BBC Mexico earthquake




All rights reserved.



Contributed date

April 5, 2019 - 7:36pm

Critical Commentary

One month after the earthquake. A key contact within the public healthcare system is not responding to my texts or e-mails. He must focus on other things. I will wait, for now. I may need to find another clinic to observe for my project.

In the meantime, my neighbors have begun to talk the press. Men are working on the building next door at night, in the darkness, without permits. We have no way of knowing if the tower next door should actually be demolished or if it can be safely re-built. We do not trust the owners. They have too much to lose. The family that lives in the apartment above mine leaves. They have two small children. The risk is too high. BBC World picks up the story. The headline quotes a neighbor—“I want to believe that there aren’t people who would put human lives at risk”.  But there are.

Following the earthquake, the generosity of people in this city—of some who have come from much further—and their willingness to put themselves at risk for others has been overwhelming. But as the BBC reports, “Even though Mexico’s capital city has strict construction regulations, they are not always met and the rise in housing demand has created a voracity for construction that is often accompanied by corruption, negligence and conflict of interest….Building owners arrive with their own experts who minimize the damage, real estate agents show up with their own investigators who tell the people their homes are uninhabitable and offer to buy them at paltry sums, damaged constructions are verified by people whose license to do so was suspend more than a decade ago. There are buildings that have been declared uninhabitable whose owners are making repairs to try rent them…”.

The building next door was badly damaged in the 1985 earthquake that nearly leveled Mexico City. The owners could never insure the property thereafter. No insurance firm would assume the risk.


Paullier, J. (2017, October 19). “Quiero creer que no hay gente que pone en riesgo vidas humanas”: Cómo el terremoto en México sacó a la luz el caos, la desconfianza y las sospechas a la hora de evaluar los daños [“I want to believe that there aren’t people who would put human lives at risk”: How the earthquake in Mexico brought to light chaos, mistrust, and suspicions as the damage is assessed]. BBC Mundo. Retrieved from



Cite as

Emily Vasquez, "Responsibility", contributed by Emily Vasquez, STS Infrastructures, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 15 August 2019, accessed 17 May 2022.