Capital’s vibrant spirit rattled by quake but intact
MEXICO CITY Arriving in Mexico City after an absence of a few days is to arrive to a town transformed. It remains a vibrant, dynamic metropolis, but there is an overwhelming sense of urgency and disquiet several days after an earthquake left scores dead and thousands homeless.
Pedestrians wander residential streets once choked with traffic. Yellow tape marks off blocks where buildings have toppled or may be on the verge of tumbling.
‘‘Gas!’’ shouts a police officer on a roped-off street in the hardhit Condesa district, a hip quarter that has been abruptly transformed into disaster central. ‘‘We have a gas leak! Turn off your phones! No cigarettes!’’
Tree-lined Amsterdam Avenue has a calm-after-the-storm feeling. Rubble-strewn buildings with gaping cracks are roped off. People gawk from behind police cordons. Makeshift volunteer stands offer free water and battery charges for cellphones.
From time to time, a whistle and hands-up sign represents a signal for everyone to be quiet. Rescuers are listening for signs of life inside collapsed structures.
Evacuated residents mingle with volunteers, police and others who have come for a look. Many of the district’s trendy restaurants have closed, at least for now. But others offer free food.
The spirit of solidarity is ubiquitous and infectious.
Plaza Popocateptl, a treeshaded island with a fountain that is usually a tranquil refuge in the megacity, is now a hub of activity. Picks, shovels, baskets of food, bottles of water and other items occupy the fountain. Men and women in hard hats, multicoloured vests and dust masks dart about with purpose. From tents, volunteers distribute free food and clothing. Many who are homeless, or afraid their homes may yet collapse, sleep in tents.
Wandering the streets of Condesa and the adjacent Roma neighbourhood, both of which suffered extensive damage, one encounters a distinctly upbeat, almost small-town air.
One rescue worker robotically waves a Mexican flag from atop a bronze statue.
‘‘This is Mexico,’’ says Deyanira Aparicio, 39, who was among those who made the trek to REUTERS hand out food and drink. ‘‘This is our spirit.’’ LA Times
Mariachi musicians perform at Mexico City’s Garibaldi Square yesterday to encourage people to donate supplies to help the victims of Mexico’s devastating earthquake.