowds with cartons of milk to deliver to the other side of a scene that looked straight out of a destructive blockbluster scene , there was the harsh red and fluorescent light attempting to light mountains of destruction and debris , with brave men and women delicately removing heavy grey parts to try and pull out the trapped humans below them. We helped crowds carry more shovels and tools to remove the excessive amounts of rubble.Every so often someone would raise their hand and silence would fall across the gathered thousands , so the rescuers could listen for life between the rubble and chaos.The mass action and reaction brought shivers down my spine. Never have I felt the power of such human force working together to aid a desperate situation , there were volunteers looking after the volunteers handing out coffee and tortas , a young girl of around 12 offered us marshmallows , I took one and thanked her remembering how it important it was to make others feel useful and included in a terrifying natural disaster and this beautiful reactive mass human movement of aid.
There is a generosity and kindness which flows through this country’s life blood , perhaps because of there closeness to death and darkness. Mexico city is a city at the top of a mountain in a marshy basin beside a very active giant volcano; Don Goyo Popo , split between two shaky earth plates. It’s existence is always face to face with extremes and the future is unknown.These are extremes and contrast you see all over the city and interlaced through the landscape. Its ancient fire and violent history are present and are very much pulsating through this urban and sprawling landscape.
You trip over its extremes in the street , as you walk through the neighbourhood and almost fall over homeless people sleeping in the middle of the street. Its poverty doesn’t hide from you , it is part of the material of the city.Its buildings tower and crumble , marking various economic booms and downfalls .The richest of the richest live here and swoosh by the poorest of the poor who have travelled for 3 hours to come sell chewing gum or whatever clever item one can think you could want in moments of transit.
After worming our way out of Chimalcopotla we heading back to delegation Cuauhtemoc where supples were being gathered and organised , we formed great human chains , women and men of all ages shouting AGUAS! (‘Waters’- a sign of be careful) as the literally passed water in its various plastic cargos to the corner of the storage pile , I chuckled at the irony of it all . We sorted medicines and foods into different areas and smiled at each other carrying out these simple mass tasks together , happy in the union of human power.
Greer Pester – ‘Chida tree of hearts’ – prints and postcards available at Cactus and Creatures exhibition @ The Koppel Project , London , running from the 5th of October – the 4th of November. All money from this series will be going towards the rebuilding and supporting of physical and social Mexico post Earthquake trauma.
It is difficult to describe the big emotional wound this experience has carved in me , for all the trauma and fear and shock, this mass shake has connected people who would have never have touched before and stripped all the superficial stuff away to reveal our very human empathetic cores .Its cultivated a little huerto of resilience in me. Its like taking a shower and washing away all the sticky bubble and insignificant worries away and emerging and walking in your raw clean state and opening up your energy to others from other bubbles.
The world needs more of this.It builds resilience , learning and flexibility in our constructed bubbly identities. We all need to learn to be more resilient and closer to the key human things that matter.Its a shame it takes a violent jerk from big Mumma E to unite us in our shared feeling and openness. There is so much potential for humanity if we could just be a little more present, in a more holistic way each day.
And by god we really need to start listening to big mother E.
She’s got a lot to say , we should listen.
Mexico querido , everyday I am more in love with you , you inspire so much and bring parts of me to life. I am eternally grateful for the experiences and awakenings.
Hasta Pronto ❤