Active Witnessing and Embodying the Fists Up 


The way I experienced the earthquake, abroad, was through telephone calls and text messages, through pictures, news, and fragments of information. I was born in Mexico City, lived most of my life among its noisy streets, and was now studying in New York when, after a morning class, I received the first text messages about the earthquake. After contacting those closer to me to find out if they were okay, I began to understand the magnitude of the event, seeing in countless videos and photographs what had happened. I felt as if I had a panoramic view, that of a drone flying over the landscape, at a time when most people inside the disaster areas had no idea how serious the damages were in the city and in other states, due to the lack of phone and internet connections. I became an active witness as I helped to transmit messages from one person to another, scanning through social networks, finding friends working inside and outside the disaster areas, some who didn’t know each other and could use mutual help. At the same time, I began to see the images spread by the media. There were only a few videos, not of the rescues yet but of the buildings at the moment of collapse, and those were noisy, capturing the overwhelming loudness of the falling structures. People in the rescuing areas were busy and rarely taking or posting videos. One video in particular impressed me as I listened to the vehemence of the noise. From my computer speakers came dozens of hurried voices screaming instructions to each other, footsteps among the debris, rubble being shoveled into plastic buckets and passed from hand to hand in multiple lines of people; sledgehammers, heavy machines, electric generators. This was the first moment that I became aware of the overwhelming noise inside these rescuing spaces. I also saw videos where rescuers said they couldn’t hear the voices of those alive calling for help; they asked for support to keep the noise down, requesting the media not to fly helicopters around the fallen buildings and to help spread the need for silence.

“Más de 30 niños fallecidos en un colegio derrumbado por el terremoto en CDMX,” posted by RT en Español on September 20, 2017 (

This video has been edited and modified since I first saw separate fragments on the day of the earthquake. The first part was originally uploaded to social networks by a civilian; at 1:28 a rescuer talks about the need for silence, listening and stopping the noise to find survivors.