Mexico City Earthquake, 1985. He may have been right, but being right was not necessarily the objective of diplomacy. ZUCKERMAN:  It was again a period when a chargé ran the Embassy, and John Ferch had gone on to Cuba as head of our mission there and later became our Ambassador in Honduras, and there was a rather long gap before John Gavin, Reagan’s appointee as Ambassador, was confirmed and arrived on the job. I said that the last thing in the world the Mexicans need is the First Lady coming to Mexico right now. I then assured the American staff, all of whom had come to work, that their families were being informed and we shouldn’t be tying up the few Embassy lines that might still be operative. Some of them came from homes that were damaged. We landed in Mexico and went through this program which involved going to Los Pinos, giving the check, having a little talk with de la Madrid, and going around touring a number of sites. First Lady Nancy Reagan toured Mexico City with U.S. Making matters worse, on the evening of September 20, a magnitude 7.5 aftershock shook the region. © 2021 A&E Television Networks, LLC. That one wiped out much of the remaining communications and then collapsed many buildings that had been severely damaged the day before. They were perturbed at the Ambassador’s estimate for some reason, but I am convinced the real total was closer to his estimate. I believe it was 30 or 40,000. Responses from the Mexican community and foreign governments came swiftly. Economic and Political Counselor. Though the epicenter for the 1985 earthquake was over 200 miles away from Mexico City, the disaster nearly flattened the capital. They weren’t evidently hostile but something could have happened to her in such a large crowd. I don’t think I succeeded and he had to go to the Foreign Secretary, and finally to President de la Madrid. Tuesday's earthquake took place on the anniversary of a devastating earthquake that killed thousands in Mexico City in 1985. Of a population of 18 million, an estimated 10,000 people were killed, and 50,000 were injured. It was something she very much wanted to do. It is the third largest country in Latin America and has one of the largest populations—more than 100 million—making it the home of more Spanish speakers than any other more. I remember many stories about heroism during those next few days. The earlier quake left behind a … Most of them came in to the Embassy to work. The quake was caused by the sudden rupture of a previously undocumented blind thrust fault. Mexico City is located at an elevation of more than 7,300 feet above sea level. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! Mexico’s president, Miguel de la Madrid (1934-2012), was criticized for his government’s weak response to the disaster. But then they reached the sandy loam of the lake bed underneath the center of Mexico City. Despite the fact that the disaster was one of the most powerful and destructive quakes ever to hit a populated area of the United States, more, The 1964 Alaska earthquake, the strongest earthquake ever recorded in North America, struck Alaska’s Prince William Sound, about 74 miles southeast of Anchorage. I remember helping develop a security plan of where to put the police lines to keep the people an appropriate distance away. It was very interesting, and Gavin was not without his role in all of that. Yes, it was not the Soviet Union. Mexico City earthquake of 1985. This is the address to send it to. Five people were reported killed, many were injured, and extensive damage occurred in the vicinity of Norcia. The leading newspaper of the day was called Excélsior, and it was truly an awful newspaper. I took advantage to ask the chauffeur to go through various neighborhoods where we heard there was great damage. As the National Security Council’s Staff Director for Latin America from 1985 to 1986, Ambassador G. Philip Hughes was involved in planning First Lady Nancy Reagan’s visit to Mexico City, which he questioned as being ill-timed; he was interviewed by Kennedy beginning August 1997. She is not going to be able to do anything material. The phone system failed almost completely shortly thereafter. To this day, the Mexicans say it was less than 20,000. We had to take care of them. I took the stairs down to the lobby, and went across the street to the Sheraton Hotel. In response, citizens organized their own rescue brigades. Actually, that earthquake, and I think perhaps Gavin’s taking a very out-front role and really expressing the damage and so on, the follow up to that by the Mexican citizenry I think really led in some interesting and strange way to the ultimate defeat of the PRI several years later. On September 19, 1985, the Mexico City area was struck by a devastating earthquake that killed at least 9,500 people. Doug Watson suggested that I call everyone together at about 11 o’clock in the big, Embassy central patio. The Ambassador was to get on a plane that morning in Washington to go to Europe on his home leave. COWAL: Well, they would sometimes mention it, and that would cause problems, or they wouldn’t mention it, and that would cause problems, of course, with the embassy. A lot of people hadn’t panicked the first day; the aftershock though brought many to the edge of desperation. A DEA official and a Foreign Service Officer happened to be