Home » Reflections » Profile Piece » A RECOLLECTION OF MEXICO’S EARTHQUAKES


On the 19th of September 1985, Mexico City suffered an 8.0 magnitude earthquake. At around 7:17 AM the violent earthquake interrupted the usual mornings of Mexico City’s morning rush. The 1985 earthquake was the deadliest earthquake in Mexico’s history, the estimated number of deaths is 5,000 people. Mexico City is a city built on the remains of an Aztec empire Tenochtitlán, over a massive lake called Texcoco. Because of Mexico City’s geography earthquakes are not only prone to happen but they are exacerbated by the construction of the city. Mexico is located on a subduction zone, the oceanic plate Cocos is gradually sinking beneath the North American continental plate.

The memory of the 1985 earthquake lives on through the generation that experienced it, Paz Luna and Juventino were in Mexico at the time of the earthquake. Currently, they both live in New York City with their families. Paz experienced the earthquake in a small town an hour away from the City and Juventino lived in the City with at the time his ex-wife.

Luna’s family was affected vastly by the 1985 earthquake, although they were not in Mexico City they were closer to the epicenter. When the earthquake hit nearby Luna and her family first heard the dog’s of the town crying. They sensed the earthquake before Luna’s family realized it. When they felt the earthquake, Luna recalls that it felt as if a massive wave was underneath them. Luna tells that her and her family all threw themselves onto the floor belly side down somehow this was reassuring to them.

“Se escuchaban los ladrillos de los perros bien feo, y se sientia como una ollá, que se mueve arriba y abajo. ” – Paz

Many of Luna’s family lost their homes or had their homes fractured during the seconds that it lasted. Earthquakes have the main shock that is usually higher rated in the Richter magnitude scale and then they naturally have aftershocks that are smaller. The local government gave few resources in 1985, for Luna’s family this meant they only received material to build up or fix the houses. How they build up the houses was left to them, the government only provided bare minimum of material like cement, bricks, and rods. Luna’s father was forced to hire nearby construction workers to rebuild his house.

” El Gobierno nos dio materiales para reconstruir las casas como el cemento, barillas, tabique, alambron. Tambien nos dieron cosas como cobijas a los del pueblo.” – Paz

Juventino was in Mexico City 20 minutes from the most devastated area. In his neighborhood, he recalls that everyone was terrified when the earthquake hit and its a feeling he does not forget. The entire city had just finished an earthquake drill when a few hours later the real thing occurred. He remembers the ground shaking violently, his family rushed out of the building. Outside there were neighbors on the ground, children were crying and no one was aware of the terrifying scene just miles from where they were standing.

Vehicles sit covered in debris in downtown Mexico City after earthquake, Sept. 19, 1985. (AP Photo)

Paz recalls the earthquake vividly especially after the last earthquake of 2017. Peculiarly the earthquake of 2017 struck on the same day September 19th as the 1985 earthquake in Mexico City. Two years ago the 2017 earthquake was 7.1 magnitude, the devastation it left in Mexico reflects the ghost of the 1985 earthquake. The similarities don’t just stop on the same day, both earthquakes reflect the inadequacy of the Mexican government to help its people out during times of disasters. As the picture below demonstrates, normal citizens were left to pick up the piles of rubbish that has fallen from the buildings. This all in the effort of finding people alive below the rubbish and dirt.

Luna’s family was affected by the 2017 earthquake as well because the epicenter was just miles away from her hometown where her father and aunts reside. Luna describes the church of her hometown collapsing, she says that as of today the government has still to rebuild the church. The community was advised that it would be a while before they reconstruct the church due to the long waitlist. The 2017 earthquake lets the world and Mexican citizens know that the government has yet to change the methods in lack of resources for natural disasters. Luna says that the community of her town had to build a small “capilla” for the saints that hung in the church, before that someone had to stay with the sculptures and paintings so that they were not stolen.

“Contruyeron la capilla y ahi estan los santitos…dicen que hay una grande lista para que vengan a arreglar la iglesia.” – Paz

Paz Interview


  1. I personally love learning about historical events that took place throughout Latin America, so thank you for incorporating a narrative like this one into our class blog. It looks like you put a lot of research into your peace and I enjoyed learning about it. Good job.

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