Alfaro: Mexico will not be beaten down

Mariana Alfaro, Opinion Editor

My mom knows exactly what she was doing when a deadly earthquake hit Mexico in 1985. It was her fourth year in a Mexico City university; she was terrified and did her best to help. At the end of the day, she was lucky enough to make it home.

On Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017 — the 32nd anniversary of the earthquake that killed at least 10,000 Mexicans — Mexico City shook again. The 7.1 magnitude quake destroyed more than 30 buildings in the country’s capital. The death toll is still unclear, but at least 300 are dead in Mexico City and surrounding states, according to news reports.

I’ll remember exactly where I was that day, the beginning of my fourth year in a United States university, miles away from home. I watched with horror as news from the earthquake trickled in. Immediately, my family chat started buzzing: “Is everyone okay?” “¿Dónde está el abuelo?” “Get out of your building. Now.” We were desperate to get in touch with my cousin, who was in school on the other side of the city. For a panicked hour we couldn’t reach my grandfather, who lives alone. As I sat on a shuttle in Chicago, my hands glued to Twitter updates, I thought about how easily Mexico City — built on a lake bed and home to nearly 9 million people — could crumple.

But, just as they did in 1985, Mexicans refuse to be beaten down.

In the past week my country has been immersed in recovery efforts. Images show neighbors, volunteers, people from all ages, creeds and socioeconomic statuses coming together to pick up the pieces. So many people turned out to help find survivors or rescue bodies that authorities had to start turning volunteers away. “Topos México,” a nonprofit earthquake rescue brigade born after the 1985 earthquake, turned up everywhere, ready to save lives. Rescue dogs in search of victims were hailed as heroes, both on the scenes and on social media. Mexicans, no matter their economic situation, are bringing in tons of food, water, clothes and other donations to “centros de acopio.”

I did not want to bring politics into this discussion. But after two years of enduring verbal abuse just because we were born on the southern side of a border, I could not help but get emotional when I saw the unity in my country. Instead of cowering in the face of potential earthquake aftershocks or unstable construction, hundreds of Mexicans came out to help, putting their differences aside. After a U.S. presidential campaign in which one candidate benefited from mangling our country’s reputation, this outpouring of love reminded me that Mexicans do not care what is said about them. We are here to keep our chins up, get our work done, serve our loved ones and put the name of our country up high.

Foreign politicians can hurl unbased insults and ridiculous threats at us, but no one can deny the unparalleled compassion, willingness and heart of Mexican people. Our political figures may be lacking, our economy might be weaker than that of the U.S., and — I’m not going to lie — we do have our differences, but you’ll never meet people stronger, more driven or more determined than Mexicans.

If you need your faith in humanity renewed, especially with all that’s happening in the U.S., I recommend looking at pictures of Mexican collection centers overflowing with donated goods. I also recommend Googling “Frida the rescue dog.” Maybe even give the #FuerzaMexico and #LoveArmyMexico Twitter hashtags a click. All you’re going to get is an outpouring of love.

Just what the world needs right now.

Mariana Alfaro is a Medill senior. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.