downtown in a hotel for a breakfast meeting when the quake struck. HUGHES:  During the brief period that I was on the NSC staff in connection with Mexico, my main activities were planning a trip that Nancy Reagan made to Mexico and accompanying her to give a symbolic donation of a million dollars to the victims of the September 1985 Mexico City earthquake and dealing with a presidential phone call between de la Madrid and Ronald Reagan. She is not going to be able to put back a building or dig out civilians or something like that. Quakes, most of them minor, and none as strong as the one in 1985, remained a constant feature of life in Mexico City. It was pandemonium. He and Connie Gavin did a tremendous amount of fund-raising and charity work then and later in helping the victims…. We probably had 25,000 resident Americans and many, many American tourists. It was not totally closed. Western Mexico is particularly vulnerable to earthquakes with the Pacific plate and Cocos plate moving against the North American plate actively. Maybe that was because I had been through many earthquakes before, including one just as serious. Research a process analysis for errors in causal analysis is however the magnitude and type of strategy is required. This was an administrative decision and Nancy Reagan was going to take a million dollar check to Los Pinos [the Presidential palace]. I remember the back wall of my secretary’s apartment just fell out into the back yard. Robert S. Pastorino describes the disaster and the embassy’s response to it. I told them we would need them in the Embassy, but their personal considerations were clearly more important…. It had a magnitudeof 8.1, and the number of people killed added up to 10,000 deaths. More than 400 buildings collapsed and thousands more were damaged. Its epicenter was about 55 km (34 mi) south of the city of Puebla.The earthquake caused damage in the Mexican states of Puebla and Morelos and in the Greater Mexico City area, including the collapse of … The earthquake lasted around three minutes causing older buildings and poorly constructed infrastructure to fall. We all flew to Mexico in this nearly empty plane spending a lot of hours in the air. Even my own sister and aged father in San Francisco weren’t sure of our condition for two days. His mother was born in Mexico, in Sonora. And we began to prepare cables about the situation. T he earthquake that struck Mexico City on Tuesday hit on the same exact calendar date on which the capital was hit by a violent earthquake in 1985. On September 21, 1999, an earthquake in Taiwan killed more than 2,400 people, destroyed or damaged thousands of buildings and left an estimated 100,000 people homeless. I was in the Embassy in my office at 7:30 in the morning. AID sent many of them because it was in charge of our disaster relief at that time. Mexican President Miguel de la Madrid declared a period of mourning starting from September 20. Did you know? It was growing in population at a tremendous rate, and the economy was booming. We also have to remember that there was a major aftershock thirty six hours later, about 7 o’clock at night the next day. The 1985 Mexico City Earthquake. At first, the president rejected offers of international aid and played down the damage caused by the quake. Find a certified presentation designer for your next project on Prezi That continued for five years. As Mexico City is situated on an ancient lakebed plateau … It was the worst earthquake to hit Taiwan–where quakes are common due to its location in a seismically active more, At 4:31 a.m. on January 17, 1994, a 6.7-magnitude quake struck the San Fernando Valley, a densely populated area of Los Angeles located 20 miles northwest of the city’s downtown. Within the next couple hours, we made sure the local Mexican staff was ok. Subscribe for fascinating stories connecting the past to the present. Problems were compounded because the Government disaster relief office was destroyed and several of the largest hospitals collapsed during the first day, including the Juarez General Hospital where I went with the Ambassador three days later while they were still rescuing survivors, although each hour the number of corpses rose and survivors dropped. The 1985 Mexico City Earthquake was an earthquake that happened in Mexico City on September 19, 1985. Most of the items were legitimately needed, although during the first few days even the Mexicans didn’t really understand the extent of the damage and what was needed for relief. I had been officially appointed by the DCM when he left, to be in charge. I asked them to please alert all of our families that we were okay, because phone communications from Mexico City would be problematic. Financially, we had already offered the Mexicans a variety of technical assistance from sniffer dogs to special jacks and engineering gear to try to rescue people from collapsed buildings. We had to worry about the American School, the American Hospital, and other American institutions. As well, the tremors led to gas mains to break causing fires and explosions throughout Mexico City. Its economic boom, known as the Mexican Miracle, encouraged heavy migration, and few politicians were eager to stem the flow of incoming labour with strict building cod… It was the only time no one paid much attention to the