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Nothing, Nobody: The Voices Of the Mexico…

Nothing, Nobody: The Voices Of the Mexico City Earthquake

by Elena Poniatowska

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What a disturbing, difficult book to read. Nothing, Nobody doesn't try to give you the background or the whole picture of the 1985 earthquakes that devastated parts of the Federal District of Mexico, Mexico City. It was originally written for Mexicans who would've read much in the papers or seen much in the news. Nothing, Nobody isn't interested in telling us what is commonly known about the earthquake, that it was of great magnitude and particularly effective at causing destruction because the Federal District is built on the ruins of Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital city that was built on a swamp in the mountains. Mexico City was a city that was always settling as the water in the aquifers went down or the sandy earth became more compact. If you were going to choose a site for one of the largest cities in the world using safety as a high criteria, this site wouldn't be it.

Instead, Poniatowska gives voice to the average citizen of the city, especially the ones who either lost loved ones or who rushed to the places where buildings had collapsed and began digging with whatever they could find to get the people out. She tells of a lot of anger. The government's response was odd, and ineffectual if you're in a mood to be generous toward President de Madrid and others in power. de Madrid stayed out of the city, and the main response was to send the army out with guns to "guard" the zones with the most damage. Volunteers said the obvious - why are they here with guns and not shovels. Foreign aid was at first refused. When it was accepted, equipment was sometimes held up in customs. Sometimes the foreign rescuers were wined and dined when all they really wanted to do was to start digging while there was still a chance that someone could be brought out alive. Looting or misappropriation was happening, but not by the general public.

The anger is strong, but even stronger in this book is the struggle to survive and continue living. Many people trapped in buildings saw light and did their best to dig their way out. Families died together, the father on top to protect the others. Volunteer rescue workers went in through small tunnels, liable to collapse, carrying oxygen for the people trapped inside, sometimes to have their person or group of people die in the process of rescue. I could go on, but what Poniatowska has recorded is unimaginable. I can not do justice to the stories. If you have the stomach for it, read it and honor the bravery of the people who grouped together to help each other the best they could. ( )
3 vote cammykitty | Jan 24, 2013 |
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Examines the devastating effects in Mexico city of the earthquakes that occurred in the region in September 1985 by presenting the personal experiences of numerous victims and civilian rescuers.

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