American Ambassador. There was also not much of a line between editorial opinion of the newspaper and the reporting on the news. Mexico's president was Miguel de la Madrid, champion of a failed "moral renewal" campaign, and the city's mayor was Ramón Aguirre Velázquez, a man close to the president and a candidate to succeed him. To this day I can’t remember a word I said. Any aid that we gave would be only a symbolic gesture, a drop in the bucket. Fortunately, the quake was early enough in the morning that people weren’t yet in their offices. Kramer, a. The next day there were a number of lesser quakes, the strongest of which measured 7.8. I was one of the few people in the building. The day after the earthquake I was called at the NSC and asked how do you think the Mexicans would react to the First Lady coming to Mexico? He was a cousin of one of the leading writers of Mexico, Carlos Fuentes, who he called Charlie Fountain. Otherwise I think it would have been much greater, because a lot of people were still out of the city or in small buildings and so on, not in these huge office towers. By comparison, Denver, Colorado, nicknamed the Mile High City, is 5,280 feet above sea level. I went to the airport to meet the Chargé d’Affaires, Morris Busby, who was returning from Northern Mexico. To this day, Embassy people remember that event and the talk I gave. Once there, the earthquake tremors caused the sediment layers to oscillate. On the morning of September 19, 1985, an 8.1-magnitude earthquake hit the western states of Mexico and including Mexico City. At that time, all the lines went dead. On the other hand, on one of the first days, I called a Congressman in Los Angeles and asked him not to send a plane load of supplies, because they were not things that were needed. A lot of people were saved that night by the digging, survivors being dug out minute by minute. More than 80,000 people perished as a result of the quake, while an estimated 4 million more, On April 18, 1906, an earthquake and subsequent fires devastated San Francisco, California, leaving more than 3,000 people dead and destroying more than 28,000 buildings. You could see the appreciation of the families of these children as they went to the airport to welcome their children back…. Mexico City is on a plateau surrounded by mountains and volcanoes. These was a great crowd of people milling around. Some people said later that I was too calm and didn’t appear very sympathetic. The government’s response to the tragedy was unthinkable. It was 30 years ago today that at least 5,000 people — some estimates put the number at closer to 10,000, others at four times that — died in the powerful Mexico City earthquake of 1985. Earthquakes are worse in mountains which of vibrate more than flat land. All Rights Reserved. Partly because of inadequate building codes, the … PASTORINO: No official Americans and just a few American citizens. People were all over the First Lady. An apartment building destroyed by an earthquake that struck Mexico City in 1985. On the other position. Elliot Abrams went from the State Department, I went from the NSC, Jim Rosebush was then Nancy Reagan’s Chief of Staff and Elaine Crispin was the First Lady’s press secretary. One is that 20,000 people had died, because he counted the number of buildings times what he assumed was the occupancy of each building, and it was clear that most people in those buildings would not survive. At around 7:19 a.m. on September 19, 1985, Mexico City, one of the world’s largest urban areas, was jolted by a magnitude 8.1 earthquake, one of the strongest to ever hit the area. Even if it had not been destroyed, it didn’t have much equipment and expertise. There were American guests at this hotel and one of the officials actually pulled out bodies. They had spent a lot of time together as children. It had a magnitude of 8.1, and the number of people killed added up to 10,000 deaths. I went back inside the Embassy and upstairs to my fourth floor office after the twenty minutes like I had planned. "use strict";(function(){var insertion=document.getElementById("citation-access-date");var date=new Date().toLocaleDateString(undefined,{month:"long",day:"numeric",year:"numeric"});insertion.parentElement.replaceChild(document.createTextNode(date),insertion)})(); FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. We got on the plane and flew to California. I was quickly told that this was probably going to happen so it’s not a question of whether it is desirable or not, it is a question of making it happen. She didn’t mingle with people in the way the Bushes did typically on their airplane. It was still run totally by the PRI. One threatened to jump off the balcony because of some issue. With more than 16 million residents, the city had been growing at a ludicrous rate – over 4% annually through the 1970s, with a growth rate of close to 40% in the city’s periphery. Mexico City Earthquake: September 19, 1985, 1985 Mexico City Earthquake: Slow Government Response. I stayed in the Embassy the day and night of the first quake until about 4:00 a.m. We had to put thousands of telegrams in a huge sack and have them carried to Laredo to be sent out from there. Gavin felt that sometimes you had to deal publicly with them…. The momentum carried me; there were things that had to be done. That second night I was in the Embassy until 1 or 2 in the morning. Counselor for Public Affairs in Mexico City from 1978 to 1983. These two guys heard screams and dove in to the flooded basement waters of the severely damaged hotel trying to save drowning hotel guests. The 8.1-magnitude quake struck Mexico City on Sept. 19, 1985, followed by a 7.5-magnitude aftershock one day later. Oct. 8, 2020. On Sept. 19, 1985, an earthquake registering 8.1 on the Richter scale struck Mexico City. It was a Foreign Service Officer who had to load these sacks and take an airplane at night. I really caught hell for that from the staff later because the Department neglected to tell anyone or inform our families. As for me, I was frequently told that I remained fairly calm the whole time. Robert S. Pastorino That was maybe for the first time really since the Aztecs, a questioning of the central authority and of the power structure, by individuals and by groups of nongovernmental organizations, civil society, that really began to emerge. To get a better idea about the high stakes treatment. Mexicans spooked by earthquake on anniversary of 1985 quake Mexico: Earthquake rocked Mexico City on Tuesday by a magnitude 7.1 quake which killed at least 100 people in the capital and 230 nationwide, 32 years to the day after another deadly temblor hit the city. This detailed timeline of Mexican history explores such themes as the more, A country rich in history, tradition and culture, Mexico is made up of 31 states and one federal district. Location: Mexico. I had the great honor to cut the ribbon at one project where I went with Henry Cisneros and Bob Krueger because San Antonio, where Cisneros was the Mayor, donated the money to rebuild a school. The quake was centered off the Pacific coast of Michoacán, more than 200 miles west of Mexico City, the nation’s capital. At around 7:19 a.m. on September 19, 1985, Mexico City, one of the world’s largest urban areas, was jolted by a magnitude 8.1 earthquake, one of the strongest to ever hit the area. Considerable damage and injuries were reported in other parts of the Umbria region. On this day in 1985, a magnitude 8.0 earthquake rocked Mexico City and its surrounding environs at 9:17 a.m. EDT (7:17 a.m. local time). But early that morning, some lines were still open. I think I went home at 4:00AM and came back at 6:00 AM. In the beginning we prepared sit-reps [situation reports, i.e., cables done during a crisis] on an hourly basis. I cannot believe that the government actually impeded the rescue efforts that brave civilians had begun. The 1985 Mexico City earthquake: an excerpt from “Shooter” ... They’d built a lot of the new buildings in Mexico City, with the elevator in the center of the building to form a steel core like the rods in reinforced concrete. The Embassy had a telephone network, in which everyone calls everyone else in a certain order. We coordinated with the embassy. Mexico City earthquake of 1985, also called Michoacán earthquake of 1985, severe earthquake that occurred on September 19, 1985, off the coast of the Mexican state of Michoacán, causing widespread death and injuries and catastrophic damage in Mexico’s capital, Mexico City. Ambassador to Mexico, John Gavin, observing the resulting damage of the earthquake. I remember Dan Rather telling the world that Mexico City was completely destroyed. The building shook like hell. If she wanted to go to sleep it would have been in view of the elements. I didn’t think that was very strange. As an aftershock struck on September 20, the Mexican government then announced that it would be willing to accept help. Q: How many Americans were killed, do you know? It made it extremely difficult to read these stories or they would turn the story around. I remember there was a big deal when we brought down to Mexican City an American company to implode buildings. In the aftermath of the earthquake, about 3,500 buildings had collapsed or were seriously damaged. So, it may be that people to people relations were actually improved…, Ambassador G. Philip Hughes It turned out I was in charge of the Embassy. The first implosions were the biggest event of the week. The Secret Service had great difficulty with the Mexican authorities maintaining any kind of crowd control around her. But the Mexican people recognized how much the Americans helped by sending assistance and helping in the reconstruction. Between Mexico City and the epicenter 250 miles to the southwest lie the Sierra Madre mountains dotted with remote towns. It was my job. The number of Mexicans who perished is still controversial and probably will never be known for certain. But for the most part, American government officials acted with great courage. MEXICO CITY -- Many things changed after the devastating September 19, 1985 earthquake, measuring 8.1 on the Richter scale, struck Mexico City. Again, groups began to form to do something about the pollution or to speak about what was happening to the city, and I think all of that great foment in civil society is what led to a reform in the political system in Mexico. But we did worry that it wouldn’t go right and we’d kill some Mexicans standing and gawking. In 1985, Mexico City was the world’s largest urban area. He got a helicopter and he flew over and counted the number of buildings down, and many of them were apartment buildings. Interested in Recording Your Oral History, Association for Diplomatic Studies & Training. 5,000–45,000 dead 30,000 injured The 1985 Mexico City Earthquakewas an earthquakethat happened in Mexico Cityon September 19, 1985. We weren’t even sure they would be able to be sent the first couple of days. The Mexicans were profoundly dilatory about taking us up on our offers of help, and she wasn’t going to solve that problem. That was due to a tremendous effort on part of Embassy people to coordinate the activity, efforts which of course were invisible to the outside…. …The only untoward thing was the earthquake. Stanley Zuckerman was a Counselor for Public Affairs for Mexico City from 1978 to 1983; he was interviewed by Kennedy beginning July 2004. So they wouldn’t just report the facts and then put their editorial opinion on the editorial page, saying he shouldn’t have spoken this way or he didn’t have the facts corrected, it would all be interwoven in the same story. He was interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy starting in March 1998. We just sent advance teams directly to Mexico to get this set up on about 48-hour’s notice and coordinated with the embassy to work out a schedule which mainly involved the First Lady arriving, going to Los Pinos, meeting with de la Madrid, giving him the check, touring some sites of devastation around the city, meeting with the embassy staff and saying some words with them and then flying on to California. The earthquake was located about 110 kilometers northeast of Rome. Your browser (Internet Explorer 7 or lower) is out of date. Earthquake shakes Mexico City On September 19, 1985, a powerful earthquake strikes Mexico City and leaves 10,000 people dead, 30,000 injured and thousands more homeless. The water system was destroyed in much of the city. Soup kitchens were set up by the people to keep the diggers working. In the aftermath of the 1985 earthquake, an early-alert earthquake warning system was established in Mexico City and other safety measures were enacted. What could one do to stop the quakes? Usually it was items that were needed, but sometimes Americans rush to clean out their basements and send whatever is available, and then they feel good and take a tax break. This is a city and urban area of 20 million people in the valley, of which seven or eight million people were directly affected by the loss of services; the loss of electricity, water, sewage facilities, all of which began to cause disease problems. She was surrounded by this mob of people. The deaths were so numerous that they had to use the baseball stadium as an outdoor morgue. I think I mentioned his mother’s family had settled in California before California became a state. Ultimately, most of the exchanges were badly damaged or destroyed. 1985: Mexico suffers devastating earthquake A massive earthquake has hit Mexico not far from its capital, Mexico City, causing untold casualties and widespread damage. What the aftershock did was make many people really panic. The 1985 Mexico City earthquake was definitely one of the most devastating natural disasters in history. On September 19, 1985, at 7:18 in the morning, the residents of Mexico City were jolted awake by an 8.1-magnitude earthquake, one of the strongest to ever hit the area. PASTORINO: Mexico was then ending the Lopez-Portillo Administration, and entering into the six year term (sexenio) of Miguel De La Madrid. He landed and said to the press that he thought there might be more than 20,000 deaths. However, much of the damage was in Mexico City, which was constructed on an ancient lake bed whose soft sediments amplify seismic waves. Connie Gavin set up a foundation, very quickly, within a month, and collected money to bring kids that were badly maimed for re-constructive surgery in Los Angeles. He had a tendency shared by almost all politically appointed ambassadors, including [Patrick] Lucey at times, to sometimes speak out on Mexican affairs as if they were presidents of Mexico rather than ambassadors to the country. The effects of the quake were particularly devastating because of the type of ground upon which the city sits. One is of two American Embassy officials who attempted to save lives of people caught in downed buildings. It was appropriate to speak publicly about issues relating to our interests, but dangerous to tell Mexicans how to manage their own affairs, at least in public. As you know, Mexico City airport is very close to the downtown, and thus very close to much of the damage. The first thing, the highest priority, was to determine that all of the Embassy people were safe, that all official American personnel were safe. I was amazed. They were digging with their hands, or small shovels, but with no heavy equipment, by the light of automobile headlights. The result: The earthquake was amplified in strength. A study in contrasts in american history study 1985 earthquake mexico city case. Q: I get the sense here that throughout this whole conversation, the earthquake and the aftermath didn’t do much to cement good Mexican-U.S. relations. They also strengthened one corner of the building. It turned out later that one of his close friends, Placido Domingo, lost some of his family in a collapse of a twenty-five story building.

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